Our game plan was not only more accommodating, but laced with a tinge of laziness as well.Rather than start the trip in the frigid pre-dawn darkness, I met Kale at the LaQuinta Inn on Texas Avenue at ten o’clock. The frost covering the boat at first light had been reduced to a few puddles of water and my Frogg Toggs would not be necessary. Since the tide would not be in our favor for another hour, we elected to kill a little time beating the banks of the bayou with a shallow running crankbait before moving on to the lake.As both expected and hoped for, the first fish to suck up Kale’s fire tiger H20 Express crankbait was a quality red fish. No sooner than he had released the copper colored bully he stuck an irate largemouth that easily weighed three pounds.That was not expected! When a bass nearly the same size inhaled my Rat-L-Trap Echo square bill we decided to conduct our own two hour bass tournament to determine who would spring for supper.It turned out to be a bad decision on my part, but Kale is a heck of a fisherman and the back of the boat is not a good place to be when working the shoreline of a narrow bayou. The tide kicked in a little quicker than expected and because it was obvious that I couldn’t possibly beat him, we clipped off the crankbaits and headed to the lake.Out of desperation, I had also experimented with a swim bait in a little deeper water, but caught only redfish with that tactic. While I was far from embarrassed with five bass that weighed almost 12 pounds, Kale’s best five weighed a whopping 17 pounds on his hand held scales and I bought the Po-Boys before dropping him off at the LaQuinta.We consistently caught bass that size fishing the river above West Bluff back in the early 80’s, but I haven’t personally caught quality bass like that in a long time.The resurgence of the bass fishing in the immediate area is far from a secret.The folks that just like to catch fish are having no problem catching crazy numbers of 12 to 15-inch bass while the more dedicated bass fishermen are disappointed with anything less than a two pound average. One morning, not that many years ago following the Florida bass stocking, I received a phone call while on the way to church.“You have got to see the bass I just caught on the river before I turn her loose,” said Trey Smith. I immediately altered my route and Trey was waiting at the launch with a nine pound-plus bass that he released following a couple of pictures.Based on the number of bass over six pounds that were showing up on a more frequent basis at that time, I was convinced that the lower Sabine River system was on the cusp of something really great. The same hurricanes that would push scores of saltwater fish into the river due to increased salinity quickly dashed those hopes.This time, however, it has worked in reverse.The massive flooding over the past three years has resulted in less salinity, fertile marshes and more productive spawns.The saltwater fish are back where they should be and the improving bass population has only a few redfish to compete with for their next meal.

If you are waiting for warmer weather to sample this action, you may be late to the dance.Only one day following last week’s snow and freezing weather, Trey Smith put together a quick tournament that apparently attracted only a handful of hard core anglers undeterred by the negative effects of the icy conditions. Not only did they find decent numbers in water much shallower and colder than you would have ever expected, surface temperatures in the upper 40’s with patches of ice, but they also posted impressive weights.Shane Cormier and Jack Johnson bested the field with 16.52 pounds and a 5.04 pound big bass, but equally impressive was the fact that six of the eight teams weighed in at least ten pounds! Smith noted that most of the bites were more akin to foul hooking a wet sock than a jolting strike, but that’s to be expected in cold weather.I seriously doubt that anyone was complaining at the end of the day!