Well I think it’s very safe to say that most all of the “doubters” have been silenced thanks to not only the fishermen who competed in the Elite Series Sabine River Challenge but also to the ridiculously huge crowds that converged on the weigh in site. Time and time again all you could hear from anyone associated with the tournament was how big the crowds were. An estimated total of over 30,000 people attended the festivities which was a record for any Elite Series event. To the naysayers who said it couldn’t be done, the results speak for themselves.

The monumental task of getting the folks from B.A.S.S. to come to our little piece of the world was tackled by a host of local individuals and they should all be proud. Two of the ones I know personally, John Gothia and David Jones, were in the mix from the very first day and I’d like to publicly thank them for what they helped accomplish.

The Stark Foundation should be praised for their efforts and support of the event as well, without them the event would have been nearly impossible to accomplish. I for one am extremely proud of how well the event went off and how much hospitality Orange county residents showed our visitors, it was truly amazing.

As far as amazing is concerned there were several things during the tournament that would qualify as amazing. First would be the lengths these fishermen were willing to go to in order to find fish. Hour long runs were the norm for most of the field and that was in just about every direction on the compass. Mike McClelland ran 112 miles, one way, to the other side of Galveston Bay four days in a row! That’s two hours one way and two hours back across two bay systems in a bass boat at some ungodly speed! I hope he was sponsored by Advil or Tylenol because he certainly needed some after those runs.

Perhaps the most amazing thing for me during the tournament was what angler Bill Lowen accomplished. Unlike the majority of the field Lowen stayed local, extremely local in fact. For four days Lowen camped out within trolling motor distance of the weigh in site and caught a limit every day. Not only did he catch a limit, he caught 38 pounds and 3 ounces worth of largemouth bass and finished fifth overall. Now 5th place may not seem like much because he didn’t win but I guarantee you if you ask any local angler about his stringer for four days they will tell you that’s pretty incredible. If you compare his results to nearly any tournament held on the Sabine River locally Bill Lowen probably caught more keeper fish by himself in four days than the entire field of many local events. It’s just mind boggling that this guy picked apart the water he fished and came up with that kind of weight. In my opinion that’s the guy that could really call himself the Sabine River Champion.

The fantastic crowds and local hospitality has certainly helped to make Orange a possible destination for other events in the near future for both fresh and saltwater events. Even though many of the pro’s struggled at this event they certainly spoke well of the fishery and the people, many saying they hope to come back and try to figure out the fish because the challenge was so good. Perhaps the main thing to take away from the whole event is that we have a tremendous place to fish right here in our own backyard and now folks from all over will get a chance to appreciate it as well.