Several of the 10 finalists have been waiting for the tide change that’s supposed to kick into full gear about now. Caleb Sumrall needed something to change. He’d been stuck with four small keepers for awhile. But he didn’t need what happened just before 1:00, when he got to what he called one of his primary areas. Sumrall got a solid blowup on a white buzzbait, set the hook and, as he was swinging it in the boat, the bass came unhooked in mid-air.
The heartbreak came when the bass bounced off the boat rail and fell back into the water. A few more inches and it would have fallen on his boat deck. It appeared to be a bass in the 2 1/2- to 3-pound range, a good one. Sumrall caught his fifth keeper a few minutes later, but it was another 1-pounder, like the others in his livewell. “It’s not a big limit, but it’s a limit,” he said. Sumrall began the day in 5th place, 5-1 behind leader Jason Christie.
All week one of the biggest storylines is whether or not making the long runs will pay off for four days in a row. This morning, Brock Mosley decided not to make the run to Houston and will be rewarded at least double the amount of time to fish. Although the Mississippi pro is behind by roughly three pounds on BassTrakk, he’ll have the rest of the day to fill his limit and upgrade rather than spend over two hours running.
On Day 3 of competition, we witnessed several anglers catch over 10 pounds in the same general area that Mosley is fishing. If Jason Christie doesn’t make significant upgrades by the time he has to leave, Mosley is going to be in a great position to take the lead within the last few hours of the day.
If Mosley can find a sweet stretch near takeoff, like we saw Seth Feider do on Day 3, then it could get really interesting this afternoon.
Kyle Welcher left the canal he started in this morning and moved out to the Neches River. He found a drain where clear water was flowing from the marsh into the river. He was about to move on from it too when he saw a bass slash at some bait. Welcher has been weeding through multiple catches since then. Mullet are stacked at a drop below the drain, and bass are feeding on the mullet.
“If I can get the mullet to move, I’ll get a bite,” Welcher told photographer Andy Crawford.
Welcher is pitching a Missile Baits Baby D-Bomb into the drain. At times it feels like he’s dragging the bottom, but Welcher said he realized his bait is actually bouncing off the thickly stacked mullet.
Lee Livesay, who entered Championship Sunday in eighth place made a big gamble with huge payoff potential by running to the Trinity River.
Known for higher quality fish than most have found in the Sabine River and its connected waterways, the Trinity’s distance will severely limit Livesay’s fishing time. But fireworks can happen quickly and he’s clearly looking to add another blue trophy to the one he claimed last year on Lake Chickamauga.
Livesay completed the 110-mile run to the Trinity River by about 8:40 — including a fuel stop in Crystal Beach. From there, he had about 15 more miles to his prime areas past the lock.
Livesay said he ran 77 mph through the Intracoastal Waterway, but faced rough water through East Bay and Trinity Bay.
He noted that the water level had dropped about 6 feet since practice, but he believes that could make the main river spots more productive.
Jason Christie, who has led the event since Day 2, arrived at his spot far up the Sabine River to find the water had risen even more.
The only angler who committed all four days to a long run — his about two hours — Christie’s fishing a narrow backwater creek, where shallow wood and cut banks were key targets for days 1 and 2. Relying mainly on a Booyah Covert Spinnerbait, he sacked up 15-1 and 13-14.
Yesterday, increased outflow from the Toledo Bend Dam inundated his targets, scattered the fish and limited him to 6-12.
Today, Christie was hoping the water level would recede, but the opposite scenario will make his job even tougher.
“It’s too bad the water came up more; it was going to be fun,” Christie said.
Christie entered Championship Sunday with a 15-ounce lead over Day-1 leader Brock Mosley, who has held the second-place spot for two days. Time management will play an interesting role today, as Mosley opted to stay close to the take-off site.
Christie said he’ll spend about 90 minutes in the area where he lost a good fish early yesterday and then push deeper into the creek.
“I did a lot of studying last night and I found a couple more spots,” he said. “I have five hours to figure something out, so we’ll just go fishing.
Kyle Welcher isn’t sitting idly by, waiting on the tide to get right this morning. He’s already had five bites, broken off twice and landed two keepers. But he’s confident the fishing is going to get better in the Neches River canal. “It’s going to go down about noon when the tide gets right,” Welcher told photographer Andy Crawford.
Taku Ito has finessed his way up the standings. With a spinning rod in his hands most of this tournament, the 34-year-old Japanese angler was 22nd after Day 1 and 19th after Day 2 before making the biggest jump of today’s top 10 finalists. He started the day in 6th place, and he’s continuing to move up this morning with 3 fish weighing 3-12, including a 2 1/4 pounder.
“My fishing style is finesse and stay close,” said Ito, who thinks he may be catching bass caught and released here from previous tournaments, including this one. Ito had the big bass of Day 3 - a 4-10. He caught it and a 2 1/2-pounder in 8 to 10 feet of water on a weightless Senko. He’s using 12-pound fluorocarbon tied to 15-pound braid. He does have a baitcaster in his hands at times, throwing a 3/8ths-ounce spinnerbait, which produced two of his keepers yesterday.
All that is to point out what’s reasonably possible in today’s final. We saw the other side of the possibilities yesterday when the two tournament leaders, Jason Christie and Brock Mosley, weighed the two lightest bags of today’s 10 finalists, 6-12 and 6-14, respectively. There have been enough of these 10th place to 1st place winners on Day 4 the past two years on the Elite Series to know anything is possible. Drew Cook was the last man in today’s final. He trails Christie by 6-11.
This will be interesting.
Okay, the headline is an exaggeration, but I couldn’t resist. Steve Kennedy wasn’t attacked Saturday by a barred owl at the Sabine River. But his fishing lure was, specifically, a Zoom Horny Toad topwater bait. It seems wherever Kennedy goes, a fish/wildlife story somewhat out of the ordinary occurs. Earlier in the week, Kennedy was “attacked” by a mullet. It came flying out of the Sabine River and plunked Kennedy in the back of the leg.
Saturday’s owl incident occurred when Kennedy was in the midst of his 31st place finish. Kennedy is having a good season on the Elite Series circuit. The Auburn, Ala., veteran pro angler was 4th at Pickwick Lake two weeks ago and 2nd at the Tennessee River in February. He’s now 10th in Angler of the Year points.
Kennedy noticed the owl following him, flying from tree to tree, as he fished in a backwater area. Finally, the owl couldn’t resist diving on the life-like soft plastic lure that was waking across the water surface. Kennedy’s marshal captured the photos with his mobile phone. A little research indicates this is a subspecies known as the Texas barred owl.
The owl flew off unharmed.
The fans in Orange, Texas showed up in full support on Semifinal Saturday of the Dovetail Games Bassmaster Elite at Sabine River sponsored by Bassmaster 2022 — the official video game of B.A.S.S..