While the largest portion of the afternoon crowd on hand enjoyed Cajun cuisine and music under a chilly gray sky, less than a hundred yards away Albert Bates and Damon Mayfield were sealing the deal on a heck of a fishing performance. With the obligatory polygraphs completed, Bates and Mayfield exited the Cabela’s trailer $6000 richer thanks to their persistence and a few cooperative speckled trout.

The first speckled trout tournament of this size to be hosted in Orange was not a team event, but nearly every entry chose to fish with a partner and split the winnings. For most of them, the decision was not who to fish with, but where to fish!

Bates and Mayfield spent the entire week bouncing back and forth between Calcasieu and Sabine trying to put together a consistent pattern in winds that limited their efforts every day. By Friday morning they were so frustrated that Albert suggested they just write it off and go bass fishing up at the lakes.

Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and they decided to sign up, do what they do best, and take their chances on Sabine. “We knew they were catching better trout on Big Lake and that the water was clearer,” said Bates, “but we just don’t know enough about the lake to have any confidence.”

Saturday, under near perfect conditions, Bates and Mayfield decided to pin their hopes on the Sabine jetties. “We were really hoping that we could just each put three keeper fish in the boat,” said Bates, but those meager expectations quickly escalated when a suspected red that he was battling turned out to be a 7.91-pound trout that would earn them an additional $500.

It didn’t take long for the two anglers to realize that they had not only figured out the trout, but more importantly, the big trout. “It was just one of those days that happen very rarely and it could not have happened at a better time for us,” said Bates. When the first day weigh-in was complete, Bates had separated himself from the rest of the field with three trout totaling 15.81-pounds. He also had the largest red and trout to boot.

At the same time, few took notice of the fact that his partner had also managed to post a three fish limit weighing a very respectable 10.15-pounds. With a front due in that night and a wind switch to the north predicted, the money was still up for grabs, however, as there was a log jam of anglers with 9 to 12 pounds.

“We ran right back to our spot Sunday morning, but it was already rougher than we expected by the time we arrived,” said Bates.

“When we finally got the anchor to hold and caught the first solid trout I knew we would be hard to beat.”

Incredibly enough, in all of that wind, Bates would not only box an even larger 15.93 catch, but have to cull another trout over the 25-inch mark as well. While both partners were wishing Mayfield would have landed that fish, he was still more than holding his own with a 12.81-pound catch. Knowing that Bates had it won and Damon was in the money as well, they called in the dogs early and returned to the weigh-in site to wait it out.

The change in weather proved to be too much for the Calcasieu anglers with the exception of Ray Collins and Johnny Cormier. Collins eased into third with a 12-pound second day catch while Johnny ground out a solid 11.96-pound bag of trout and climbed into fourth place.

Regardless of where they hold future trout tournaments, it will be a while before Tanner Tabor and the folks from Cabela’s see another six fish catch like Bates brought to the scales. His fish carried better than a 5-pound average as he posted an eye-popping 31.74-pounds!
Bates took home $4,000 for largest stringer, $500 for largest trout, and his partner, Mayfield, added $1500 to their winnings by jumping into second with 12.81-pounds on Sunday. He finished with 22.33-pounds; a weight that I felt could possibly win this tournament even after Saturday’s weigh-in. Kent Carlson bumped Bates on the final day for redfish honors with an 8.9-pound fish to earn $500.

Gary Mcelduff cashed a $500 check for fifth with 17.54-pounds, John Havens earned a troll motor for his sixth place finish, and Robbie Trahan took home a depthfinder in claiming the seventh spot.

Better known for their phenomenal success hosting both crappie and catfish tournaments across the USA, Cabela’s only recently moved into the saltwater arena. “We are always looking for ways to improve our circuits,” pointed out tournament director, Tanner Tabor, “but this great facility and the support of both the City and Convention and Visitors Bureau this week were first class!”