Heavy rains, high water and sunburns

It’s been two years since I fished the Sabine River on the Bassmaster Elite Series. Back then, I had a shot to win but couldn’t catch squat on the last day. I still finished third, but the outcome has been gnawing at me ever since. Now, it looks like I’ll have to live with that finish for a little while longer, since the tournament was postponed due to high water.

Adaption is always part of tournament fishing, even adapting to not fishing a tournament.

Speaking of adapting, a lot of things have changed at Sabine since the last time I was there. I was planning on making major adjustments going into the early spring tournament to fish a body of water that is greatly reduced this year without Louisiana in the mix. In a place that already fishes kind of small, that’s going to be make things interesting when we do eventually get back there later this year. 

At Sabine, there’s a lot of bank-specific fishing. It’s fun, and you catch a lot of fish, but you also catch four or five dinks to each keeper. There’s a 14-inch limit there, not 12, and the keepers get more shy with every passing boat. That means I’ll be going through a lot of plastic as trailers get torn up by small fish. It also means we’ll all have to be extra patient with each other if the river gets crowded.

Honestly, I’m excited about it, though. I was excited to drive over to Texas last week, and I’m kind of bummed that we have to reschedule. But the water would have been extremely treacherous to run at high speeds and B.A.S.S. made the right decision. 

A lot is different there this year, but one thing that isn’t going to change, regardless of the tournament date, is the wicked southern sun. It’s easy to forget, but the Sabine River is almost at the Gulf of Mexico. So even though we aren’t dealing with mid-summer, sweaty heat just yet, we are still dealing with the sun. By the time we get back, things could be really, really warm down there. 

That’s something I think a lot of people who fish are getting smarter about, too. Almost all of us know a fisherman who has had skin problems due to the sun, and people are starting to ask me more about that kind of stuff. So, I’ll tell you what I do to fight it off — I  use UPF gear that works everywhere in the country.

Back in the day, I used to battle the sun with giant sombreros. I guess they looked kind of cool, but they also flopped around a lot…and there was no chance they’d stay on your head if you were running. Nowadays, people kind of forget about big straw hats and sombreros. I replaced the big hat years ago with a baseball cap and a couple of Simms SunGaiters.

If you’ve seen pictures of me ninjaed up on the water, I’m wearing a SunGaiter. I’ve seen a lot of pictures of me with these on lately, probably because I forget I’m wearing them. They’re fitted, so they have more material in some places, and less in other places. Instead of a regular shape, they have really unique dimensions that really sit great on your face when you pull them up. With the SunGaiter, I’m able to tuck the fabric into my shirt to get complete protection, and I’m basically wearing UPF sunscreen without having to apply and re-apply lotion all day. I can also pull my SunGaiter over my hat when I’m running, so I don’t have to worry about it flying off as much when I’m looking for more fish.

Along with Simms Solorflex gloves and my pants and jersey, I’m 90 percent covered from the sun by UPF 50 gear, which is a big deal when you’re out on the water for days on end.

All of that leaves me free of sunburns and floppy hats, so I can focus on adapting…and focus on winning. Eventually, I’ll be able to bring that focus back to the Sabine again this year.