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Entries in Texas (88)

Thursday
Sep142017

Bassmaster Telethon to Aid Fish and Game First Responders in Florida, Texas

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission employees rescue Florida flood victims in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Some of the state employees also suffered tremendous losses in the storm.

Game wardens, fisheries biologists and other personnel in the fish and game departments of Texas and Florida were among the first responders in the back-to-back catastrophic hurricanes that slammed those two states.
 
After those heroes worked tirelessly to rescue people from flooded and storm-ravaged homes, many of them returned from duty to find their own homes severely damaged or destroyed.
 
In response to their losses and in recognition of their sacrifices, B.A.S.S. is launching a fundraising campaign through its innovative Bassmaster LIVE broadcasts from the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship this week at Mille Lacs Lake, Minnesota.
 
The first-ever Bassmaster LIVE “telethon” will take place during coverage of the year-end championship, which will crown the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year and determine berths in the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.
 
More than 100,000 fishing fans will tune in for the LIVE shows, which are streamed on Bassmaster.com this week and WatchESPN from 8-11 a.m. and 12:30-3:30 p.m. ET Thursday, Friday, and Sunday.
 
“In the aftermath of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the needs are so great they’re mind-boggling,” said Bruce Akin, B.A.S.S. CEO.

“We want to do whatever we can to help, and we also want to be confident that these funds go directly to the people who need it most. That’s why we’re proud to partner with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation and the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida to directly benefit the men and women of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.”

 The two foundations are non-profit organizations dedicated to providing private funding to help their respective conservation agencies protect and improve fish and wildlife resources.
 
“Knowing that things like this would happen, we set up a fund sometime back to provide emergency relief for our fish and wildlife workers,” said Andy Walker, president and CEO of the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida. “That fund was exhausted in the first 48 hours.”
 
Because of the nature of their jobs, a disproportionate number of Florida fish and wildlife employees live and work in coastal areas — especially the Florida Keys — that received the brunt of Irma’s fury, he said.
 
Anne Brown, executive director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, added that numerous parks and wildlife employees also reside in coastal areas hardest hit by Hurricane Harvey, and more than 100 have been displaced due to damage or loss of their homes. The foundation has raised and distributed about $250,000 for the relief effort so far.
 
During the LIVE broadcasts, hosts Tommy Sanders and Davy Hite will interview Elite anglers and B.A.S.S. Nation members from Texas and Florida, including some who used their own boats to rescue people stranded in the floods. Officials in both states have commended fishermen and hunters for their quick response and credited them for saving numerous lives.
 
Walker noted that 150 wildlife and fisheries workers from Florida worked “around the clock” in Texas to help rescue people there, and more than 350 Texas Parks and Wildlife employees reciprocated by converging on Florida this week to help in the wake of Hurricane Irma.
 
Akin also pointed out that a number of B.A.S.S. sponsors have been active in relief efforts. Yamaha and G3 provided boats to be used in the Houston rescue operation, as did Tracker dealers in the area.
 
And Toyota is working with the St. Bernard Project (SBP) — an initiative launched in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana — with a long-term view of recovery.
 
“In this spirit, we spent $1 million to establish our long-time partner, the St Bernard Project, in southeast Texas,” said Mike Goss, president of Toyota USA Foundation. “They are helping people mitigate mold and avoid contractor fraud, and they help the uninsured navigate government funding. Eventually, SBP will rebuild homes for residents who cannot afford it on their own.
 
“Often this entire process takes many years in the wake of a huge disaster, so Toyota wants to help make full recovery go faster.”
 
Fans who tune in to the Bassmaster LIVE shows beginning Thursday will be given directions on how they can donate to the relief efforts.
 
Those who want to help fish and wildlife personnel in Florida can contribute to a fund set up by the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida.

 
The Texas foundation has set up two funds: the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Employee Relief Fund
and the Restoration of Natural Resources Fund.

Wednesday
Jul052017

Plastics Problem Re-Energizes Conservation Spirit in Anglers

 

Back in 2011, Joe Ford told me about a bass that he caught in Texas' Lake Amistad and what he found inside it. The articles that I wrote about his discovery for B.A.S.S. Times and Activist Angler awakened anglers to an environmental problem that had largely been ignored.


Through good stewardship and angler awareness programs such Pitch It, we are minimizing this problem, but the effort must be ongoing. Here's a reminder from one of early articles:

Angler Joe Ford’s chance discovery has re-energized the conservation spirit in bass anglers across the country.

B.A.S.S. founder Ray Scott first tapped into that extraordinary force 40 years ago, when he introduced catch-and-release to bass tournaments. Conservation-minded anglers quickly incorporated the practice into recreational fishing, and, with a few years, it was standard procedure for fishermen worldwide, pursuing a multitude of species.

Will what Ford found in the stomach of a 10-pound largemouth spawn the second great stewardship campaign for which bass anglers become the standard bearers? That remains to be seen.

For the moment, though, it has motivated many to deal with a problem that has been too long ignored:

The bottoms of our lakes are smothered with discarded plastic baits, and fish are eating them.

Ford hadn’t intended to keep the big bass that he caught while fishing Texas’ Lake Amistad. But because it was deep hooked, he put it in the livewell to see if it would survive. It did not.

As he was dressing it out, he noted a large plastic mass in its stomach. Closer examination revealed the blob to be a dozen plastic baits.


“It was amazing to see all of those worms in there,” he told me. “I don’t know how it was going to pass them.”

Possibly it wouldn’t have. A long bait, like a worm or lizard, can work its way into the intestine and stay there.

And, because it is unable to feed, it then could starve to death.

In my September Conservation column, I revealed Ford’s experience and explained the tragic scenario likely occurring below the surface of our fisheries.  Response was instant.

Carl Wengenroth, owner of The Angler’s Lodge on  Amistad, said that he has seen plenty of skinny, sickly fish as he assists Texas Parks and Wildlife with fizzing and delayed mortality studies.

“We would see fish that look like a street roller ran over them,” he said. “Often, they’d die at the weigh-in. When we’d clean them, we’d find plastics in their stomachs.

“Then we started looking around and saw worms at fish cleaning stations.”

But there was good news too, as anglers immediately stepped up to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

In Arkansas, Randy Joe Heavin took his boater partner in a Central Open tournament to task for throwing baits overboard.

“I told him about the article in B.A.S.S. Times,” said Heavin, owner of Patriot Records. “And he said that he’d never really thought about it.”

The Oklahoma angler also recalled pulling up a mass of plastic worms from the bottom of DeGray Lake while jigging. “Other guys said that they were catching them too,” he recalled. “That’s when I realized that there must be a ton of them down there.”

Heavin added that he’s never thrown his used baits into the water. “But some guys get in the zone and don’t think about it.”

Not thinking about it is going to be tougher and tougher, thanks to B.A.S.S. Nation state conservation directors.

Before a  tournament on Lake Toho, Florida’s Eamon Bolten talked to 128 participants about problems caused by discarded soft plastics and asked them to deposit their used baits in a collection box.

“Many anglers mentioned how they will now start putting their used baits in the collection box at the tournaments and stop throwing them away in trash cans or in the water,” the Florida conservation director said.

“At least five told me they used to throw their baits in the water and thought nothing of it until hearing me speak about the problems it can create for our bass.”

Up in South Dakota, Jeff Brown heard about Bolten’s program and decided to do the same in his state. “Our guys are extremely receptive to the idea,” he said.

At Amistad, Wengenroth not only collects used baits but remolds them into new ones. “We call the color ‘trash,’ and it seems to catch more fish,” he said.

“Doing something like that could be a great money maker for clubs,” he added. “And the big companies could get onboard and put a message on their packages to not discard baits.”

Now that the issue has been raised at a national level, lots more ideas are being floated around in the angling community on how to deal with it. But whether enough fishermen will participate to effect fundamental change, as they did with catch-and-release, remains to be seen.

Saturday
Jun172017

Svebek Overtakes Broussard to Win Bassmaster Central Open

ORANGE, Texas — Carl Svebek III has been a professional angler for most of his life.

He cut his teeth fishing tournaments on Sam Rayburn Reservoir, and he went on to fish in several major series as an adult. Eight years ago, Svebek dropped out of sight. He stopped fishing professionally. He had lost his title sponsor and was going through a divorce. So he decided to give up the sport he loved to spend more time with his children who hadn’t seen much of dad while he was on the road fishing.

Svebek returned to pro angling 18 months ago. He made the biggest splash of his professional career today by winning the Bass Pro Shops Central Open on the Sabine River here on the Texas/Louisiana border. Svebek weighed a limit of five bass on Saturday that totaled 12 pounds, 3 ounces. It gave him a three-day total of 36-12, which was just enough to vault over T-Roy Broussard, who led the tournament the first two days.

Svebek, who also moved to Orange last year, was in second place heading into Saturday’s competition, and he took the hot seat with only Broussard remaining to weigh-in. The Port Arthur, Texas, resident had only 10 pounds in his sack, which sealed the win for the 50-year-old Svebek. An ecstatic Svebek leaped into the air and pumped his fist repeatedly as the hometown crowd burst into celebration.

Svebek was choked with emotion as he spoke to the crowd, and he spent at least 10 minutes hugging family and friends before breaking free to discuss his victory.

“This is absolutely a dream come true,” he said. “To be able to win this tournament in front of all these people from Orange is really special to me. I’ll never forget it.”

He won’t have much time to forget the big win. Svebek now will prepare for the final Central Open of the season which will be held on Oklahoma’s Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees in October. If he fishes in that tournament, he will earn a berth in the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.

No way he’s missing the final Central Open, he said.

“I’m fishing the Bassmaster Classic,” he marveled aloud to the large crowd who greeted him offstage. “Can you believe it?”

To get there, Svebek fished the marshes just on the Louisiana side of the Sabine River, which was about a 20-minute run downriver. He eased into an extremely dense area crowded with “just about every kind of grass you can imagine,” he said.

“There were a lot of lily pads, especially on the shorelines,” he said. “There was milfoil and hydrilla. I was in about a foot and a half of water, and it was clear. That was key; getting the clean water. There was very little tidal movement in there, and that kind of helped me.”

Svebek said his key bait for the week was a Zoom Super Fluke (bluegill color) rigged Texas-style with a Bass Pro Shops XPS EWG hook. He also put a swivel about 1 foot up the line to help keep his line from twisting on long casts he was making to open pockets inside the foliage.

“I really liked the way the bait worked with the swivel,” he said. “It sounds ridiculous, but it was just enough weight that when it hit, if I paused for a minute, it would give it time to go down. I know I caught two 4-pounders this week on the initial fall. After 12 noon, I would put on a Bass Pro Shops frog. I wouldn’t get many bites doing that, but when I got one, it was a game-changer. The 4-pounder I had today was on that frog.”

That kicker may have been the bass that pushed Svebek to the Central Open win. As he held the championship trophy aloft on Saturday, he realized just how far he had come since his return to professional angling.

“To be honest, I didn’t know where I was going a year and a half ago,” he said. “I was struggling. I was having a hard time finding a job in the oil business. And then my good friend David Jones (whose Orange-based Gopher Industrial sponsored the Central Open) called me up and offered me a job. And he gave me a chance to go fishing again. I missed it, and I’m eternally grateful for him for letting me do this again.”

Svebek won a Skeeter ZX200/Yamaha SHO200 boat and motor package worth approximately $45,000, as well as $7,893 in cash. He picked up an additional $500 by winning the Power-Pole Captains Cash Award.

Broussard seemed destined to win the Central Open after his strong start, but he finished a hard-luck second. He weighed a respectable bag on Saturday (the fifth heaviest of the 12 anglers,) but it wasn’t enough to hold off Svebek’s hard charge. Broussard did split the $750 Phoenix Boats Big Bass Award with Johnny Nguyen. Both anglers weighed a 5-5 bass, which tied for the heaviest in the tournament. Broussard also won the Livingston Lures Leader Award of $250 for holding the Day 2 lead.

The remaining pros in the Top 12 were third, Chad Morgenthaler, 34-10; fourth, Jeff Avery, 34; fifth, Shane Cormier, 33-12; sixth, Randy Sullivan, 33-10; seventh, Josh Bertrand, 29-14; eighth, Matthew Delaney, 29-9; ninth, Trey Smith, 29-8; 10th, John Garrett, 29-2; 11th, Jonathan Simon, 28-6; and 12th, Terry Luedtke, 26-8.

Michael Soliz of Orange won the co-angler division with a three-day total of 19-2. Soliz actually tied with Jordan Burks of Joplin, Mo., for first place, but Soliz won the tiebreaker as he had a higher single-day total than Burks. Soliz won a Triton 179 TrX Mercury 115 ELPT four-stroke boat and motor package with his victory.

In the nonboater division, Burks received the Phoenix Boats Big Bass award of $250 with a 5-15 bass. Mark Powers of Platteville, Colo., received the Livingston Lures Leader Award of $250 in merchandise for being the Day 2 leader in the co-angler division.

Thursday
Jun082017

‘Swamp People’ Star to Compete In Bassmaster Open on Sabine River

T-Roy Broussard got his first taste of professional bass fishing when the Bassmaster Elite Series made a stop in Orange, Texas, back in 2013.

Broussard, who hails from nearby Port Arthur, grew up hunting and fishing in the Sabine River Delta, and he spent the better part of that tournament shadowing eventual champion Todd Faircloth through the same marshes. He also met anglers Shaw Grigsby, Cliff Crochet and Mark Davis, among others that week, and he was impressed by the ease with which pros often hooked big bass.

Broussard, who gained national renown of his own as an alligator hunter on the television program Swamp People, was so taken by watching the pros in their element that he decided to try his own luck in professional bass fishing. He had some success on several circuits he tried, and when Opens anglers were permitted to compete in the 2015 BASSfest on Kentucky Lake, he signed up.

Broussard since has scaled back his pro fishing schedule, and this year he’s entered in only the three 2017 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Opens tournaments. The second of that trio will be held June 15-17 on the Sabine River and its tributaries, and it puts Broussard back on the water, where he both grew up and fell in love with professional bass fishing.

The 47-year-old Broussard is fishing this year’s Central Opens while his stepson, Donovan Henderson, competes as a co-angler. Broussard finished 84th at the Central Open on Table Rock Lake, Missouri, back in March. He’s hoping to markedly improve on that finish when he competes on the Sabine and its vast network of surrounding bayous, sloughs and backwaters.

But to hear Broussard tell it, he’s not sure he’ll be able to fare much better than he did on Table Rock, even though he knows southeast Texas waterways as well as anyone.

“We’ve had so much rain and all that freshwater really flushes the river out,” Broussard said. “So I’ve been spending a lot of time in the marshes as far south toward the river as I can. I think the key for me is to get away from the crowd as much as possible. But I’m not going to lie. I think this could be a tough tournament.”

Broussard said a combination of factors could make finding heavy bites difficult for the approximately 350 pro and co-anglers fishing the Central Open. Besides the heavy amount of rain seen along the Texas/Louisiana border the past few months, temperatures also have been cooler than usual. High water has prevented saltwater from pushing northward into the estuary as it routinely does in late spring and summer along the Gulf Coast.

That saltwater pushes bass into the back ends of canals and into smaller cuts, which makes them easier to pinpoint. Without those conditions, however, establishing a pattern can be difficult.

“Donovan and I spent 15 days or so poking around, looking for the right things,” Broussard said. “We haven’t found it yet. The best we could do was combine for 13 pounds one day. I honestly think 10 pounds a day could make the Top 12 cut, and 13 or 14 pounds a day could win it.”

Broussard said he’s learned that professional fishing is much harder than he imagined. When he watched Faircloth catch a four-day total of 49 pounds, 6 ounces, to win an Elite Series tournament back in March 2013, he figured it would be easier.

“There’s so much pressure to do well when you’re at home,” Broussard said. “That first year, I saw them on all these bayous I know so well, and I thought this would be like taking candy from a baby. It’s not. It’s hard. All these guys are good — in the Elite Series and the Opens.”

No matter the conditions, Broussard and Henderson will swing for the fences on the Sabine.

“The last Central Open of the year is in Oklahoma in October, and that’s right after alligator season, so we won’t have much time to practice for that tournament,” Broussard said. “This is our chance to do something. I’m not predicting too much from us, but we’re going to work at it and have fun no matter what.”

Takeoff for all three days of the Bass Pro Shops Central Open No. 2 will begin at 6 a.m. CT at the City of Orange (Texas) Boat Ramp, 1000 Simmons Drive. Weigh-in will begin at 3 p.m. each day at the same location. Pros can weigh five bass and co-anglers weigh three. Each must measure at least 12 inches. The field will be cut to the Top 12 pros and an additional 12 co-anglers after the second day of competition is complete.

The winning pro will earn entry into the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, assuming he or she competes in all three Central Opens, as well as a Skeeter boat/Yamaha motor package and cash worth approximately $50,000. The top co-angler will win a Triton boat/Mercury motor package.

Friday
May262017

Duck!

During a bass tournament on Texas' Lake Tyler, Clay Martin and James Qualls found the remains of a duck in their livewell. How it did get there?

How do you think?

As Qualls opened the livewell to cull, he saw feathers. Searching around, he found more than that.

 “There was a duck in there that one of the bass had spit up,” Martin said. “He (Qualls) took his hook and fished it out of the live well. The duck was a foot long. It could have been a mud hen or a young mallard or a wood duck.”

Judging by its feet, the angler also theorized that it could have been a cormorant, which would have been the ultimate in irony since they are known for eating bass.

Antique Heddon Cree-Duck fishing lureAn occasional duck hunter, Martin said what remained of the bird was about the size of a teal, one of the smallest ducks weighing in at most at 13 ounces, fully feathered.

“I have had them spit up shad and different stuff like that, but this was the first time I ever saw one spit up a duck,” he said.

But largemouth bass will eat ducks, other birds, and just about anything else that they can get their mouth around.

“The diversity of prey items and sizes of items consumed is likely a result of the larger gape width for largemouth bass and the fact that this species at times occupies shallower, near-shore areas where a greater diversity of prey items can be encountered," said Craig Bond, Director of Inland Fisheries for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

How big was the bass that ate this duck? Who won the tournament? And how did Aaron Martens once take advantage of bass fondness for our feathered friends to win a Bassmaster Elite tournament? Read more here in The Tyler Morning Telegraph.