Nixon thrives in tough tournaments

ORANGE, Texas — This marks the fifth time since 2013 that the Bassmaster Elite Series has come to the Sabine River. But it’s the first time for 72-year-old B.A.S.S. legend Larry Nixon, and he’s thriving. Nixon is in eighth place with 19 pounds, 5 ounces after two days in the Folds of Honor Bassmaster Elite at the Sabine River.

“I’d never seen it before,” he said Friday, after adding 8-8 to his Day 1 total of 10-13. “I’ve watched all the shows (of previous tournaments), and that’s about all I know about this place. I love it. I don’t mind a tough tournament. I’ve always said, it don’t matter whether you win with 50 (pounds) or 18, you’ve got a winner.

“I’d rather it be tough. That’s right down my alley. And it’s tough, believe me.”

The key to Nixon’s day was a 4-pound, 15-ounce bass he caught around 11 a.m.

“When it’s No. 5, and it’s the last bite you get, that’s a real day-changer,” he said.

That tells you all you need to know about the thin line that separates success and failure at the Sabine River. Nixon is only 2 pounds, 1 ounce behind leader Brock Mosley. Every angler who made Friday’s Day 2/Top 50 cut has probably got a similar story, where one or two key bites made all the difference.

If you’ve followed Nixon’s career, you know he’s one of the most accomplished anglers in both bass tournament fishing overall and B.A.S.S. history in particular. Nixon hadn’t been to the Sabine River before this week because he’s competed elsewhere for the past several years. His B.A.S.S. accomplishments include two Bassmaster Angler of the Year titles (1980, 1982) and a Bassmaster Classic victory in 1983. It, by the way, was another tough tournament. It took only 18-1 to win in August on the Ohio River. Nixon was the first man to top the $1 million mark in B.A.S.S. winnings, doing so in 1992.

Over the years, a Gary Yamamoto Senko has caught a lot of bass and won a bunch of money for Nixon. It’s been his lure of choice again here this week. A 5-inch Senko in junebug color rigged with a 4/0 EWG hook and a 5/16ths-ounce pegged weight produced all Nixon’s weight Friday, including the 4-15 difference-maker.

“It goes in real easy,” said the Quitman, Ark., resident. “You don’t have anything to catch on the grass. There’s just something about the way a Senko falls. It’s just a straight worm, more or less. I’ve just got so much confidence in it, it’s hard for me to take it off.”

Nixon has been able to refine his Senko technique over the last two days.

“I’ve been doing nothing but pitching,” he said. “Every one of them gets it as soon as it goes in there. There’s no shaking it and getting a bite. I’ve tried that for hours, and I finally gave up on it.”

Another key is where to pitch that bait. Nixon has dialed that in too, but it doesn’t exist in abundance.

“You’ve got to have water depth close to cover,” he said. “A lot of the cover is in a foot-and-a-half of water. Four foot is out yonder about 50 yards, and that ain’t no good. It takes the right kind of bank. If I can find a new bank that nobody has found, I’ll do good. Other than that, I hate to even think about going back and fishing what I fished today.”