If everything is going as planned, I usually arrive at the boat launch thirty to forty-five minutes ahead of my clients for the day.  That gives me plenty of time to run through a quick check list of preventable “uh-ohs” such as will the big engine crank, will the troll motor run, are the running lights and depth finders working and last, but not least, making sure the windows are up and the truck is locked.

Once that is taken care of I make sure I have rain coats for everyone, even when it is not raining, check out rods and reels and break out the life jackets.  I was somewhere in the midst of cutting off lures that worked the day before and re-thinking my game plan due to a 20 mile per hour that had the flags starched when I noticed a single bass fisherman a short distance away.

His brightly wrapped bass boat seemed to scarcely move as he methodically picked apart every piece of visible structure with short pitches.  His soft plastic offering created little or no splash as it entered the chocolate colored water headed southward to the Intracoastal.  As a matter of fact, I was concerned that even the bayous south of the Intracoastal would be muddy as well.

There was no pre-dawn acknowledgement offered by of either of us as he focused, head-down, on the targets immediately ahead of him. I’m not certain as to the cut-off date for scouting, but I assumed, based solely on his dogged approach that he was doing his homework for the upcoming Bassmaster Elite event scheduled for the first week in April.

Many of the local bass fishermen are predicting super catches for this event.  Things have drastically changed since the last time the pros were here and few believe that a two-pound average will do little more than earn you a few points toward the year-end championship.

The only fly in the ointment will be the ever-present possibility of another frog strangling flood.  Even as I dare to mention that dreaded word, Toledo Bend has been forced to crack open the flood gates and are generating 24 hours a day.  The massive reservoir took a hit last week that the best of planning could not have thwarted as the lake level rose from a comfortable 169 feet to just over the 172 mark in a couple of days.  Some folks in Deweyville are already experiencing minor flooding!

Should this unwanted glut of additional fresh water make its way out of here over the course of the next month, we could easily see weights never thought possible on this end of the Sabine River.  While I am aware of the fact that we have local bass fishermen that could compete with the best of the pros on this stretch of river, the numbers posted each week in afternoon events have been phenomenal.

Bass pushing the ten-pound mark and consistent sixteen to twenty-pound catches weren’t even a possibility the last time the pros paid Orange a visit.  A number of things have contributed to the super charging of the fishery, but I can’t help but believe that the previous tournaments played a significant role as well.  It was a major shot in the arm when bass caught from the San Jacinto to the Calcasieu were weighed and released here in the Orange area.

Those long pounding boat rides will not be necessary to post eye-popping catches this year.  Shorter runs equal more casts each day and it only takes the right fifteen casts to win it all.  The pros finding themselves ten pounds behind at the end of the first day will no longer view their chances as “game over.”

At the same time, local saltwater fishermen are equally concerned about potential flooding.  The “catching” has once again significantly improved despite three consecutive years of major flooding and there isn’t a single angler that believes that this March won’t bring more of the same.  Not only is it frustrating, but it is now expected rather than simply dreaded.

At least for right now, the redfish bite continues to be good to excellent and winds that render the open lake unfishable are the only thing slowing down the trout fishing.  While consistent numbers of the trophy trout of spring are yet to make a showing, we are now seeing improving numbers of fish in the four to six-pound class.

We just need it to stop raining!