‘Swamp People’ Star To Compete In Bassmaster Open
ORANGE, Texas — 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.
The Greater Orange (Texas) Chamber of Commerce is hosting the event.