Dolly did dump some much-needed rain as she skirted the coast last week, but more importantly for the folks down at the OCARC, she paraded through a week early!

Outside of duck hunting, rain is seldom welcome at any outdoor event and the annual OCARC Fishing Tournament is no exception. There have been those rare occasions over the past twenty years when the weather did wreak havoc on the Center’s major fundraiser, but that has not been the case of late.

In earlier years, we would all sit down, tweak the rules to expand the winner’s list, and pick the one weekend that least conflicted with other area events. As the tournament continued to grow and earn its place as one of the most anticipated events of the year, two decisions were made that assured its longevity.

Initially, following the final change in rules that limited the maximum length on redfish to 27-inches, it was agreed upon that there was no need to further alter the family-friendly format.

Secondly, and even more importantly, Center Director and an avid fisherman himself, John Thomas, made an executive decision that locked in the summer favorite on every southeast Texas calendar.
At some point between attending a Civic Club meeting, securing contracts for the self-supported workers at the Center, and lending a hand wherever needed, Thomas pulled his Chevy pickup up next to the curb and struck a deal with Mother Nature.

Because he was alone when the pact was agreed upon, I have no idea as to what all he promised in return, but the face value of the deal was “guaranteed good weather in exchange for his hosting the tournament on the same weekend every year.” Supporters no longer have to worry about a specific date….just make plans to fish the first weekend every August!

Well folks, that weekend is here. The lake is in great shape, the fish are biting, and in keeping with her end of the deal, Mother Nature steered Dolly well south of Sabine Lake. Now, it is in our hands as fishermen or simply concerned citizens to support this special group of folks this weekend.

As promised last week, the following tips should help participants that have been unable to get on the water this week. Remember that any report that you are reading or hearing about is already old news, but as of Tuesday morning, the following tips should put you in the hunt.

The largest cash prizes are awarded to the top bass, red, speck, and flounder and it is not unusual to win one of the other categories while fishing for one of these species. Things are much simpler on the freshwater side.

It will be difficult, but not impossible, to earn top bass honors without making the trek to Rayburn or Toledo Bend. In recent years, the white perch division has belonged to folks that fish shiners over brush on one of these lakes as well. The exception has been the occasional big crappie out of one of the logging cuts north of I-10 or a big bass duped on a lizard out of Square Lake at night.
I am on Sabine Lake most every day and I can assure you that both the redfish and flounder categories are very much up for grabs. The most appealing aspect of both of the categories is that they could be won in any number of locations. The crowd could present a logistics problem, but it is not inconceivable that you could catch your bait as well as the largest red and flounder and never leave the DuPont Outfall!

If I were fishing the river, Black’s, or any one of the bayous, I would stick with finger mullet rather than shad as you are looking for only one big fish. You will catch more fish with shad, but I think your odds of catching a larger fish improve with mullet. Rig your live mullet on a Carolina rig with a two-foot leader and be patient!

If you are fishing the event with the kids, rig them up a shad as they will catch any and everything and there is a category for any and everything. Try to find a spot near the mouth of one of the bayous or cuts only a cast away from any exposed rocks or any major point along the river or ICW. Fish on anchor, take advantage of the tide, and position your boat so that you can fish both shallow and deep.
Marsh fishermen could be hard to beat in the redfish division. If the tide is right and the fish are there, they have the advantage of going through better numbers. As a rule, they will also be more mobile fishing everything from spinnerbaits to plastic frogs.

The winning flounder could come out of Burton’s ditch, the jetty walls or anywhere in between, but I think it will fall victim to live bait. Over the past two weeks, a lot of very good flatfish have been taken in the ship channel south of the Causeway. Do not overlook Keith Lake or any of the canals in Bessie Heights.

Depending on the wind, your best shot at a 4 to 6 pound trout over the past week has been the jetties or short rigs. That said, because I think it might take an even larger fish to win, I believe the winner will come off the north end of the lake.

How far north? I weighed a seven pound trout for a couple fishing with mullet off the north end of Sidney Island last week. I do not think it is a stretch to say that most of the seven-pound plus trout that were caught in July came out of the ICW all the way from Middle Pass to the MLK Bridge.

Having a tide is critical, but if you have not been out in a while, concentrate your efforts on the slicks. You may well make it happen with a She Dog or even an Assassin, but I would hunt that one big fish with live bait. If the ICW does not pay off early, drift the flats on the north end with a mullet or shad rigged on a 4/0 Kahle hook and a very light weight.

The weigh-in will start Saturday evening at 6:00 p.m. at the DERA launch on Adam’s Bayou. Make plans on getting there a little early and visiting with not only the folks from the center, but professional bass fisherman, Carl Svebek, as well.

See you there!