What a difference a day makes. The wind was not a factor Saturday morning, but the first measurable rainfall in quite some time tested the trout anglers competing for $7,500 in cash and prizes in the Cabela’s Speckled Trout tournament.

Sunday, however, was bathed in sunshine and most of the field substantially upgraded their first day catches. It was almost as if the field fished different lakes depending on their strategy, but either way the winning teams took their chances on Sabine and it paid off.

I know they go to great lengths to choreograph the final weigh-in on televised bass events, but the Cabela’s weigh-in crew could not have scripted a more suspenseful finale. Brian Frederick and Gary McElduff posted a solid 5-fish limit of 17.70 pounds on day one putting the remainder of the field in the chase mode as they left the pre-dawn Captain’s meeting on Sunday for Day 2 action.
With the improved conditions and the trout more cooperative, it was still anybody’s game as the teams rolled back into the city of Orange boat ramp for the final weigh-in. The first two teams to weigh in momentarily took over the lead and two things were very apparent… the bonus points for live fish were making a difference and the Day 1 leaders needed to have another good catch to take home first place money!

“We went through a lot of trout today,” said Adam Jaynes immediately after the Day 1 weigh-in. “Aaron and I just couldn’t put the right fish in the boat, but as frustrating as that was, we still feel like we have a chance.” At that point, they were in sixth place and six pounds off the pace.

Tom Selman, his son Trey, and James Sparrow were in an even better chase position holding down second place after Day 1. While their strategy was completely different and they caught far fewer fish than James and Hommel, they may have been even more frustrated Saturday evening.

“We are only a couple of pounds off the pace and we are the only team in the field that caught two trout in the 7-pound class,” pointed out Selman. “You can only bring in one fish over 25 inches so we had to release one of those two fish and later pulled off another five-pound fish right at the boat. We are catching very few trout, but they are the kind of fish that can win it for you.”

Just as predicted, with only two other teams remaining to weigh in, Selman’s team vaulted into the lead with a 28.39-pound final total weight. With a $500 gift card already in hand for their big trout (6.91 pounds), they were in line for an even larger payday.

James and Hommel were headed to the tent with the day’s best catch when Frederick and McElduff stepped up and sealed the deal. “We didn’t even start catching our fish until midday and had to change tactics, but I think we caught enough to get it done,” said Frederick as he handed over their catch to the weigh master.

Their final winning total was an impressive 33.47 pounds considering how tough the fishing had been and all that remained was to see how far up the board the Orange based duo of Hommel and James could climb with their big basket. Their total settled out at 28.58 pounds earning them second place money by less than two tenths of a pound. Had they not managed to keep their fish alive it would have cost them $1000!

There is no doubt the daily gale force winds prior to the tournament reduced the entries, but the pay back ratio was still a bargain and the event was well-run for the second consecutive year. The new format of allowing a youngster under the age of 16 to fish with a team was not only well received, but proved to be an asset for two of the teams.

Jeremy Waltrip and Josh Linscomb were pleased to have young Bradon Wood along with them as he earned their team a $500 check for big redfish honors with an 8.65-pound fish. Selman told the weigh-in crowd that his son, Trey, also contributed to their five fish total both days.

The Frederick-McElduff duo took home $3500 for first followed by James-Hommel with $2,000 and Selman-Sparrow-Selman with $1000. Aside from a pile of door prizes that were drawn for, Scot Bandy and the Orange Chapter of the CCA were on hand as usual signing up new members and hosting a drawing for everything from high tech fishing rods to customized wading packs.

Almost every team brought in a bonus red which was pretty much expected, but the number of trout caught was a surprise. James told the crowd that he and Hommel probably went through a 100 trout Sunday and at least two other teams said they caught a lot of fish under the birds on the south end of the lake. The trout were caught on everything from Topwaters to Corkies.

About Dickie Colburn