ORANGE, Texas — As one of the alligator-hunting stars of the History Channel’s “Swamp People” show, T-Roy Broussard should know a thing or two about backwaters, bayous and brackish-water fisheries like the Sabine River.
Broussard proved that he does by grabbing the first-day lead in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open on the Sabine River Thursday.
Broussard, who hails from Port Arthur, Texas, which is less than a half hour from the Orange Boat Ramp where Thursday’s weigh-in was held, caught five bass that totaled 15 pounds, 8 ounces. Because two of his bass expired, he was penalized 8 ounces, dropping his total to 15-0 for the day. Still it was enough to give him the first-round lead at the Central Open.
The water recirculation system in Broussard’s livewell clogged with a thick green slime, which caused his bass to suffer, he said. He left the water at approximately 1 p.m., and he raced to shore with his haul after realizing what was happening. No fans were at the scales when he came to shore; only B.A.S.S. officials who verified the catch and applied the 8-ounce deduction.
Broussard said a number of things didn’t go his way on Day 1 of the Central Open. A hefty bass shook the hook earlier in the day, and that lunker could have brought his total close to 20 pounds. Combined with the fish-care problems and boat traffic on the water, it was a frustrating day.
Having the lead despite those setbacks, however, was salve for his wounds.
“I’m happy to get the lead because I think fishing is going to be a bit tougher tomorrow,” Broussard said. He has backup spots in case fishing pressure increases where he caught bass today, he added. “I just happen to know some places where I can tuck away and make a few casts. It’s a numbers game; running spots. Today, I only fished one area I practiced. The rest of the places were just by memory.”
Several people this week have compared the Sabine River to the golf course at Augusta National, which is home to The Masters each year.
Just like those 18 holes have challenged golfers for generations, they said this river and its countless sloughs, backwaters and marshy cuts will test the best of anglers.
That certainly was the case on Thursday. A total of 185 pro anglers are competing in the tournament, as are an equal number of co-anglers. And the conditions were fairly difficult on all of them. The Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast has been buffeted by heavy rains in recent weeks, which dirtied the Sabine and its tributaries. The water remains high thanks to the usual south winds of summer, and bass have been scattered throughout the fishery.
In all, 144 pros caught a five-bass limit on Thursday, but only 23 of them managed to post double-digit weights on the first day of the Central Open.
Elite Series pro Josh Bertrand is in second place with a limit that weighed 13-5. The Arizona pro ran extensive amounts of water looking for bites and eventually happened upon a pair of nice bass that carried his bag. He’s looking for moving water which should spark bass to move in the Texas heat. Temperatures climbed into the low 90s on Thursday, and similar conditions are expected throughout the tournament.
“I caught fish on an incoming and a falling tide, but I can’t pinpoint it,” Bertrand said. “You just have to keep your head down and fish your best spots. You have to be ready when the tide starts moving.”
Fellow Elite Series pro Chad Morgenthaler is in third with 13 pounds. The Missouri pro’s bag was also anchored by a pair of bass that weighed approximately 4 1/2 pounds apiece. Considering he thought it would take less than 40 pounds to win the three-day Central Open, Morgenthaler was pleased with his showing Thursday.
“In multiple-day events this time of year, 13, 14, 15 pounds a day is going to get you right where you want to be,” Morgenthaler said. “I was surprised with the two bigger bites instead of one. I didn’t have that in practice, though I did have a couple of really nice fish in practice.” He expects fishing to get even more difficult the remaining two days of the event, and “unless someone surprises, I’m pretty sure that puts me in good position for the rest of the week.”
Rounding out the Top 5 after Day 1 are Trey Smith, fourth with 12-15, and Drew Sloan, fifth with 12-0.
Vernon Cooksey of Bossier City, La., leads the co-angler field after with a three-bass limit that weighed 9-4.
Takeoff for Day 2 of the Bass Pro Shops Central Open No. 2 will begin at 6 a.m. CT at the City of Orange Boat Ramp, 1000 Simmons Drive. Weigh-in will begin at 3 p.m. The field will be cut to the Top 12 pros and an additional Top 12 co-anglers after Friday’s weigh-in is complete.
The top pro after Saturday’s action will earn entry into the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, provided he fishes each of the three of the Bass Pro Shops Central Opens this season. That pro, as well as top co-angler, also will win boat/motor packages.
The Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce is hosting the event.