'Swamp People' star mixes gators with bass

DEL RIO, Texas — Fans of the History Channel hit series “Swamp People” recognize Troy Broussard as part of a duo of Texas alligator hunters. On the show he’s known as “T-Roy” along with partner Harlan “Bigfoot” Hatcher.

There’s nothing about what they do in the show that’s recreated for show business. The two men are as real as the wild and untamed southeast Texas bayous and swamps where segments of the show are taped.

Broussard, 43, and Hatcher, 55, have hunted together for 30 years. Broussard grew up hunting for nutria and muskrat with his parents. They scratched a living out of the bayous and wetlands in a fearless, unadorned lifestyle.

Ironically, the hunt-and-take heritage follows the catch-and-release sport of tournament bass fishing in parallel fashion for Broussard. His family once had a home on the Sabine River that is now Toledo Bend Reservoir. The famed bass fishery is where Broussard learned his fishing skills as a youth. He has a camp on Sam Rayburn Reservoir, although its not used as a gator-hunting outpost.

Broussard is serious about his bass fishing. To hear him recap his first day of competing at the professional level is like hearing a seasoned pro recap a strategy, down to the very detail.

That’s exactly what he did on Day One of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open on Lake Amistad. After his first day of competition in a B.A.S.S. event Broussard landed in fifth place on the leader board. He’s in ninth place going into the final day and will fish the championship round.

“It is more exciting than anything I’ve ever been through,” he said. “I mean to walk across the B.A.S.S. weigh-in stage and do what I did yesterday was a really big deal for me.”

Broussard got his first taste of the big time last year in his own backyard during the Bassmaster Elite Series event held on the Sabine River. It’s an unforgiving waterway for fiberglass bass boats as many of the pros discovered. B.A.S.S. hired Broussard as a camera boat driver for photographer James Overstreet. The photos of the tournament were taken from Broussard’s airboat.

Broussard cherished the time spent on the water watching the pros. It influenced him to travel to the Bassmaster Classic held last February in Tulsa, Okla.

Through those experiences he’s discovered similarities in the livelihood of the bass pros and gator hunters like him.

“They get out there every day and give it everything they have, not matter what the conditions or how tough the fishing,” he said. “We have to do the same thing in the swamp.”

“What we both get from it is being out with God in the great outdoors. You can’t ask for anything more than that in life.”

Broussard also finds parallels in bass and alligators and how anglers and hunters pursue both.

“Alligators and bass are predators,” he explained. “They both have seasonal patterns. They both look for food the same as opportunistic feeders.”

He continued, “They both use deep water routes for travel. A big gator doesn’t like to crawl over shallow cover. It’s the same thing with a big bass. Both animals will use the least amount of energy they can to get a meal. They are both going to look for a prime opportunity to feed.”

He draws the line on the similarities between the animals on the spawning ritual followed by bass.

“I guess if you could say there is a weakness between alligators and bass it’s the spawn,” he said. “Bass have to move up and expose themselves in shallow water.”

The primary reason Broussard is at Lake Amistad is because it’s his off-season, if there is one for him.

Back home in Texas, he’s a Port Arthur Fired Department captain, where he’s held a job for the past 24 years. He also runs a crab boat in the Gulf of Mexico. And there’s a four-year-old daughter at home.

“I really miss her right now,” he admitted.

And there’s the production of “Swamp People.” It begins in early September and runs the entire month during the open hunting season in southeast Texas. Broussard begins preparing for the show in August. Then, it gets really busy.

“It’s a lot like preparing for a tournament season,” he added. “Except I have five counties to cover and drive over 200 miles a day in a truck to get to my lines.”

A typical production day begins before the sun comes up around 4 a.m. Broussard rarely sees his bed until midnight. It’s normally a fast paced schedule, although he says the show slows it down.

“It’s not our normal rhythm when we’re hunting,” he said. “But it’s also made for television and we have to make adjustments because of the camera angles and all of the production elements.”

Broussard enjoys being part of the show, although his interest in tournament fishing is growing.

“I see this as a big opportunity,” he said. “If I were to win this tournament then I might have a big decision to make.”

That’s because the final Central Open of the season falls on top of the beginning of the production schedule for Swamp People. A Classic berth comes with an Open win should the angler fish all three events during the same season.

If that doesn’t happen here then he’ll have another shot at the second Open. It’s at the Red River in April. The layout and style of bass fishing there line up perfectly with Broussard’s homegrown ways.

“We’ll have to wait and see,” he said of the possibilities. “If I was to win then Harlan might have to really step it up for us. We can’t let those Louisiana boys outgun us.”

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