Cajun swamp rat, chasing a dream

My name is Troy Broussard. Some folks know me as T-Roy, a gator hunter off of the show “Swamp People.” Alligator hunting is what I do for a living besides being a captain with the Port Arthur Fire Department here in southeast Texas.

I grew up hunting ducks and geese in the winters and chasing bass in the spring and summer. Got my first shotgun at age 4 and my first boat when I was 8. It was a homemade pirogue that my dad built, and it had a custom transom that held a 3 1/2-horsepower Evinrude motor.

My mom and dad would drop me off in the mornings at the ramp with a fishing pole, a tacklebox and a can of gas, and away I went. I spent countless days on the water honing my skills as a bass fisherman while other kids were playing sandlot ball and getting into trouble.

My first bass tournament I was in was a local one. Didn’t know much about tournaments other than that we could weigh in 10 bass. My buddy and I ended up in third place, and I was hooked from then on.

In my life I have won several local bass tournaments here on the Sabine River, Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend. I spent much of my life working as a gator hunter and firefighter, and running my own commercial crab business. I never had time to pursue a dream of being a professional fisherman. Plus, I always told myself that there was no way I could compete with these guys. I mean, come on, they are Elites, the FLW Tour pros, the guys I watched on TV each weekend.

Then came along a show called “Swamp People,” a bunch of Cajuns running around the swamp shooting gators. Little did I know I would end up on it and have the ability to free up some time to do more fishing.

The Bassmaster Elites came to my hometown to fish the Sabine River Challenge two years ago, and I had the privilege of meeting a bunch of the competitors — Todd Faircloth, Shaw Grigsby, Cliff Crochet, Mark Davis and a bunch others. My first impression with each of these guys was, “Man, these are just laid-back normal guys like me.”

After watching Faircloth catch fish after fish in the areas that I grew up on made me get that twinkle in my eye, that feeling that I could do this. I contemplated the idea for a few months, and I decided to give it a shot at the Bassmaster Open at Lake Amistad as well as fish the entire FLW Rayovac Texas Division.

Lo and behold, my first day in my first Open, I was in fifth place at Amistad. After seeing who some of the contestants were, it hit me like a sledgehammer. I knew I could do this then. I was hanging in there with a bunch of Elite guys. The tournament fever really hit me.

I ended up 10th there and decided then to fish the rest of the season after a bunch of the Elite guys told me I was crazy not to. Right after the Amistad tournament, I had a Rayovac on my home lake of Toledo Bend and ended up in seventh place. Now I’m really thinking I can do this, two Top 10s in two consecutive pro tournaments.

I start preparing for the Red River, the second Open. I went a week early and practiced every day from daylight to dark. I caught some good fish, but what I did not know — nor did I think to learn — was that the water would fall 2 feet overnight. That put me into a tailspin and my fish backed out.

Instead of trying to chase fish or look for new water, I made a bad decision to stay in the main area I had learned and ended up in 50th place. Still good, right? I actually made a Top 50 stat on Bassmaster’s angler info page.

Well, for me, 50th place was failure, especially when I knew how important it was to make a Top 20 to be in the hunt for an Elite Series berth. After it was all said and done, I ended up in 16th in Opens points, and I knew there was still a chance to make it if I had a strong showing at the Arkansas River in September.

I decided I would do whatever it took to be prepared for this last tournament. In June, I made my first trip to the river. I caught some really good fish on all three days and knew I had a great start to learning this body of water, but I needed more time. I got home yesterday from three more days in Oklahoma at the river. I wish I had great things to write down, but I don’t.

I woke up each morning to 53 to 55 degree temps, north winds howling 15 to 20 mph, and high pressure dominating. To top that all off, we were having a full moon, a “supermoon” by some locals’ standards.

I got bites, but they were far and few between. I ran my Ranger 520C/Yamaha SHO a total of 220 miles this past week from Kerr Reservoir up to the top of Pool 1. I felt I had a wasted practice because I couldn’t even begin to try and put a pattern together. My last day there, I did get five small fish for about 8 pounds. But that was from 6:15 a.m. to 7:45 p.m., so I can’t pat myself on the back or even claim that I caught a “limit.”

What I did learn is that no matter how bad your practice goes, it doesn’t count until game day. I will be back for the official practice, and I promise you I will give 150 percent effort.

So here I am, waiting the days for the start of the Bassmaster Central Open #3. I’m just an Ole Cajun Swamp Rat chasing a dream, hoping that in 2015 I get an invitation to go to battle with the best guys in the world.

But for that to happen, I have a lot of work to do in Muskogee, Okla., Sept. 11-13. If I don’t make it, I have no regrets because I have made some great friends along the way and proven to myself, my wife and daughter that Daddy did his best.

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