Sports

 Jigs come in assorted styles and they all share one thing in common - big bass appeal. (Photo by Matt Williams)

February 24, 2018 - There are a passel of lures that will catch a bass, but none will fool the big ones with more consistency than a jig will.

Some of Texas' heaviest bass have been caught on jigs, including the former state record hauled in at Lake Fork in Nov.1986 by Lake Fork guide Mark Stevenson.  Stevenson's 17.67 pounder ate a 1/2 ounce black/brown/pink Stanley Jig dressed with a plum crawdad trailer. The fish was holed up in a bush located on a small point that formed where the main channel intersected with a smaller secondary channel. The water was about 14 feet deep on the creek bank and 22 feet deep in the channel bed.

Nobody knows for certain what happened down there amid the watery jungle of mangled cover, but it's pretty obvious the big bass couldn't resist the temptation of the artificial lure when it came creeping by.

So, what is it about the jig that makes it so deadly on heavyweight bass? I looked to veteran jig maker Lonnie Stanley of Huntington for some answers.

"There are a lot of baits that imitate crawfish, but none of them do it better than a jig does," said Stanley. "It moves across the bottom really slow, has pretty large profile and it penetrates the heavy cover where big bass like to hang out extremely well."

The Anatomy of a Jig
There's nothing complicated about the anatomy of the bait. It consists of a lead head molded around a hook that is usually protected by some sort of weed guard to help the bait get in and out of logs, limbs and grass without fouling or hanging up. The hook is hidden beneath a living rubber or silicone skirt that undulates with the bait's every move.

Most anglers like to outfit the jig with some sort of plastic trailer to enhance the action, create an even larger profile and cause the bait to move more water. A trailer also can make a bait more buoyant and slow the fall rate to a degree.

The swim jig is sometimes a good choice around shallow vegetation when the bass want something moving. (Photo by Matt Williams)

Different Styles
Like other families of lures, jigs have undergone some big time changes over the years. Back in the 1970s, when rubber-skirted jigs started gaining popularity, there were limited designs available for performing a broad range of techniques.

"Back in the early days, Larry Nixon, Tommy Martin and myself used the same jig to fish around creeks and brush that we used to swim around shallow grass and lotus pads," Stanley said. "We we didn't have all the different jigs and head designs that we have now. Things are a lot more specialized now. There are jigs for all sorts of different techniques."
 
Flipping Jigs
Flipping jigs are made for fishing in or around heavy cover like grass, bushes, brush, log jams, etc…. because they are designed with a slender, compact head and stiff weed guard that allows for getting in and out of thick stuff like grass and brush without hanging up. The best ones will have heavy duty hook to withstand violent hook sets at short range when using heavy action rods and stout braid or fluorocarbon lines with limited stretch.

Flipping jigs some in assorted sizes but those ranging 3/8 to 1 ounce will generally cover most of the bases. Lightweight jigs sometimes work best in cold water because they provide a slower fall that may appeal more to lethargic bass suspended in the water column. 

Grass Jigs
Grass jigs are made for probing grass beds like hydrilla or milfoil. As such, the head is somewhat conical in shape so it can slip in and out of of grass mats easily. It should have heavy wire hook that won't bend.

Grass jigs come in assorted sizes. Many anglers prefer jigs weighing upwards of 1 ounce to optimize efficiency with a vertical presentation. Most strikes occur out of reaction, usually on the fall, but not always. Once the jig reaches bottom, hop it a couple of times, reel in and repeat the process.

Lake Fork fishing guide Mark Stevenson used a Stanley Jig to catch the former Texas state record weighing 17.67 pounds. It's the heaviest Texas bass ever caught on an artificial bait. (TPWD  Photo)

Swim Jigs
Swim jigs are a good choice around shallow grass and bushes. Unlike grass and flipping jigs, swim jigs are intended to be fished at steady or staggered retrieve -- similar to a spinnerbait or crankbait. 

The swim jig head has a bullet-shaped head to help it snake through heavy cover without hanging up and a really stout hook. It comes in assorted sizes; 3/8 ounce is the all-around favorite. The best color patterns for swim jigs are bluegill, black/blue and white.

Football Jigs
The football jig works best on hard bottoms with pea gravel, chunk rock, small boulders or scattered brush and stumps, especially when the fish are feeding heavily on crawfish.

It has a fat, football-shaped head that helps prevent the bait from falling into crevices or cracks that might snag other jig styles. It can be effective when dragged on bottom like a Carolina rig or "stroked" to make it hop. Performs best in combination with some sort of color coordinated trailer like a grub, creature or craw.

Bladed Jigs
The bladed jig is designed similar to the swim jig, with addition of a flat, metal blade that pivots on the line tie. The blade catches water and creates resistance, causing the bait to shutter side-to-side as it moves through the water column. This causes the skirt and trailer to undulate wildly while creating vibration to help the fish home in on the bait from a distance.

It's a great choice when fishing around shallow grass, bushes or brush. It's designed to be worked on a steady retrieve and does not have a weed guard, so you have to be careful when casting into areas with heavy brush.

Veteran lure maker Lonnie Stanley of Huntington says the jig often draws bigger bites than other lures because it imitates crawfish, moves slowly and penetrates heavy cover easily. (Photo by Matt Williams)

The bait can be fished with or without a trailer. Small swim baits like the Lake Fork Magic Shad make great trailers.The Magic Shad has broken sides and is ultra-responsive to the vibrating action. You can trim the jig skirt about an inch long or remove it altogether when using a swim bait trailer to alter the appearance and change the action.

Jigs don't always work, but when they do they will catch some of the biggest bass in the lake.

Matt Williams is freelance writer based in Nacogdoches. He can be reached by e-mail, mattwillwrite4u@yahoo.com.

Craig Carpenter of Wylie with his 3.55 pound white crappie caught Feb. 4 at Lake Fork. Carpenter said the fish was suspended in a treetop 22 feet down in 37 feet of water. (Courtesy Photo)

February 24, 2018 - Lake Fork's golden reputation for producing big bites and giant bass is well known. As Craig Carpenter of Murphy illustrated last week, the 27,000-acre reservoir near Quitman also kicks out some bragging-size crappie on occasion.

Carpenter and his fishing partner, Kirk Grounds of Sachse, were soaking jigs and shiners around underwater stumps and treetops in the mid-lake area at about 10 a.m. on Feb. 4 when Carpenter hooked and landed what may be the biggest white crappie ever reeled in at Lake Fork and the heaviest crappie of any kind caught in Texas since 2003.

The 17 1/2 inch fish reportedly tipped the certified scales at Oak Ridge Marina to 3.55 pounds (3 pounds, 8.8 ounces). It measured 16 1/4 inches around the girth.

Carpenter says he has submitted the paperwork for review by the Texas Parks Wildlife Department's Angler Recognition Program. If approved, Carpenter's whopper crappie will easily eclipse the 3.34 pound lake record white crappie that was caught by Donna Wooldridge in December 2015.

"We fish for crappie a lot, but neither of us has ever seen anything like it," said Carpenter. "Some of the people who saw it jumped back and asked what it was when we pulled it out of the livewell. They couldn't believe it was a crappie."

Carpenter and Grounds compete in several crappie tournaments throughout the year and they finish high in the standings fairly often. That's because they have developed a knack for finding the big ones.

"Kirk does a lot of idling around and looking with his electronics," he said. "If we see a tree and there's not fish around it we don't even drop a bait. We don't necessarily look for big groups of fish, either. What we look for this time of year are stumps or treetops with just one or two fish. We believe those are usually going to be your bigger fish."

That's what the men were looking for last Sunday morning as Grounds idled around some scattered timber in 37 feet of water. When his Humminbird electronics showed a single fish suspended about 22 feet beneath the surface, both anglers dropped their baits on it. Grounds was soaking a live shiner and Carpenter was using an 1/8 ounce pink jig tipped with chartreuse/white body on a 10-foot crappie pole.

"We'd been fishing for about 3-4 minutes before she tapped my jig," he said. "That 10-foot pole loaded up pretty good and I told Kirk I had something pretty big. I thought it might be a catfish, but then we saw it roll on its side. Kirk said right away it was a new lake record."

Carpenter, a Top 10 finisher in the Lake Fork Crappiefest tournament the last two years, offered up humble theory as to the big fish chose his jig over his partner's shiner.

"In my mind, 9/10ths the credit goes to luck and the other 1/10th goes to Kirk," he said. "He's a guru with electronics. I just ride in the back and fish. I was just lucky on the pole that day."

Carpenter said he decided to retain the fish instead of releasing it, just in case there were any questions about the authenticity of the catch down the road. He is having the fish mounted to preserve the memory.

Lake Nacogdoches recently joined a sizable list of East Texas reservoirs that are battling Giant salvinia, an invasive fern native to South America. This Google Earth image indicates the location of the heaviest infestation (in the upper right corner) on the 2,200-acre lake.

February 24, 2018 - Like an aquatic monster with no apparent agenda other than quietly taking a passel of water bodies hostage, Giant Salvinia continues to sneak its way across eastern Texas. It doesn't discriminate against size, either. Large or small, no freshwater reservoir, river or stream in these parts is "salvinia proof."

Giant Salvinia is an invasive, free-floating fern native to South America that can spread incredibly quick. Left unchecked under the right conditions, the plant can choke off access and block out sunlight critical to a watery ecosystem.

Experts believe it was brought to the United States on cargo vessels carrying tainted shipments of tropical plants or fish. It was likely introduced to public waters when someone dumped a contaminated fish aquarium into a lake, or when an water garden or pond overflowed, spilled into a creek and subsequently drained into a watershed.

The plant was first discovered in Texas in the late 1990s on Toledo Bend and it has since invaded on a long list of East Texas lakes that seems to grow larger every year. It has also been found Louisiana and several other southern states.

The Newest Footprint
Texas infestations date back for years on lakes Caddo, Fork, Martin Creek, Murvaul, Toledo Bend, Sam Rayburn and Naconiche. It also has a history on Lake O' the Pines, Palestine, Wright Patman, Gilmer, Texana Sheldon, Brandy Branch and Welsh.

Also known as Salvina molesta, the plant's most recent footprint landed on 2,200 acre Lake Nacogdoches.

A local fisherman made the initial find in the Yellow Bank Creek arm of the lake on Jan. 30. It was hoped that the plant might be confined to a single cove, but a subsequent investigation conducted on Feb. 5 by Texas Parks and Wildlife's aquatic invasive species team showed the noxious plant is much better established and more widespread than originally believed.

That's the word from John Findeisen, TPWD's point man when it comes to dealing with aquatic invasives on Texas waters.  According to Findeisen, crews located a heavy infestation along a northwestern bank near the mouth of Little Loco Creek and a smaller patch along the eastern shore in the vicinity of the Hayter Hunting Club camp house. The biologist estimates the total coverage area to be about 30 acres.

"It's mixed in with the cut grass and torpedo grass (hay grass)," Findeisen said. "My guess is it has been there since last summer. Possibly since last spring."
 
To Spray or Not to Spray
Cut grass and torpedo grass are native emergent plants that root to bottom in shallow water and grow beyond the surface. Both provide valuable fish habitat.

Findeisen says the location, distribution and floating nature of giant  salvinia presents some difficult challenges to contend with as far as herbicide treatment goes. That's because the contact herbicide the department uses to kill the plant can do collateral damage to cut grass, torpedo grass and other types of more desirable aquatic vegetation.

Giant salvinia, on the other hand, doesn't root to bottom. Instead, it floats on the surface and drifts wherever the wind or current takes it. The plant clings to boat trailer bunks, duck decoys or anything else it comes into contact with. This means it can be easily transported from one lake to another. The plant can withstand sub-freezing temperatures and reproduces by vegetative fragmentation.

Findeisen has learned from experience that there are certain situations when using herbicide is not the best option for treating giant salvinia infestations.

The Clipper brand herbicide TPWD uses contains flumioxazin. The biologist says herbicide kills aquatic plants down to the water's surface, but doesn't harm rooted plants below the surface, allowing for regrowth in time. It is usually dispersed from airboats. 

In some cases - like the one at Lake Nacogoches - Findeisen thinks herbicide treatment can actually do more harm than good because it eliminates the natural barriers (cut grass and torpedo grass) that are helping to to keep the plant contained.

"The situation at Lake Nacogdoches is similar to what we ran into at Lake Murvaul two years ago," Findeisen said. "We thought we could eradicate the salvinia on Murvaul without hurting the cut grass too bad. But what we ended up doing is taking the cut grass out. That gave the salvinia that didn't get hit with herbicide free rein to float all over the lake.

"The torpedo grass and cut grass are great habitat," Findeisen added. "If we could eradicate the salvinia with herbicide it might be an option, but knowing we can't eradicate it there is no reason to destroy that habitat."

Findeisen says the department has been successful in eradicating Giant salvinia infestations in the past, but it doesn't happen very often. Often times, it shows back up a few years down the road. Recent cases at Brandy Branch Reservoir near Longview and Lake Fork come to mind.

"It's rare for us to be able to eradicate it," Findeisen said. 'We managed to do it at Brandy Branch when it showed up at the boat ramp. We learned about early and were able to get it taken care of with herbicide before it was able to spread.

"The first time it showed up at Lake Fork a couple of years ago we we were able to contain it in Chaney Branch with booms and knock it out," he added. "Then it showed up again this again this fall in White Oak Creek in an entirely different part of the lake."

TPWD news releases indicate the plant occupied about 12-15 acres when it was found at Lake Fork last fall. About 90 percent of the infestation was confined to White Oak Creek by booms. There rest of the plants dispersed to other areas and could not be contained.

TPWD says it plans to release Giant Salvinia weevils at Nacogdoches and several other east Texas lakes this spring. The insects are host specific to Giant salvinia and are one the natural control vectors for the plant in South America. The state has several greenhouses where the weevils are produced. (Photo by LSUAgCenter)

The Weevils are Coming
Since eradication is out of the question at Lake Nacogoches, Findeisen says the department's main goal in dealing with the state's newest giant salvinia infestation is the same as on every other lake where it has taken hold: Try to prevent the plant from spreading to other areas of the lake, including the city water intake.

The biologist says the aquatic invasive species team will monitor the reservoir every few weeks. Herbicide will be used to treat any mats isolated away from other vegetation.

"We'll also be releasing Giant salvinia weevils there this spring, probably sometime in April and May," Findeisen said. "The weevils are one of the natural control vectors for Giant salvinia over in Brazil. We've used them with good success on Dam B (Steinhagen Lake), Sheldon Lake and areas of Caddo Lake."

Findeisen says the weevils are about the size of a pin head. The insects eat the plant and reproduce on the leaves. When the eggs hatch the larvae burrow into the plant's stem. This stops the plant from moving nutrients and causes it to die, the biologist said.

TPWD has its own weevil source stock. The insects are grown in greenhouses in Karnack, Jasper and Brookeland. Findeisen says the department also has access to weevils produced in canals operated by the Lower Neches Valley Authority near Anahuac.

The bugs are introduced to lakes by harvesting weevil-infested giant salvinia plants from greenhouses. The vegetation is then transported to infested lakes in tubs and dumped on existing salvinia mats.

Findeisen says the department usually has access to about 360,000-660,000 adult weevils each year. Those bugs are divided among multiple lakes where infestations have been documented. He added that it takes about 450,000 adult weevils to wipe out one acre of giant salvinia in 6-12 months..

"You have to remember that wherever we introduce adult weevils we are also introducing larvae and eggs that are on the plants," Findeisen said.

Down the Road
On a brighter note, Driscoll doesn't look for the plant to cause any significant problems on the lake. The biologist says salvinia tends to thrive in shallow, isolated pockets but doesn't do very well once it breaks away into big, open water. When big rains come, the vegetation usually gets flushed out where it gets beaten up by waves.

"It's going to be there (Lake Nacogdoches) from now on, but I don't look for it to do a whole lot," Driscoll said. "It'll probably be similar to what we've seen in Hausen Bay on Toledo Bend. It will grow in the upper end and then it will occasionally get blown out by wind and runoff.

Lake Nacogdoches is big enough that the waves will kill it if it ever makes it out on the main lake," he added. "Eventually, it'll scatter around the bank and be growing inside the torpedo grass all around the lake. Of course, we don't want it there. But I don't think it will ever be a significant problem."

With spring fishing season around the corner, Findeisen says anglers and boaters who access infested areas on any lake can do their part to help prevent the spread of the plant by making sure their trolling motors and outboards aren't carrying plants before they move to a different area.

Furthermore, the recent find underscores the importance making making sure boats, trailers, tires, duck decoys and outboard engines are free of any vegetation before leaving the boat ramp. Possession or transport of giant salvinia, hydrilla or other prohibited aquatic vegetation in Texas is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500 per plant.

Matt Williams is a freelance writer based in Nacogdoches. He can be reached by e-mail, mattwillwrite4u@yahoo.com.

Nacogdoches High School, February 23, 2018 –

The Shelbyville Dragons Varsity Basketball Team advanced through the Area round of the UIL Basketball Playoffs by defeating the Pineywoods Community Academy Timberwolves by a 76-68 score. The Dragons, Co-champions of District 22 Class 2A, are now 29-4 for the season. They will move on to the Regional Semifinals where they will face the District 24 Class 2A champion Evadale Rebels. Time and date will be announced later this week.

The Dragons struggled early when the Timberwolves jumped out to an early 9-2 lead. A 3-point bucket by Dragon Kutrick Allen pulled Shelbyville to within 9-5 with four minutes left in the first quarter. Pineywoods Academy went on a 5-0 scoring run which gave them a 14-5 lead with three minutes left in the opening frame. By the end of the first period the Timberwolves lead had grew to 24-10.

The second period saw the Dragons outscore the Timberwolves 25-13 and Shelbyville went into the halftime break trailing 35-37.

The Dragons held Pineywoods to only nine points in the third stanza, while they scored 19 points themselves. Shelbyville took a 54-46 advantage into the final period.

Eleven points by sophomore Jordan Boykins, and nine points by sophomore Jakevion Buckley, proved to give the Dragons the boost they needed to match the ‘Wolves 22 points in the final period, and they held on to their lead until the final buzzer.

Jakevion Buckley led the Dragons with a game-high 27 points. Teammate Cole Ferguson chipped in 18, Jordan Boykins 17, Ryan Bailey 10, Kurtric Allen and Buddy McClelland each scored two points.

Pineywoods Community Academy was led by MaRozzney Houser with 26 points.

Shelbyville Head Basketball Coach David Schmitt said, "We got intimidated a little bit early but I told the kids let's drive to the basket. We got the ball inside and did better. We made some key free-throws down the stretch and were able to hold on late. We are proud of our kid's effort."

February 21, 2018 - History made!!! For the first time in school history the Lady Tiger Basketball team has qualified for the Regional Tournament in three consecutive seasons!!!

The Lady Tigers won a tough game over Douglass, Tuesday night, 34-30 and will advance to play Centerville on Friday, February 23 at 7:30 PM at Leon HS.

Tickets at the gate are $10 for Adults and $ 5.00 for Students. Tenaha are visitors.

Fan Bus for Girls’ Regional Semi Final at Leon

Tickets go on sale today! Bus ticket will be $20 for adult or student and this price includes admission into the game. The bus will leave promptly at 4pm from the Tenaha High School parking lot. This will be a round trip with no stops. Food may be purchased at the game. 

Fan Bus Tickets can be purchased at the High School. For more information contact Aleisha Horn at 936-248-5000 ext. 501.

Note: Students not in high school must be accompanied by an adult.

February 21, 2018 - The Dragons defeated the Alto Yellow jackets on Monday, February 19, 67-54. The Dragons are now 28-4 on the season. They will play Pineywoods Community Academy on Friday, February 23 at Nacogdoches High School at 7:00 pm.

Coach David Schmitt
Asst. Coach Charles Tindol

February 21, 2018 - Center Riders advanced to the Area Playoffs and will be competing against Van Vandals at the Pine Tree Gym in Longview on Friday, February 23, 2018 at 7pm. Tickets are adults $5 and students $3. Senior citizen passes are accepted. Center will be the home team.

February 16, 2018 - Center HS basketball team will compete in the  Bi-District Playoff Game, Center Roughriders versus Kigore Bulldogs. The teams will meet up at the Nacogdoches High School Gym on Tuesday, February 20, 2018 at 6pm for the Bi-District Championship. Tickets prices are adults $5.00 and students $3.00.

The Roughrider Baseball team was scheduled to compete this Saturday. However, due to inclement weather games originally scheduled for Saturday at Stonewall, La have been moved to today, February 16, 2017.

Friday Schedule
6:00pm - Center vs Loyola
7:30pm - Center vs N. Desoto

February 14, 2018 - Dragons will play Feb. 16 at 1pm in the East TX Showcase vs Groesbeck at Frankston High School. Bi-District Playoff Game Monday, Feb. 19 at 7:30pm vs Alto at Central Heights High School.

February 14, 2018 - The Center Roughriders basketball team will compete for the Bi-District Championship on Tuesday, February 20, 2018 against Kigore Bulldogs at Nacogdoches High School Gym with game time of 6:00pm. Tickets prices are Adults $5.00 and Students $3.00.

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