It was not my intention to turn this column into a serial, but I have managed to do that over the past several weeks. It all started when only half the column made the paper and we left off with, “He said…see page 5B.” Mark and all the folks that work so hard behind the scene to bring you this paper quickly rectified that problem by re-running the entire column the following week.

Last week, I was pecking away on my computer when I stopped just long enough to put in a call to Ross Smith to find out how he and Matt Purgahn had done in a tournament the day before. At that time, he was on the water fishing another tournament and I reported that he had five good fish. Once again, we had to wait a week to find out just how well he did.

His rough estimate as to how much his five fish weighed was not all that rough as it turned out. He was within ounces on his two largest fish and his total weight of 25.64-pounds easily earned him top money. Aside from out thinking the fish, it would appear that the better tournament fishermen also keep the mental calculator running at all times as well!

His 9.27-pound bass missed big bass honors by less than half a pound, but the Bridge City Pro still added another $750 to his 2008 earnings. Smith stayed with the same jig and grass pattern that has served him very well the last two months.

I spent the weekend working the Texas Marine Boat Show and had the opportunity to spend a little time talking with both Steven Johnson and Larry Nixon. Steven has been a hot ticket the past two years and will broaden his horizons in 2008. He will not only be much busier, but will also fish new lakes and water conditions that he has never fished before.

He was preparing for the upcoming Stren Series event on Rayburn this week with another FLW event set for the following week in Florida. Larry planned to get in a little fun fishing at home before also leaving for Florida. Not unlike most of the local bass fishermen that have fished Falcon, Johnson had recently fished a tournament down there and was in awe of the fishery.

“We initially felt like taking 22-pounds off the same piece of short
stretch of shoreline each day would get us to the finals,” laughed Johnson. “We did that with ease and pulled off our fish only to find ourselves well off the pace at the end of the first day. We upped that number to 25-pounds per day for the next two days and even that was not enough. That place is full of big bass!”

In spite of that glowing review, he agrees that Sam Rayburn may be as hot as he has ever seen it and anticipates having to put big numbers on the board to earn a check this week. Ross was even more emphatic in his assessment of the current fishing on the popular impoundment. “These are the “good old days” on this lake…I have never seen it better for both size and numbers.”

I hosted seminars Saturday and Sunday and at the end of each session, someone would ask, “What do you know about the pipeline running across the lake?” I visited with Kinder- Morgan project manager, R.D. Iler, last week and left his office feeling much better about the possibility of any negative impact it may have on the fishing while the work is in progress.

A trout fishermen himself, he was well aware of the concerns of area fishermen and assured me that most of our fears were unfounded. I was especially pleased to learn that once the pipeline entered the lake near Garrison’s Ridge, it would track much closer to the middle of the lake than either the Louisiana or Texas shoreline.

Much of the work between East Pass and the Intracoasatal will involve directional drilling which eliminates a great deal of dredging. The pipeline route completely misses Coffee Ground Cove, crosses Shell Island, and then continues eastward on land parallel to the Intracoastal Canal.

“This work will not be nearly as intrusive as rumored,” pointed out Iler. “The work area will be well marked for fishermen running the lake and once the pipe is in place, we will return the bottom to within six inches of its original depth.”

He was also quick to alleviate another fear as to the length of time required to finish the project. “This will be somewhere in the sixteen month range, but that does not mean we are going to be in the lake for that entire time. With any break in the weather at all, the actual work in the lake should go pretty quickly.”

There will undoubtedly be more boat traffic on a daily basis through both East and Middle Pass, but the fishing on the Louisiana shoreline should be as productive as ever. We fished much the same situation last year on Calcasieu and it was not unusual to find the gulls working over trout less than a hundred yards away from the dredge.

Only time will tell, but I feel much better after seeing the route plotted on the map and talking with Mr. Iler!

The landscape in and around East Pass took a hit with Rita and even more landmarks are now disappearing on a daily basis. Seemingly overnight, we went from crabbing off the deck of the houseboat with wide-eyed grandchildren, swapping stories with friends while riding out a thunderstorm on the porch of one of the camps, and enjoying the shade of the pines on Shell Island on a hot summer’s day to trying to
recall what it even looked like.

From the three massive tanks that rose out of the Roseau cane and salt grass south of the Causeway to the leveling of the wooded point across from the Port of Orange, the face of this special ecosystem continues to undergo significant change. Progress is inevitable, but it sure ain’t easy on the eyes!