In a message today to Bassmaster Elite Series anglers, B.A.S.S. Tournament Director Trip Weldon said competitors in the 2018 Bassmaster Elite at the Sabine River out of Orange, Texas, will not be permitted to fish in Louisiana waters.
The Sabine River forms part of the boundary between Texas and Louisiana.
In two previous Elite Series tournaments, and one Bassmaster Open out of Orange, Louisiana’s unusual laws governing access to navigable waters have created conflict and confusion among anglers.
For example, hours before competition in the 2017 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open (June 15-17) was set to begin, Louisiana officials notified B.A.S.S. that a large section of Louisiana backwaters near the launch site — an area where many anglers had practiced and planned to fish — was being closed to public access.
In Louisiana, landowners who hold property on both sides of a channel, even in tidal sections, often can claim the channel as private water, and they do not have to clearly post signage alerting anglers. In previous tournaments, sections of prime fishing water were open in early rounds of competition but closed later in the week.
The uncertainty of access creates an uneven playing field and is unacceptable for top-level bass tournaments, said Weldon.
“Due to the grey areas in the Louisiana Delta/Tidal waters that could create an uneven playing field, the 2018 Elite event in Orange will be restricted to Texas waters only,” said Weldon.
Similar problems exist in the Atchafalaya Basin area of south-central Louisiana, a large portion of which is privately owned. B.A.S.S. has also decided not to schedule professional tournaments in that area until and unless the public access issues are resolved.
Weldon and B.A.S.S. CEO Bruce Akin emphasized that the fishing restrictions do not apply to Louisiana’s Toledo Bend Reservoir, where public access is clearly defined and where numerous successful B.A.S.S. tournaments have been held without conflict.
Weldon said Texas’ portion of the Sabine River Delta and adjacent waters are more than sufficient to accommodate a tournament field of 100 or more anglers. He added that Texas law is more favorable toward anglers. There, he said, navigable tidally influenced waters are fishable. “If you can float it, you can boat it,” he said.
To see Todd Masson’s reaction in Louisana, click here. Masson is a long-time outdoor writer for NOLA.com and the Times-Picayune.