The summer long CCA tournament is winding down with division leaders nervously checking the leader board every evening. Even this late in the hunt, however, I think every category is still up for grabs.

The leaders in the youth divisions are probably a little more secure only because so many kids are getting ready to go back to school. I know the parents of those leaders are probably more nervous than their children with $20,000 to $50,000 scholarships on the line. Labor Day, the final day of the tournament, cannot get here fast enough.

The last time I checked, Hunter Bellanger of Orange was still leading the Starkids Gafftop division with a 7-pounder that he weighed in at Peggy’s on the Bayou and that could well be a $50,000 catfish. I am pulling for Hunter and anyone else in line for a big payday from Orange County.

I do believe of the three categories in the kid’s division, the flounder and the gafftop are still very much up for grabs. It will take a 5-pound plus flounder to take over first place, but while that is a very good fish, it could happen on any cast for a youngster fishing live bait.

While in the process of just hammering limits of redfish almost every day in the lake, we have gone through an incredible number of gafftop. About every fifth one is a big one that keeps you thinking it is another redfish right up until the last minute. Over and over I hear folks saying, “Man, we caught some giant gafftop that must have weighed 8 or 9 pounds.” In most instances, they have guessed a tad heavy.

I have no idea how many huge gafftop we have avoided the slime and fins to weigh and release this summer, but we have weighed only two larger than Hunter’s fish. One of those fish weighed almost 8-pounds and the other 7.7 pounds and both of those fish looked darn near as big as a shark in the water. All of those other supposed monsters weighed between 4 to 6-pounds. A 7-pound gafftop is a big fish!

The more important issue, at least as far as Hunter is concerned, is that I have not had a single youngster catch one of those big cats, and the vast majority of the ones that have been caught were boated by adults throwing artificials at redfish. They pose no threat to his big pay day.

Easily, the biggest change in this week’s fishing on Sabine Lake was the number of gulls that showed up Tuesday morning. For the most part, we had been dealing with terns and only a gull or two on the north end all summer. Their presence, however, threw a lot of weekend anglers a curve.

As a rule, any time you see gulls hovering over the water, a school of fish has driven shad or shrimp to the surface and all you have to do is keep from crowding them to catch fish. Terns, on the other hand, will locate bait without the help of fish and for that reason, many anglers refer to them as “liar birds.”

I fish far more liar birds than gulls throughout the year for two reasons. The first is that they are out there hunting every day and, more importantly, they have eliminated at least part of the equation by finding some kind of bait. The closest thing to a guarantee thus far has been checking out the terns until you locate ladyfish feeding on the surface.

If the weather is cooperative and it has been just that with the exception of the heat factor, limiting on redfish has required little more than getting out on the water and chunking a lure. The only complaint that I hear on a daily basis is, “We are going through lots of redfish, but most of them are too small.”

That is not a bad thing as it guarantees the future, but there is a solution to that problem for anglers fishing the open lake. If you have tried everything from spoons and Traps to plastics and continue to catch only undersized fish, give this a try.

My first choice is to slow down and throw a topwater like a Spook, She Dog or Skitterwalk. We are using only bone or chrome patterns and fishing them very slowly which reduces the number of strikes per drift. If the fish are exploding on them, but not taking them, switch to a smaller version of the same lure. Never set the hook until you feel the fish and allow the lure to sit in the same place if it floats back to the surface.

My second choice, and it too produces fewer but larger redfish, is to rig a 5-inch tail like an Assassin, Sand eel or Mirromullet on a 4/0 worm hook and fish it under a cork. Leave the barb exposed rather than rigging it Texas Style as you don’t have to worry about it hanging up. The weightless tail sinks very slowly after each pop of the cork and many times you will see or feel the strike before the cork ever goes under. Every strike is a happening!

Both of those techniques have also produced more keeper trout of late and the specks have been hard to find most days. I would like to catch more trout, but it is hard to complain when the redfish are on a tear.