When the going gets tough ...

Congratulations to Todd Faircloth for his Elite Series win on the Sabine River. Much has been said and written about the tough fishing on the Sabine — clearly not one of America's most productive fisheries. It may go down as the toughest in Elite history. Let's take a look.

When evaluating a fishery's performance, there are really just a few things to consider. First of all, how did the anglers do in terms of numbers. Were there lots of limits or lots of zeroes? Second, how big were the fish. Finally, were there any mitigating factors that might explain the numbers or show them to be outliers.

When looking at the Sabine's performance last week, one thing is clear. If it wasn't the toughest event in Elite history, it certainly ranks no worse (better?) than second. The only other tournament in its statistical neighborhood would be the 2006 event on Table Rock Lake in Missouri.

Here are the numbers for the two tournaments:



Table Rock '06

Sabine '13




Bass Weighed



Bassing Average



5-Bass Limits

35 (13%)

52 (20%)


39 (15%)

41 (16%)

Total Weight



Avg. Bass Weight

2.28 pounds

2.10 pounds

Winning Weight



Big Bass of Event



So, as you can see, catching a keeper was a little tougher at Table Rock (bassing average of 2.41 versus 2.47 at the Sabine), but the fish averaged a little smaller on the Sabine (2.10 versus 2.28 pounds), despite having a higher top-end (big fish of the tournament at the Sabine was 6-1 versus just 4-14 on Table Rock).

Which was "tougher"? You decide. It's about a coin flip.

What I will say is that Table Rock would have to be considered a better overall fishery than the Sabine. When the Elites fished Table Rock in 2006, it was September — the water was clear, and it's traditionally a tough time there.

The Sabine event was in March, when the fishing should be pretty close to its peak. No other March tournament in Elite history was anything close to as tough. Imagine what it would have been like in July or August ... or even September!

Of course, the 14-inch size limit on the Sabine didn't help things any. There would have been a lot more limits caught and a lot fewer anglers would have been skunked if they'd been allowed to keep 12-inch fish. It wouldn't have done anything for the average bass weight, though. Despite the 14-inch size limit, the average keeper at the Sabine weighed less than 2 pounds, 2 ounces. So you could say that keepers on the Sabine were few and far between, but they made up for it by being really, really small.

But here's what I really want to say about the Sabine River tournament ... and the Table Rock tournament, too. Do you know what they have in common — other than brutal fishing?

They were both won by Todd Faircloth. That's the big news here ... at least to me.

We've known that Todd Faircloth is something special as a fisherman for a long time. He wins regularly, he qualifies for Bassmaster Classics year after year after year, and he consistently puts himself in position to challenge for Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year. The only thing Faircloth hasn't done yet is win AOY or a Classic. Now that he's qualified for the 2014 championship on Lake Guntersville, he might feel freed up to make his best run at AOY yet. There's no doubt he's capable; I feel certain he'll get it done one of these years.

And Faircloth wasn't alone in performing well at the two toughest Elite events in history. Several others stood out both times and are anglers to watch when the waters are stingy.

Bill Lowen was fourth in 2006 on Table Rock Lake and fifth last week on the Sabine River. Ish Monroe was seventh in 2006 and fourth last week. Edwin Evers was second at Table Rock and 13th on the Sabine, and Kevin VanDam was 13th and 15th, respectively. Those guys are just plain good when everyone else seems to struggle.

A couple of other notes on the Sabine tournament:

First, Todd Faircloth became just the fourth angler in Elite history to win without catching a limit each day. Faircloth only brought four bass to the scales on Day 3.

Second, Ken's Comeback Formula held up again. Going into the final round, only two anglers were within "striking distance" of the win and one of them (Faircloth) took it down. There's pretty clearly a window you need to be in if you want to have a chance on the final day. Anyone telling you something different is unrealistic.

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