“It couldn’t have gone off any smoother,” stated Keith Daley, and more importantly, the thirty-five teams that entered Daley’s Hunt N Fish team Trout Tournament voiced the same opinion. “The weather was perfect, the winning teams brought some really good trout to the scales, and we were able to live release forty of the forty-five fish that were weighed in alive,” added Eric Ronning.

Making an effort to keep your three trout alive proved to be nearly as important as catching them for the top four finishers. Teams were awarded a half pound bonus for each live fish and the bonus proved to be the difference for the winning team and third place as well!

John Havens and Eric Renteria won $1050 in nudging out the second place team of Capt. Bubba Ray and Leon Robison by two tenths of a pound. Havens and Renteria’s winning weight for three fish was 16.68 pounds. Ray and Robison actually enjoyed a better payday in spite of their narrow miss as they earned $650 for second place and a $450 check for the biggest speck.

Aaron Stillwagon fished alone and beat out the team of Albert Bates and Sydney Burge by an even narrower margin, 12.16-pounds to 12.12-pounds, for the third place check. Twenty of the thirty-five teams weighed in at least one trout and six of the teams brought in a trout over five pounds.

As an added incentive, just prior to the entry deadline, Daley’s added yet another perk for fishing the event by announcing that they would pay for a replica mount of the largest trout. Ray and Robison certainly didn’t waste the host’s money as their winning trout weighed in at a whopping 8.48-pounds. Ray said that once the mount is finished, they will leave it at Daley’s for the coming year.

The fact that not many trout over five pounds were weighed in was a little misleading in that each team could only weigh in one fish over the 25-inch mark. Ray said that once they located their fish, they jumped off and caught and released several more big trout. Havens and Renteria may well have experienced the same thing, but I was unable to talk with them.

While several of the teams reported catching their fish early and Ray and Robison were back at the weigh-in by noon, Bates and Burge ground it out to the end catching their three money fish in the last thirty minutes. “It was simply a tide issue for us,” said Bates, “and we didn’t get a good one until right at the end. We pushed our luck time wise, but it worked out well.”

Jonathan Simon sent me an e-mail last week with a report on their first river tournament of the year. The nineteen teams that entered found the bass fishing about as tough as they hope to find it for the remainder of the year. Corey Rambo and Damon Bishop weren’t complaining at the end of the day, however, as they won $400 with a single bass!

With all of the runoff from the lakes as well as local rains, there was no doubt that keeper bass were going to be difficult to come by. The cuts and backwater lakes are just now starting to look a little better. The weekly river series was a huge success last year and will undoubtedly draw even bigger turnouts this year. For more information on upcoming events, drop by and visit with the folks at Simon Outfitters on MacArthur Drive.

I am reluctant to even mention that the fishing in Sabine lake continues to improve daily as Mother Nature apparently reads this column as well and can shut down the best of bites over night. The water in the lake is certainly not clear, but plenty good enough to catch trout and reds on everything from topwaters to tails. We are even starting to see some bird activity in the southern half of the lake.

Tide changes on the Causeway Reef have yielded very consistent catches of trout up to four pounds. Limetreuse ghost, morning glory and red shad have been good colors and the addition of a scented spray helps as well. Bang garlic and Pro Cure scents are good choices. They work equally well when fishing for flounder with smaller plastics.

We have also enjoyed a steady, but sometimes brief bite on big trout at daylight fishing a chartreuse-black Flush and a Geaux Daley’s She Dog on the flats. Later in the morning, we are doing better on bone or chrome patterns and Swim Baits. The flounder bite has been really good in the bayous on the east side of the lake as well. Limits have been pretty common for folks fishing Willow, Three bayous and the canals in the game Reserve.