I had just enough time before baseball practice to run over to the public boat launch on Simmons Drive last Tuesday afternoon and the parking lot was already packed when I arrived. While I wouldn’t describe the scene as chaotic, the sense of urgency among the throng of bass fishermen was apparent from a distance.

At least twenty teams were already idling around awaiting the 5:30 blast off, the launches were occupied with everything from bay boats to wrapped bass boats, and one angler was changing out of his nomex and into shorts while trying to eat fried chicken on the fly. All the while, tournament director, Jonathan Simon, was collecting entry fees and explaining the rules.

Amazingly enough, it was all running reasonably smoothly considering the fact that Simon and Kevin Vaughan had to log in the last team before they could launch their own boat. It is safe to surmise that even Simon has been surprised by the number of bass fishermen that look forward to the convenient weekly after-work events.

Tuesday afternoon the field had increased to 32 teams and two more teams arrived too late to fish the event. I feel certain that the allure for many of them is the opportunity to scratch their competitive itch without having to burn a weekend and a lot of gas running up to the lakes.

This format is apparently catching on not only here, but on the Neches as well as they also have an afternoon tournament over there each week. It is not only challenging, especially considering the time factor, but it also pays well enough for three hours work and an affordable entry fee.

David Aytes and Robert Harrison teamed up to short circuit the Smith-Gothia winning streak. They not only won the event, but posted a very impressive total of 9.78-pounds in the process. Simon and Vaughan managed to take care of all of the clerical work in time to finish second with a solid 5.77-pound catch.

The weigh-in takes place at 8:30, but the pre-tournament activity and blast-off is much more entertaining. There is no doubt that the field will be even larger this week and the winning purse even larger as well. I am especially pleased to see local anglers taking advantage of a great facility and a very special resource.

The wind finally died down this week and we enjoyed a very good run on Sabine Lake. The gulls worked all over the north end of the lake early and late and the most persistent of anglers caught solid trout up to seven pounds. The early part of the week was more user-friendly than the latter part in that keeper trout were easier to catch, but the bite itself was a non-stop deal.

Tails of every color and description accounted for mixed bags of specks, sand trout, gafftop, small blue fish and croaker. Before you turn up your nose at the lowly gafftop you would do well to remember that one of the slimy creatures could pay for a significant portion of your youngster’s education if you have them signed up for the summer long S.T.A.R. tournament.

We weighed three this week that were just a shade under six pounds, but it usually takes a 7-pound plus fish to win. If you do catch one it is only a short run up Cow bayou to Peggy’s On the Bayou where you can officially weigh your catch.

While tails produced the most action, we easily caught our largest fish on Crazy Croakers and topwaters. The bite is not as fast as it is with tails, but you eliminate a lot of the smaller fish. If things slow down for you and you cannot find any bird activity you are still in the game right now. Simply rig a tail on a two foot leader under a Kwik Cork and start drifting….you will get bit!

While I am much happier standing in a puddle of sweat than fishing in the cold or too much wind, the heat has curtailed some of my clients’ enthusiasm this week. For that reason alone you need to pack far more water than you would ever think you could drink, wear a hat and sun glasses and lather up well with a quality sunscreen. I am out there almost every day and I have had very good luck with Bull Frog gel.

My greatest new find for combating the heat, however, has been one of Frogg Togg’s Chill Pads. I have no idea how they work, but they keep you incredibly cool on the hottest of days. You simply soak them in water for a minute or so, warm or cold, wring them out and they stay refreshingly cool for up to thirty minutes.

I now keep several on my boat, not only for comfort, but because I have had more than one occasion when it took a towel soaked in the ice chest to cool down an overheated client. The chill pad is far more efficient than any wet towel. Once you have used one, you will not fish or enjoy any other outdoor activity without one for the remainder of the summer!

If you don’t have plans to fish Friday or Saturday make a run over to Daley’s Hunt n Fish on Jade Avenue in Pt. Acres for their Grand Opening. There will be hourly drawings for some great prizes and reps from some of the biggest tackle manufactures will be on hand. You will be impressed with not only their inventory, but their knowledgeable service as well.