ORANGE, Texas – Not being from around here, it only took a few minutes in a boat on the Sabine River Thursday morning for me to realize this isn’t the kind of water I grew up on.
I’ve spent countless hours on the Coosa River in Alabama, and I don’t ever remember seeing mullet jump 2 and 3 feet out of the water when they were spooked by a bass boat.
But I saw it today as Shaye Baker and I followed Aaron Martens through a narrow canal during the opening round of the Bassmaster Elite at Sabine River Presented by STARK Cultural Venues.
I’ve had my trolling motor prop matted with grass on Lake Eufaula plenty of times. But I don’t ever recall seeing a crab in the grass like the one Shaye and I saw today as he was cleaning his prop in that canal.
This is a weird, wild, wonderful place – and anyone who says it’s not a good spot for a major professional bass tournament just isn’t seeing the big picture.
Will there be more fish caught during next month’s tournament at Guntersville? Sure. But if every tournament was Guntersville in springtime, you’d never truly learn anything about these fishermen. You’d never crown a deserving Angler of the Year or determine a legitimate field for The Bassmaster Classic.
To do all of that, you need to sprinkle in a little something different along the tournament trail – and this place is nothing if not different.
I think it’s fun watching Martens and Chris Lane jockey for position in a canal that’s barely big enough for one of their boats. I also think it’s a pretty important test of patience and character for four anglers to have to share an area like Kelly Jordon, Skeet Reese, Dean Rojas and Hank Cherry did Thursday.
We already know they can catch fish. So I think it’s a great test of their all-around angling ability to see who can read the tidal changes and navigate this maze of swamps and bayous to bring back a limit of fish that probably wouldn’t even earn a check on Guntersville.
The fact that they’re doing it surrounded by alligators and catching the occasional redfish just makes it all the better.