People of all ages take part in the annual OCARC fishing tournament each year. The family oriented event is the oldest local tournament in Orange with hundreds of people participating. File Photo

Capt. Dickie Colburn – For The Record

Having run much farther up Black’s Bayou than I intended to in an attempt to elude a quick moving thunderstorm, I nosed the bow of the boat into the mouth of a small cut to wait it out.I managed to stay dry, but a southwest wind continued to build and it was obvious that there would be no more fishing in the lake.

Only because I was so close to some small marsh ponds that Gerald Jones had shared with me years ago, I decided to see if they were even accessible two major hurricanes and two decades later. One was and one wasn’t.

There was a time prior to google earth and redfish tournaments when very few people even knew or cared that these lakes existed.Back in the day, redfish were considered a nuisance as we chose to scour the clear black water for largemouth bass and a bonus crappie or two with Whacky worms and small spinnerbaits.

I didn’t have either of those two “old reliables” in the boat, so I Texas rigged a five inch paddle tail Assassin and crawled it across the scattered grass hoping to entice a redfish or two before heading home.Much to my surprise, two packs of watermelon Assassins later I released the last of easily 20 to 25 bass that found the trout bait irresistible.

I had heard from some very dependable sources that a year and a half of flooding had jump started the bass bite not only on the river, but in the marshes as well and I can now confirm that assessment.I don’t think I caught a fish that would have legitimately scared the three pound mark, but I easily released at least ten bass that would have been legal Texas keepers.

It was as much fun as I have had fishing in the last ten years and it brought back a ton of great memories.No…I am not giving up guiding on the saltwater scene, but I mention this only because of the upcoming OCARC Tournament this weekend.Tournament director, John Thomas, is forced to worry not only about the “catching” prospects every year, but the weather as well while the Center prepares for its one major fund raiser.

At this point it looks like he has nothing to worry about as the “catching” for both fresh water and saltwater species has been excellent of late.“Our major sponsors have been so solid over the years that I usually have a pretty good idea as to how much money the tournament will generate,” said Thomas, “but it’s the fishermen that sign up to fish that put us over the top.That number is hard to predict as a lot of folks watch the weather and wait right up until the last minute to sign up.”

This tournament has always been more about the community supporting a special group of citizens and family fun than winning money, but make no mistake about it…the prize money isn’t bad.There is a pile of categories and every youngster wins with any fish, but the winning bass, redfish and flounder pay the big bucks.

If you haven’t been on the water in a while and hope to win one of the big three categories, here’s my take on where to start.I have no doubt that we will see more bass weighed in than ever before and while the marshes are kicking out phenomenal numbers of bass, I think the winning fish will be caught on the main river.I saw three bass in excess of five pounds just last week that were caught fishing above I-10.

I think the winning trout will come off the jetties or the ship channel south of the Causeway.There is also an outside chance that it will fall for a topwater or live croaker fished on one of the shallow flats on the north end of the lake.A week ago I would have given one of the backwater marsh lakes the nod if I was hunting the winning redfish, but not now.

The reds are starting to blow up on schools of small shad all over the main lake and we have caught a pile of upper slot fish every day.When you find them feeding on the surface every lure in the box works, but our most dependable baits have been a Hoginar or 4-inch Usual Suspect.

Go ahead and get your entry form, support the OCARC and enjoy the day.See ya’ there!