ORANGE, Texas — Brock Mosley got the monkey off his back and put the blue trophy on his mantle.
After enduring five second-place finishes, including the 2021 Elite event at the Sabine River, the angler from Collinsville, Miss., in his eighth year on the Elite Series, tallied a four-day total of 44 pounds, 3 ounces to claim his first pro-level win at the Folds of Honor Bassmaster Elite at Sabine River.
“After five times walking off the stage and seeing my wife crying, I was starting to think it would never happen,” Mosley said with a quaking voice. “But I always said, ‘When it’s God’s timing, I’ll win one of these.’”
Mosley got off to a solid start with a 12th-place, Day 1 limit of 9-15. Despite losing two hours to a mechanical issue in the second round, he added 11-7 and took over the lead on Day 2.
On Semifinal Saturday, Mosley anchored his best effort — a five-bass limit that weighed 12-14 — with a 4 1/2-pound kicker and expanded his lead to 3-1 going into Championship Sunday. While big bites eluded him during the final round, Mosley’s limit of 9-15 pushed him past a charging Clark Wendlandt of Leander, Texas, by a margin of 2-13.
Along with the coveted Elite Series trophy, Mosley won the $100,000 top prize, pushing his career earnings with B.A.S.S. over $785,000.
“I never dreamed I’d be standing here after the practice I had,” Mosley said. “After the first day, I kinda got into a rhythm and every day I got a little more dialed in.”
Mosley’s strategy contrasted his 2021 game plan, in which the first three days saw him running 110 miles to fish in Clear Creek on Houston’s east side. He’d end up spending his final day of that event in local waters near Orange.
This time around, Mosley split his first three days between a Sabine offshoot a couple miles downriver from the takeoff site and Taylor Bayou, about 45 minutes south. His first area was an industrial waterway encompassing Orange Harbor Island with barges, seawalls and tie-up posts.
“I didn’t think it would be won in one specific area this week,” he said. “I thought this year it would be won out of a mixture of places. I didn’t feel like I could catch a big one in the Sabine River. So, every day I started (in the Harbor Island waterway) and then ran to Taylor to upgrade. You gotta have a big fish to get you to the end.”
Taylor Bayou delivered multiple culls on Days 1 and 2 but offered nothing helpful for Day 3.
“Today, when I started out with a quick limit for 8 1/2 pounds, I said, ‘I’m going to make them beat me today. I’m not going to lose it by making a long run and wasting a bunch of time.’ So, I stuck around and grinded it out.”
After enduring a mid-morning drought, Mosley admittedly struggled with his decision to ditch his Taylor Bayou trip and stick with local waters. Sensing he needed more weight and watching his fishing time dwindle, he pondered his options.
“At 11 o’clock, I was starting to question myself and I almost pulled the plug and made the run,” he said. “But I made myself stay and it wasn’t long after I caught one that helped. That calmed me down, and I ended up culling two or three times this afternoon.”
Mosley started his mornings with an old Rebel Pop-R that required retrofitting.
“I pulled it out of my tackle box and the hooks were rusted, so I changed them to Trokar treble hooks,” Mosley said. “I didn’t lose any fish on that bait.”
After the morning topwater window, he turned to a 4-inch Yamamoto Senko in black/blue and junebug. He Texas-rigged the plastic bait for flipping Taylor Bayou’s natural shorelines and rigged it on a power shot when he targeted seawalls with subsurface rails.
Placing second with 41-6, Wendlandt improved daily with weights of 10-3, 8-13, 10-6 and 12-0. Wendlandt anchored his final limit with a 4-2 that bit around 9:10 and rocketed him into the unofficial second-place spot on BassTrakk.
“When I set the hook on that fish, I said, ‘This is the one I need,’” Wendlandt recalled. “I broke one off late in the day. Where I was fishing, there were a lot of abrasions and it just happens.”
Spending most of his time in Hildebrandt Bayou, Wendlandt caught his bass on a 1/2-ounce Strike King tungsten jig with a Strike King Baby Rage Craw trailer and a 5/16-ounce Strike King spinnerbait with double Colorado blades.
Matty Wong of Honolulu, Hi., finished third with 39-8. Making his first Top 10 appearance, Wong turned in daily weights of 6-7, 13-13, 8-13 and 10-7.
Also fishing the Orange Harbor Island waters, Wong caught his fish on a Megabass Super-Z Z3 spinnerbait, a Megabass Super-Z Z2 crankbait and a flipping rig comprising a Megabass Rock Hog on a 3/0 Gamakatsu G-Finesse flipping hook with a 1/4-ounce Freedom Tungsten weight.
“When (Bassmaster Emcee Dave Mercer) announced the Top 10 on Day 3, it made me start to cry,” Wong said. “Less than two years ago, I was driving a 1991 Ranger with one working graph and one working gas tank. The fact that I get to chase these little green monsters across the nation as a job completely blows my mind.”
Mosley took home an additional $3,000 for being the highest-placing entrant in the Toyota Bonus Bucks program while Wong earned $2,000 for being the second-highest placing entrant.
As part of the Yamaha Power Pay program, Wendlandt earned an additional $2,500 as the highest-placing entrant and ninth-place angler Kenta Kimura of Japan claimed an additional $1,500 for being the second-highest placing entrant.
Day 1 leader Chad Pipkens of DeWitt, Mich., won the $2,000 Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Tournament award with the 5-12 largemouth he caught on Day 1. Wendlandt earned the daily $1,000 Big Bass award Sunday for his 4-2. Oklahoma’s Jason Christie is still leading the field for Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Year honors thanks to the 9-4 largemouth he caught at Lay Lake.
Pipkens also won the $2,000 VMC Monster Bag award with his opening limit of 14-7.
Clifford Pirch of Payson, Ariz., won the $1,000 BassTrakk Contingency award for the most accurate weight reporting.
Alabama pro Kyle Welcher finished seventh with 36-6 and leads the Progressive Insurance Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings with 511 points. Brandon Cobb of Greenwood, S.C., is in second with 499 points, followed by John Cox of DeBary, Fla., with 483, Tyler Rivet of Raceland, La., with 467, and Drew Cook of Cairo, Ga., with 456.
Will Davis Jr. of Sylacauga, Ala., finished 39th with 21-6 and leads the Dakota Lithium Bassmaster Rookie of the Year standings with 449 points.
The Folds of Honor Bassmaster Elite at Sabine River was hosted by the Greater Orange Chamber of Commerce.
2023 Bassmaster Elite Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota
2023 Bassmaster Elite Series Premier Sponsors: Bass Pro Shops, Dakota Lithium, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Progressive Insurance, Ranger Boats, Rapala, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha
2023 Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: AFTCO, Daiwa, Garmin, Lew’s, Marathon, Triton Boats, VMC
2023 Bassmaster Conservation Partners: AFTCO, Yamaha Rightwaters