The past couple of weeks in Texas were a blast. I really enjoyed both Bassmaster Elite Series events down there. Falcon was fun because it was a slugfest, and I love catching giants. Sabine was fun because every keeper there was like gold. The Sabine Challenge was definitely a challenge. Some guys were traveling more than two hours one way to get to their spots and others braved a treacherous run up a winding river to access backwater areas. I chose the latter, and thankfully came out with a Top 10 finish.
The river that I am talking about is the Neches River, the same river where Michael Iaconelli wrecked and several anglers lost their lower units, including me. I found a hidden backwater area in the upper reaches of the river on Google Earth. On the morning of the second day of practice, I broke my prop shaft completely off trying to get there. This pretty much messed up the whole day because I had to use my trolling motor to get 6 miles downriver to the nearest ramp. Then I had to take my boat to the nearest dealer to get a new lower unit installed.
On the morning of the final practice day, I debated on whether I should attempt to go back up to the hidden backwater. I was scared that I would jack up another lower unit, but I went anyway. I was extra careful all the way up there, idling for miles. When I finally made it to the entrance of the backwater, I was greeted by a culvert that looked too small to get a boat through. As I got my Triton closer, I realized that it was barely large enough. I had to trim my Suzuki down and lower my Power Poles to fit. I laid down on the front deck and pulled my way through the culvert. Every time I would touch the ceiling of the culvert, rusty pieces would fall down on me and the deck of my boat.
After I finally got through the culvert, I had to navigate my way through this creek that ran by some pretty shady shacks with some pretty shady people. The creek led to a 20-acre pond, a pond that I nicknamed “Lake Deliverance” because it looked like a scene right out of the movie Deliverance. I spent two hours in there during practice and got two keeper bites. I figured this spot would be a good place, especially if no one else found it and if I made it out of there alive each day.
The first three days of the tournament went just as planned; I would catch five keepers and get the heck out of there. However, every day it seemed to get creepier and creepier back in Lake Deliverance. The locals did not seem happy about me being back there. Several asked how I got my big bass boat in there. Each day, the same two kids would come out in their aluminum boat and would fish beside me for a few minutes. I think it was their way of telling me that Lake Deliverance was theirs. Every day I saw new pets that called this pond home: chickens, turkeys and pigs, to name a few.
During the weigh-in on Day Two, I told Dave Mercer about the craziness that was happening back in Lake Deliverance. Dave told me that if I heard banjos, I needed to stop fishing and run. I thought that was pretty funny until I got in there on Day Three. I kid you not – within the first 10 minutes, the locals started playing banjos! My Marshal and I looked at each other and started cracking up. I asked him if we were going to die, and he couldn’t stop laughing. While all this was happening, I had a bite and forgot to set the hook. A keeper jumped and threw the bait. That fish helped me tune out the banjos and focus on my task at hand, which was to catch five keepers.
On Day Four, I could only wonder what was going to happen when I got back in Lake Deliverance. As I went through the culvert and creek, I prepared myself for another creepy encounter. To my surprise, the locals were preoccupied with reroofing one of the shacks and seemed to not even notice me. It was the most normal day of any of the days, and the fish bit the best out of all the days. My only problem was getting them in the boat! I lost fish all day long and should have caught somewhere between 13 and 15 pounds. The fish were biting really weird, and I only managed to boat one 4 1/2-pounder that I actually had to go half way under the water to get out of a log jam. Losing all those fish was actually a pretty fitting way of ending my weird week. Ha-ha.
It was a great tournament, and I was really pleased to have started the year out with a Top 10. The fans in Orange, Texas, were incredible, and the huge crowds got all of the anglers pumped up. I logged over 500 miles for the week, and I couldn’t have been happier with the way my rig performed getting me to and from Lake Deliverance every day. I hope I can revisit that creepy pond someday!
Dare to fail.