My Finest Hour: Mosley breaks bridesmaid curse

While Bassmaster Elite pros strive for excellence throughout each event, the right combination of variables occasionally aligns to create the opportunity for superlative performance. Success hinges on seizing the moment, rising to the occasion and turning in a truly memorable performance. Here’s an example from Mississippi’s Brock Mosley.

Event: 2023 Bassmaster Elite at the Sabine River

Scenario: With characteristically hot conditions draping southeast Texas, this June event saw anglers chasing multiple options across a lot of water. Mosley knew one of those options was the one that nearly delivered a win at the Elites’ previous visit to the Sabine.

Quick look back: In 2021 a then fifth-year pro from Collinsville, Miss., sniffed the tournament’s western boundary by running 110 miles through the Intracoastal Waterway and across Galveston Bay to fish Clear Creek on Houston’s east side. Not that he doubted his strategy, but Mosley admitted the call was made more by default.

“The decision to make that run boiled down to fishing pressure,” Mosley said. “Even though the Sabine River is a large body of water, fish only live in a few places.

“On Day 1, I took off second-to-last, so my chances of getting to fish a good area were slim to none. After I caught a big stringer and led Day 1, I had no choice but to make that run again on Day 2.”

After two strong days in Houston, local rains would muddy Mosley’s distant waters and a disappointing third day prompted him to spend the final round close to takeoff. He’d end up finishing second to Jason Christie, but two years later, that runner-up finish provided motivation — and clarity.

Of his 2023 strategy, Mosley said: “Experience played a key role in that event. Having fished there multiple times and having had success there (also a 12th place in 2018), I felt like that may be the one year that the Sabine wouldn’t be won in one area.

“For the most part, the good areas are exposed, and they get heavily pressured. So I decided to try a two-prong approach, where I’d get a solid limit early and then make a long run to Taylor Slough and just fish for one or two fish that may be a little better quality.”

Specifics: Taking seasonality into consideration, Mosley knew he could count on mostly stable weather. Moreover, with the fish settled into summer patterns, there wouldn’t be a lot of coming and going.

The first three days, he started a couple miles downriver from takeoff where he fished an industrial waterway encompassing Orange Harbor Island with barges, seawalls and tie-up posts. After boxing five, he’d continue about 45 minutes down to Taylor and improve his bag.

The decision: On paper, Mosley’s 2023 plan looked solid. Taking off the first day about mid-pack, he had greater flexibility to play a conservative game with upgrade potential. Most importantly, he wasn’t boxed into a move he didn’t want to make.

“I was such a late boat number (in 2021) that I didn’t feel like I would have the opportunity to fish the key spots closer to takeoff,” Mosley said. “At that 2021 event, I wasn’t sure what I was gonna do until I passed the canal to Taylor Slough on Day 1, then I said, ‘Well, now I’m committed.’”

Flash forward to 2023, and Mosley’s seasoned judgement told him to take Houston off the table.

“I’ve been around long enough to know that very seldom can you have success doing the same thing twice,” Mosley said. “Having been successful in Houston the time before, I knew it was going to get a significant amount of pressure. I didn’t even bother practicing there.

“It’s such a small area over there, it can only handle one or two boats. It doesn’t take much to kind of hurt that area, so I didn’t even worry with it. I decided to stay close and grind it out.”

Game changer: The first three days saw Mosley carry solid limits down to Taylor Slough. Doing so removed the pressure and allowed him to focus on big bites. The plan worked well, but Day 3 prompted what would become Mosley’s most important call.

Summarily, he placed 12th on Day 1 with a limit of 9-15 and took over the lead with a second-round limit of 11-7 (despite a two-hour mechanical delay). Semifinal Saturday delivered Mosley’s biggest bag — 12-14 — which included a 4 1/2-pound kicker and kept him in the top spot. A Championship Sunday limit of 9-15 tallied the 44-3 winning total and edged Clark Wendlandt by 2-13.

“The first two days, the plan worked perfectly,” Mosley said. “I caught my best fish on Day 1 (in Taylor Slough). On Day 2, I caught two quality fish that helped. On Day 3, I didn’t catch anything that helped (in Taylor); I already had almost 13 pounds in the livewell.

“At the end of Day 2, when I was running back to weigh in, I kinda felt, ‘I have a really good game plan, and I have a chance to win this thing.’ I never thought I’d be leading after Day 2, but I just had a gut feeling that this could work out.”

Marrying that Day 2 confidence with the fact that his starting spot delivered his best effort, Mosley calculated his probabilities and made a gutsy call. Devoting his entire final day to that Orange Harbor Island canal delivered the goods and secured his first blue trophy.

“The second and third days, I left that (starting spot) with over 10 pounds, and the third day, I caught all my weight there,” he said. “I was thinking, ‘If I can grind out 9 or 10 pounds in there, they’re really going to have to catch a good bag to beat me.

“That was my motivation for fishing on Day 4. I wanted to make those guys beat me and not lose it.”

Takeaway: Deep is the knowledge base requisite of Bassmaster Elite-level competition. However, the most important thing an angler can know is their own tendencies. Mosley’s win exemplified this point.

“I seem to do better in the grinding events,” he said. “Anglers talk about fishing to win and I don’t know how to do that. I just go out there and fish and catch what I can catch.

“Those grinding events are usually better for me to do that, as long as you have the mindset that one big bite can swing that event. I got that big bite on Day 3 at 6:30, and I knew that would be the winning fish.”