The Orange County Bass Club in 1973 had 60 members who fished monthly. They fished along the Sabine River and other waterways in Southeast Texas.

Area city officials are gearing up for the Bassmaster Elite Series, Sabine River Challenge, which is coming to Orange March 14th through 17th.

Darlene Zavada, of the Orange Convention and Vistors Bureau, is no exception and has brought mountings of bass her husband caught in 1988 and 1990 to the CVB. Zavata is no stranger to bass fishing.  Southeast Texas has been a hot spot for fishing for many years.

Darlene Zavada’s husband, Bob, was a member of the Orange County Bass Club in 1973. The 60 members fished monthly. Local fisherman often turned to Bob Zavada, who owned a tackle shop in Pinehurst, for fishing advice.

Darlene Zavada knows the fisherman coming to participate in the Bassmaster Elite Series will have their work cut out for them. Locally, the bass tend to be small compared to those caught in lakes such as Sam Rayburn Lake. However, the minimum length allowed by law is 14 inches. Professional fishermen will certainly strive to surpass the minimum in order to win the tournament.

“It will certainly be a challenge,” Darlene Zavada said.
Each particpant will leave from the City of Orange boat launch. They are required to fish in the areas which can be reached by boat. Most of the participants are from out of state and some have begun to arrive to see what they area waters have to offer. But, during the time referred to as “dead water” they will not be allowed to fish in this area at all until the day of the tournament.

All are striving for excellence as they use the perfect bait, such as an artificial lure, made from soft or hard plastics. Some participants have sponsors which provide a boat, lures, or both in order to get their name out there.

Some of the participants in the series have been on the local waterways searching for the perfect place to fish. They will put their knowledge to the test.

According to Zavada, it depends on the water conditions and things such as the time of year to determine where a bass may be located.

“After fishing for a while, you know where to go,” she said.

After bass reach a certain stage in their life, they develop cataracts. With their limited vision, a fisherman needs to make a noise or some kind of movement with their equipment to attract a bass to bite the hook.

Officials with the Bassmaster Elite Series did not want the boat launch closed on the day of the event and spectators are encouraged to come watch.

The tournament will begin Thursday, March 14 with 102 participants who have previously qualified to compete. Each day, the weigh-in will be conducted at 3 p.m. After everyone has weighed-in with the top fish they caught on the second day, the number of participants will be cut in half leaving those who lead to continue. At the end of the third day of the tournament, another half will be eliminated. On Sunday, at 3 p.m., the winner will be declared.

While they fish, there have been several activities planned. The Art in the Park has been moved up one week and is now scheduled for March 14. Other activities include, a free concert with Neal McCoy, fireworks show, a carnival with rides and food booths, a catch and release tank for children, plus much more. Also for entertainment is the laser light show at the Lutcher Theater. People will have the chance to get autographs and meet the fishermen. In addition, people can tour the museum, Shangri La or the W.H. Stark House.

Darlene Zavada wants to invite everyone to come and join in the fun.

Bob Zavada has caught many bass fish. Some have been mounted and can currently be seen at the Orange Convention and Visitors Bureau. This fish, in 1990, weighed in at 8 pounds, 7 ounces. RECORD PHOTO: Debby Schamber.