Local anglers do well in Big Bass Splash

There is no justice in the world of competitive bass fishing. After fishing three McDonalds tournaments every year except one since 2001, Gilbert Miller of Killeen, Texas had to believe that he had finally put himself in line for a monster payday last Friday morning.

Gilbert brought the first double digit bass to the scales, a 10.23 pound bass, in only the second hour of the tournament. A soldier in the U.S. Army, he was forced to miss the 2011 events due to deployment, but he got an early jump on the field Friday morning and had to be thinking, “Now I get to sweat out my big fish for three more days.”

In a more just world, he had indeed earned the right to nervously sweat out each hourly weigh-in across the three day weekend. Unbelievably, however, he had scarcely pulled away from the weigh-in station before his double digit bass was relegated to second place status. He actually caught the big bass on a lizard during the first hour so he did squeeze out two hours of fleeting glory!

John Martin of Beaumont closed the deal on the entire field the following hour with a 10.83-pound bass that ate a crankbait in 6 to 15 feet of water. Had Martin’s trim unit not gone out on his engine, Gilbert’s big bass might well have never held down first place at all. Martin was trying to get back to weigh the fish during the T-Shirt hour to double his hourly money, but didn’t quite make it. Gilbert was at least able to double his money due to Martin’s only blip on the way to a huge payday.

Saturday was a logistical nightmare for the huge field of amateurs as the front that roared through East Texas Friday night churned the lake into an ocean of whitecaps. The weather slowly improved throughout the day, however, and Sunday was colder, but much more forgiving.

Several Orange County anglers fared well, especially Jonathan Simon and Corey Rambo. Simon won the one o’clock hourly weigh in Friday with a 7.09-lb. bass and Rambo took home first place money in the 11 o’clock weigh in Saturday. I don’t know if those were T-shirt hours, but they each won at least a $1000 with their winning bass.

Kelly Alford also had a good tournament earning checks in two of the hourly weigh-ins. Donny Pickard, Joe Stidham, Jose Catano and Carl Trussell all cashed hourly checks as well. In the Little Angler’s Division, Hunter Hooks of Orange won second place in the bass category and earned a $75 Academy gift card. Martin’s big bass earned him a boat, truck and accessories worth $125,000.

The next Big Bass Splash is scheduled for Toledo Bend May, 18,19, 20. With the lake levels back to normal this year I look for that event to produce more double digit bass than were brought to the scales on Rayburn.

Back here on the Sabine River, Trey Smith may have regained his touch on the river bass as he won last week’s event with a single bass. The 1.98-pound bass was worth first place and big bass money earning him a $520 check for a short afternoon’s work. Melvin Dunn finished right behind Smith with a 1.30-pound bass good for $120 while earning an extra $40 in gas money as well with a 5.58 pound grinnel.

Twenty-seven teams fished the afternoon event. Unfortunately, I stay a week behind as the paper goes to press the same day they fish the tournament each week.

The wind has been the fly in the ointment for most local Sabine Lake anglers lately. The week end just got blown completely out and you had to endure a bumpy ride the rest of the week to get to the easier fishing. Even if you simply had flounder on the brain and wanted to fish the Game Reserve the ride back was rough every day.

Depending on the tide and the wind, we are starting to see more gull activity in the open lake. On the north end they are chasing small shrimp, but on the south end they are hustling larger white shrimp and ribbon fish that trout up to six pounds are driving to the surface.

The topwater bite is obviously the most enjoyable, but we have been catching the most fish on Swim Baits and four inch paddle tails like the TTF Flats Minnow and the Assassin Sea Shad. Bug juice, Texas Roach and Red Shad have been the hottest colors for us thus far. We have been fishing with a 1/16th or 1/8th ounce jig head and generating more strikes with the slower fall.

The flounder and slot reds in the bayous are still jumping all over Gulp mullets and 4-inch tails in pumpkin chartreuse and chicken on a chain rigged on a Mr. Blitz Tic-N-Spin. We have done better on an incoming tide of late.