Capt. Dickie Colburn

For The Record

Surrounded by lightning and miserably engulfed by a driving rain, Redfish Elite officials and the seven finalists patiently sought cover while hoping to out wait the storm and get Day 3 of the tournament under way.To avoid having to cross the open lake, the anglers had trailered around the lake to a more protected launch in the back of Johnson’s Bayou.

If anything, the conditions the prior day had proven even more precarious as a full field of anglers found themselves struggling to safely return to the weigh-in site on Pleasure Island.Jimmy Lloyd, a Lumberton pro emphasized just how dangerously rough the open lake was when he pointed out that he was taking spray off the white caps over the windshield on his tower boat.That windshield rests atop the tower which is six feet above the deck of the boat!

Nearly two hours later, the weather had gone from “no show” to absolutely perfect and the pros quickly scattered all over the surrounding marshes in search of clearer water and hungry redfish.When all was said and done, Charlie Barton returned with a 22.48-pound stringer anchored with a 9.42 kicker fish that enabled him to nudge Kevin Aiken for first place by less than a pound.

The series next stop is Port Aransas in May and there is no doubt that they are hoping for better weather following the two recent Sabine Lake tournaments.To the pro, they love fishing this area, but they have had enough wind and high water to last them a while!

I know only a few of the details of last weekend’s tragic drowning on Adam’s Bayou, but I do know that it is a sickening feeling anytime you see an ambulance, rescue teams and Game Wardens at a boat launch.The victim’s partner reported that he fell overboard while they were fishing the bayou just south of MacArthur drive.

While weather and boat operation are major considerations for all fishermen, even the most minor misstep is magnified when on or near the water and you don’t have to be in a boat for things to go south.

When my daughter was very young, she was walking on a dock with a big group when she suddenly slipped in and disappeared in the murky water.My sister immediately jumped in, found her and had her back on the dock before most of the group even realized what had happened.While fishing a dirt pit lake as a youngster, a friend slipped off the bank and was quickly in more trouble than either of us realized.

After a minute or two of laughing at his misfortune while watching him dive in search of his rod and reel, the situation unexpectedly became more somber when we discovered that the bank of the pit was too steep and slippery for him to climb out.A ten foot piece of hose that I found in the nearby weeds changed the mishap from a possible disaster to something we had forgotten about by the time he dried off.

The number one mistake you can make before even hooking your tow vehicle to the trailer or walking the bank of a tranquil pond is taking anything for granted.There is no substitute for fishing with a friend, but the ultimate life line is your life jacket.

Before spending big bucks on your next rod and reel, take the time to purchase a quality life jacket for you and the kids that fits properly and wear it.Discomfort is no excuse as there are jackets available that are so light that the only inconvenience is taking the time to snap the belt.

Bob Crew and Gene Locke have fished together for years and while their non-stop heckling easily garners them far more attention, the first thing I noticed was that they always wore their life jacket regardless of the time of the year. Even if they never catch another fish they are guaranteeing themselves another shot tomorrow!

I personally have at least a dozen excuses for not wearing a PFD at all times and, no pun intended, not one of them holds water.I have gotten better, especially when running in bad weather or fishing alone, but that definitely leaves room for improvement.

Unfortunately, it usually takes incidents like this to remember……”Returning safely will always rank ahead of catching!”