Even before the police officer directed me off Simmons Drive and into the Public Boat launch parking area, it was evident that there were more trailered bass boats parked in the massive lot at one time than I had ever seen before. It was well-controlled chaos as no less than 476 teams, friends and relatives emptied their live wells, compared notes and made their way to the weigh-in tent.
Orange and the Sabine River Park were hosting the fifth SETX High School Bass fishing tournament of the year and for every two-student team there was at least one additional adult serving as team captain. “Thus far,” said LCM team mentor, Nellie Miller, “providing enough volunteer captains has been the only bump in the road for what may well be the fastest growing team sport in southeast Texas high schools.”
The entire area was awash in a sea of brightly colored fishing jerseys denoting not only sponsors, but each participating high school as well and I can assure you that every high school was well represented. The river event was a first for the association as most of the previous events have been hosted on Sam Rayburn.
Unfortunately, the kids were greeted with high and extremely dirty water Saturday morning compliments of the flooding the weekend before. Catching keeper bass required a serious change of tactics, but even at that, 149 of the teams managed to weigh in at least one fish.
That number may appear to be a little paltry to anyone unable to observe the total absence of water clarity currently on the river. Only a week before, the river had been in the best shape of the year and was churning out easy limits of bass. The bottom line is that these youngsters were forced to adapt and did it well!
I was only able to corral a couple of the winning teams and for the most part, it appears that they ran to the Neches River or Taylor’s Bayou in hopes of finding slightly clearer water. The team of Cole Hebert and Will Broussard representing Hamshire Fannett High School apparently chose the best spot and the right technique as they posted an impressive weight of 16.92 pounds to win the first place check.
Their five fish catch was anchored by a 5.76-pound bass that earned them big bass honors as well. Their big bass also proved to be the difference maker as the LCM team of Kameryn Henderson and Tyler Shearin finished a close second with 15.39 pounds anchored by a 4.04-pound big bass.
They weren’t the only Orange County team to hold serve on their home waters as three other local teams finished in the Top Ten. The Orangefield teams of Brett and Faith Fregia finished seventh with 9.96-pounds while Abby Gautreaux and Ashlyn Turley earned the ninth place check with 9.67-pounds. The Bridge City team of Tanner Wilson and Ethan Borque finished eighth with 9.86-pounds.
That’s right fellows……a pair of young ladies bested 467 other teams!
The championship event is set for the weekend of May 6 and 7 on Sam Rayburn. We are also only a couple of weeks shy of yet another Bob Sealy Big Bass Splash event on Sam Rayburn. That event is an absolute circus to fish, but a single bite could make your year. Bob has successfully managed to put a price on inconvenience for amateur bass fishermen.
The recent flooding up the country really slowed the bite in the river and the bayous. For the first time in a long time, prior to that, we were once again catching a few solid trout in the river. The redfish and flounder bite held up in spite of the catastrophic flooding over a two year time frame, but the trout all but disappeared.
The wind has been the only culprit in Sabine Lake. It keeps the water a little bit on the dirty side and all but prevents fishing certain areas on any given day. Every time Mother Nature has given us a break, local anglers have managed to find pretty decent trout. The redfish are already schooling in the open lake and while they have been a little oversized for the most part, they are still fun to catch!
I haven’t talked with any one that has consistently caught flounder in the Game Reserve canals recently, but the fish are there. As soon as we start seeing more schools of immature shad parading down the shoreline it will be game on!

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