Orange, Texas, population 20,000, is situated along Interstate 10 between Beaumont and Lake Charles. A blue-collar town where shipbuilding and the lumber industry keep the bills paid, and people are absolutely crazy about bass fishing and the outdoors.
Bassmaster Elite Series weigh-in crowds have historically resembled outdoor festivals headlined by local country music stars like Tracy Byrd and Mark Chessnut back in the day. And based on the number of folks begging for a photo with Team Toyota’s Gerald Swindle in a rainstorm, as he wrapped practice Wednesday, this year will be a party along the Sabine too.
“That’s why I love it here,” smiled Swindle as rain poured down. “The guy who wins here Sunday will probably only average 10 or 11 pounds a day, but when we pull into to weigh-in, these folks don’t care how big the weights are, they just want to cheer us on,” he says.
Swindle should know. He’s been to Orange numerous times in his highly decorated career, and he gave winner Greg Hackney a darn good run for his money before finishing second here in 2018.
A slow rising tide will push dingy water back into tournament waters this week to heighten the challenge, so Swindle plans to spend a lot of time pitching a Zoom Z Craw Jr. and a 3/8-ounce black-blue Buckeye Ballin’ Out jig.
“Not every Elite Series tournament can offer up 100 pounds of bass in four days like Lake Fork or the St. Lawrence River. Don’t get me wrong, that’s cool. But so is weighing-in in front of thousands of fans,” says Swindle.
Heck, even the t-shirt he’s wearing in the photo was custom-made for him by locally owned Pink Rooster Treasures. Why? Because like Swindle says, everybody in Orange loves when the Bassmaster Elite Series comes to town, and that includes the local businesses too.