ORANGE, Texas — Although Toledo Bend is an impoundment of the Sabine River, don’t base your Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing picks on history there. Instead, review results of other spring river tournaments.
Toledo Bend is won mostly on deep, offshore ledges. A notable exception is the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open, held here in March 2002 during the prespawn. Patterns that dominated the Elite Series Toledo Bend tournament in June 2012 will not translate to the Sabine. And that’s according to 2012 Angler of the Year Brent Chapman, who won that tournament.
“It won’t even be in the same ballpark,” Chapman said in an interview for my podcast, Fantasy Fishing Insider. “The Sabine River system is going to be a challenge.”
The Sabine event will most likely be won near shore in 4 feet of water or less, and with a jig, creature bait or shallow crankbait. So load your roster with river rats and other shallow-water specialists.
To determine anglers likely to succeed on the Sabine, I’ll borrow a practice from real estate agents and compile this list of comps — tournaments with comparable factors, including fishery type, water quality, geography and unique challenges:
Try filling your roster with a combination of the anglers listed below. My picks are italicized.
No-Brainer Pick: Kevin VanDam, 20.8 percent Fantasy Fishing ownership
Value Pick: David Walker, 0.3 percent
Local Pick: Todd Faircloth, 22.8 percent
River Rat Pick: Greg Hackney, 5.3 percent
Counterintuitive Pick: Aaron Martens, 2.5 percent
Wild Card Pick: Keith Combs, 2.5 percent
A Louisiana River Rat at home flipping shallow cover, Hackney has been known to gamble on long runs to find fish he won’t have to share. That could be key. His average finish in comp tournaments is 19th, with a third, 10th, 20th and 22nd.
Faircloth lives close enough to Orange to be considered a “local,” but he does not fish the Sabine system. Still, his chances of knowing a few tidbits more than other pros are better than most.
See picks for Buckets B, C, D and E on the next page.