, Port Arthur, Texas


May 7, 2013

Palms driving range to open May 24

PORT ARTHUR — Wild hogs continue to be a serious problem and heavy rain Saturday before last led to a costly setback involving imported heavy equipment, but progress is being made toward a late 2013 re-opening of The Palms at Pleasure Island Golf Course.

For the skeptics out there, and you know who you are, the first concrete sign of a Palms revival should come with the opening of the driving range. The target date for that, according to Kevin Johnson of the Port Arthur Renaissance Group which is bankrolling the Palms project, is Friday, May 24.

A ribbon-cutting tied into the formal re-opening of the clubhouse is expected the following week.

“We’ve had some setbacks, but we’re plugging along,” Johnson said. “Honestly, the golf course is not in as bad a shape as people think. No question, we still have a long way to go. And the hogs and weather have us behind where we hoped to be. But we’re getting there. A stretch of good, dry weather would really help.”

Of immediate concern is how to counter the wild hogs that have been digging up areas of the golf course for years. To the hogs, fresh ground with seed is apparently like waving a red flag in front of a bull.

“We knew there were hogs out here but we didn’t realize they are as bad as they are until we started doing ground work,” said Johnson. “We have counted close to 40 of them. There were 18 in once place and about 20 farther down. Everywhere we go they are right behind us tearing things up.

“We are going to meet with the Pleasure Island commission to see what else can be done. We know they’ve had two or three different groups out here with dogs. But the hogs just keep coming. We can’t afford to start on the greens until something is done. The hogs could do $5,000 damage to a green in a hurry.”

As for getting the driving range open, Johnson said all that remains is for the Bermuda grass in the hitting area to be ready.

“Once we get a good, thick growth, we’ll call Entergy about the lighting,” he said. “They told us they would only need 24 hours. The land on the range has been cleared and mowed three times. It looks good, except for where the hogs have been. But you could hit balls now, if the teeing area was ready. We’re anxious to get the range open, so folks can see what’s going on out here.”

Most of the work on the course itself has been limited to the front nine. Recent heavy rains, however, led to bushhogs getting bogged down and slowed progress considerably.

“Even with the setbacks, it’s starting to look more like a golf course than a weed factory,” Johnson said. “We’ve cranked up the pump house on the irrigation system. We’ve done a lot of weeding and clearing of dead trees from the ponds. And, yes, we’ve encountered a few alligators.”

Too bad they can’t figure a way to entice the wild hogs into the ponds as alligator bait.

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  • Bassmaster Elites are coming back

    The Bassmaster Elite Series returns to Southeast Texas in March 2015 to fish out of Orange.
    The announcement was made last week, ahead of Bassmaster’s official tournament schedule announcement and the buzz is already strong in Southeast Texas and beyond.
    I was in Orlando, Fla. attending the ICAST (fishing trade) show and talked with a number of top anglers including Kevin VanDam, Mike Iaconelli and Shaw Grigsby who said it was no surprise they would return considering the massive turnout for the weigh-ins and that the area welcomed them in a very special way.
    It’s far too early to speculate anything like who the top contenders will be or how the fishing will be but there are some things to keep in mind and to look for over the next few months and into the event itself.
    • Prefishing-There is a pre-fishing cutoff that usually extends to right before the Bassmaster Classic and I fully expect most of the anglers in the Elites to come back and prefish.
    Last go-round probably 2/3 of the field fished the area but this time I expect that to be just about everyone. Many of the anglers that did not pre-fish told me they expected to have a lot of water to fish but the sheer volume and diversity was almost overwhelming.
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    • Sabine River -Very few of the anglers actually fished in the Sabine River despite the event being called the “Sabine River Challenge”. I think that will change with more anglers running as far north as they can to find pockets of fish that receive little pressure and perhaps a four or five-pounder to push them over the top.
    • Bigger Turnout-Last year some 34,000 people attended the event which set a Bassmaster record for an Elite event.
     It was broken a couple of weeks later in New York but I fully expect the 2015 tournament to draw 40,000 plus. The reason they are coming back is not for the stellar fishing because while we have lots of bass, everyone knows our fishery cannot compare to Toledo Bend for example.
    The support from the public however was amazing and that is what is bringing the top anglers on the planet to fish our area.
    We will have the very best coverage of the event beginning now and leading up to it with exclusive interviews with all of the top pros with not only their thoughts on the big event but with unique tips on how you can catch more fish.
    It’s an exciting time and I look forward to bringing you special coverage on a special event.
    (To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at You can hear him on “Moore Outdoors” Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI or online at or watch him on “God’ Outdoors with Chester Moore” Saturdays at 10 a.m. on

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From the Fieldhouse blog