For freshwater interest, watch top bass anglers at Toledo Bend
Want to be in the thick of the action?
If you’re into saltwater fishing, head to Grand Isle this week.
If you like to be around freshwater, then Toledo Bend is this place to be. That’s because the top bass anglers in the world, at least this part of the world, will be on the Louisiana side of the vast reservoir that divides Louisiana and Texas for a Bassmaster Elite Series event out of Cypress Bend Resort near Many.
Louisiana anglers Greg Hackney, of Gonzales, and Cliff Crochet, of Pierre Part, are the local favorites. The tournament’s winner gets an automatic spot in February’s Bassmaster Classic at Lake of the Cherokees near Tulsa, Okla.
The Thursday and Friday rounds will cut the field to the top 50. The top 12 pro anglers will survive to next Sunday’s finals. For more, go to website http://www.bassmaster.com/.
Swelling on Swollfest
It started as a morning’s fishing and backyard barbecue on a late spring day in 1997. Swollfest has emerged as the state’s first major saltwater fishing competition of the year.
Three dads, their sons and two friends of their sons were at Grand Isle that year, and the youngsters prompted their elders for a $5 a man pot to see who cold catch the “swollest” fish and win what could only be called a gag trophy.
“Swollest” was youngsters’ lingo for biggest, and it stuck. Succeeding years brought more family and friends to compete for the trophy before Nick Rauber and a couple of his friends decided to make fun and fishing work for the community.
“In 2002, we decided we could help the American Diabetes Association with what we were doing,” Rauber said. “Swollfest was growing, and we knew ADA needed money.”
As Swollest grew even larger, organizers added the Muscular Dystrophy Association to the point where, by end of the 2009 rodeo, Swollfest had raised more than $300,000 for ADA and MDA.
Then came the BP-Deepwater Horizon oil disaster and a one-year hiatus, a year that served only to grow 2011 Swollfest to a preeminent spot on the saltwater fishing schedule across the coast and throughout the Gulf states.
Rodeo competition begins Thursday, but the first fish will hit the scales Friday when the weighstation opens at Sand Dollar Marina on the eastern end of Grand Isle.
Weighing fish continues Saturday, the rodeo’s final day.
Rodeo information and registration is available on its website: http://www.swollfest.com/.
When Swollfest emerged from 2010’s oil-smudged vacation, Rauber and his buddies added a kayak division and an agreement with CCA Louisiana and the latter’s summer-long S.T.A.R. — catch a specially tagged S.T.A.R. redfish during Swollfest and not only will the rodeo-registered angler win the CCA’s prize (S.T.A.R.’s first tagged redfish catcher wins a Chevy Silverado pickup), but he’ll pickup an extra 5,000 in Swollfest dollars.
The rodeo’s committee has maintained traditions: a children’s 12-and-younger division and spearfishing.
Because Swollfest started as an “everyman’s” rodeo, weighmasters don’t weigh billfish, marlin, sailfish nor spearfish. But a recent understanding that swordfish live off the Louisiana coast has opened that category.
There are inshore, coastal and blue water divisions for rod-and-reel caught fish.
And there are the unique contests, including the Open Master Board in blue water, coastal, inshore and spearfishing divisions; a closed board for women, children and kayak fishermen; team/boat competitions; and a five-trout stringer in the inshore division.
There’s the open fun board, something Rauber and his buddies call “belly buzzard,” that singles out the oddest/ugliest fish, the “swollest” sail cat (gafftopsail catfish), the “swollest” channel mullet and the “swollest” spadefish.
If you want to help or donate prizes, Rauber’s phone number is (504) 858-8905 or go to the office he shares with Dr. Dan Bankhead at 8519 Highland Road (it’s next to Sammy’s Grill).
Kids in, too
Boys and girls 16 and younger can get into the action near Grand Isle, too.
The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the Louisiana Wildlife Federation are teaming for Saturday’s Youth Fish Fest at Elmer’s Island.
There’s no fee. Soft drinks and hot dogs will be served for the 8 a.m.-1 p.m. event that will feature casting and cast-net lessing, fish tagging, crab races and a chance to fish.
There’s no fee and prizes are promised for the top anglers.