Big bass of the Sabine River

Size is relative from fishery to fishery, so while the big bass at the Folds of Honor Bassmaster Elite at Sabine River were smaller than in previous tournaments, they still made a major difference. After five runner-up finishes, Brock Mosley of Collinsville, Miss., finally broke through for his first title that excited the raucous crowd in Orange, Texas. Here’s a look at what the big bass from the Sabine meant.
Kenta Kimura got the hit parade started quickly on Day 1 when he lit up BassTrakk early with several 3-pounders. The Japanese pro held the lead several times through the morning and came in with 13 pounds, 1 ounce to land third. Kimura rode that to a ninth-place finish that moved him 18 places up in the Progressive Angler of the Year standings to 24th.
Mike Huff hoped to reverse his fortunes of a tough season, and this 3-8 helped him bag 10-8 to stand 10th on Day 1. Despite catching limits the next two days, the pro from London, Ky., didn’t find another kicker and dropped to finish 30th. The good news was he cut his first check of the year, but the bad news is that he remains last in the AOY at 104th.
Jacob Powroznik started hot at the Sabine, standing fifth with 11-5 that included two bass near 3 pounds. He needed one more above-average fish as he finished 11th, just 2 ounces from making his third Top 10 of the year. Powroznik did climb 16 spots to 33rd in the AOY standings, as the pro from North Prince George, Va., vies to make his eighth Classic.
Hunter Shryock posted a 4-0 on BassTrakk early and that translated to a 5-9 on the scales. The kicker gave the Ooltewah, Tenn., pro a second-place weight of 13-3, which he rode to Championship Sunday. The last man into the Top 10, Shryock busted the fourth-best limit of the day to take sixth, moving up 14 AOY spots into the Top 10 at ninth.
Starting 90th in AOY, Chad Pipkens needed a good tournament if he hoped to make another late-season run to Classic qualification. A 5-12 in his tournament-leading limit of 14-7 kicked it off right. He earned the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the day and event worth $3,000 total and added the VMC Monster Bag bonus of $2,000. The Dewitt, Mich., pro, whose Day 2 limit was just six ounces more than his big, finished 10th, which moved him 17 spots to 65th with three northern events left on the schedule.
On Day 2, there were 84 limits caught, four less than Thursday, and the average fish remained around 1-8. David Williams had a four-for-one catch in this 5-8, the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of Day 2, that catapulted him from 64th to 15th. His 11-11 limit was fifth best on the day. Williams finished 22nd with his first Elite cut of the year after a second in the St. Croix Bassmaster Open at Buggs Island worth $25,274.
Caleb Sumrall of New Iberia, La., who had a Bassmaster LIVE camera on Day 1, surely regrets his 4-plus hours spent running to Houston, which in year’s past had been a player in Sabine events. After only 5-14 to stand 69th, Sumrall landed several 3-pounders to total Day 2’s second-best limit of 12-7, jumping him to 11th. He wound up 16th.
Ninth after Day 1 with 10-13, Larry Nixon brought in this 4-15 that thrilled the huge crowds in Orange, Texas. With his other four fish only going 3-9, the Bee Branch, Ark., veteran only moved up to eighth, then three fish on Semifinal Saturday dropped him to 26th. It was the first cut in the return to B.A.S.S. for the two-time AOY and 1983 Classic champ.
Kyle Welcher of Opelika, Ala., had a pair of 3-pounders in his 11-8 Day 2 limit that moved him from 17th to second. Welcher went on to finish seventh, making a big move to the top of the AOY leaderboard. The fourth-year Elite started fifth, 72 points back of Brandon Cobb, but has now accumulated 511 points to hold the top spot by 12 over Cobb with John Cox third with 483 points.
Second-year pro Matty Wong, the first Elite from Hawaii, had the best Day 2, catching several late 3-pound fish to total 13-13. It moved him 50 spots to fifth place, giving him his second two-day cut of the year.
Brock Mosley, who in previous Sabine Elites finished 12th and second after holding the lead, took over the lead for good on Day 2 behind a limit of 11-7, giving him 21-6 for a half-pound margin over Welcher.
Connecticut’s Alex Wetherell, who stood fourth on Day 1 with 11-9 but fell to 16th, vaulted back into contention at sixth after catching 10-2, which included a 3-4 on BassTrakk. Making his first Elite cut and first Top 10 were points of pride for the rookie who fished several years of Opens before qualifying to the Elites. He earned his second biggest B.A.S.S. check at $17,000 for finishing eighth.
John Crews was lamenting his Day 1 start of 85th, but 10-14 pushed him inside the cut to 27th. On Day 3, when 44 of the 50 caught limits and the average fish weight rose to above 1-9, the Salem, Va., veteran landed a 4-4 for almost half his 8-10 total. Crews’ 18th-place finish saw him rise 13 spots to 50th in AOY with hopes of being among the top 39 in points who receive berths to the 2024 Academy Sports  + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic on Grand Lake out of Tulsa.
Standing 29th after two days, Matt Robertson caught a 3-8 in Day 3’s second-best limit of 12-13 to reach the Top 10 in fifth. He stayed there and solidified his Classic cause by moving up 19 spots to 18th in points.
Drew Benton, who won on Murray Lake in April, had slipped into the Top 50 cut at 44th then made a Day 3 move behind a 4-9 that bolstered his 12-5 bag. Benton missed making his third Top 10 of the season by a half pound, but finishing 13th pushed him 12 spots up to eighth in AOY.
Clifford Pirch also made a Day 3 jump, helped by the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of 5-8. Pirch totaled 12-3 to climb from 43rd to finish 12th. The Payson, Ariz., pro got a bit closer to his ninth Classic berth, moving 14 spots to 22nd in AOY.
Keith Poche was among the favorites on the Sabine, with his shallow water boat and third- and 11th-place finishes. Poche stood seventh with 11-2 and moved to third with 9-8. On Day 3, the Pike Road, Ala., pro originally from Louisiana, landed a 3-plus in a limit of 10-9 to stand second, just 3-1 off the lead. His worst day at 7-13 dropped him to fourth.
Mosley and Wong agreed that the leader would get the first crack at their mutual area, and Mosley made the most of it. He had a limit in the first half hour before making a major cull with this 4-10.
The stretch of river near takeoff had more than a handful of anglers visiting, but it was Mosley who culled and culled to 12-6. He went into Championship Sunday with 34-4 and his first title in sight.
Matty Wong began the day fourth, 5-3 behind Mosley, and did his best to make a run. Around half the Top 10 fished in the mile-plus section of the river, and Wong did the best of the bunch with 10-7, moving him up to third to score his best Bassmaster check at $30,000.
Veteran Clark Wendlandt, who climbed from ninth to third on Day 3 with 10-6, started 4-14 back of Mosley on Day 4. While Mosley caught a small limit early, Wendlandt landed the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of 4-2 to make things interesting. He was less than two pounds back, one big bite away. Wendlandt lost a potential winning fish, but still weighed the day’s biggest bag at 12-0 to take second with 41-6. It helped the Leander, Texas, pro move 18 spots to the Classic bubble at 40th in points.
Mosley again caught a quick limit, threatening a runaway. The pro from Collinsville, Miss., culled throughout much of the day to 9-15 for the winning total of 44-3, 2-13 ahead of Wendlandt. The 104 points for first place pushed him 20 spots up the AOY standings to 27th, in prime position to qualify for his fifth consecutive Classic.
Mosley’s title was popular with fans, especially after he had been close with five second-place finishes. The remaining schedule has Lake St. Clair, Lake Champlain and the St. Lawrence River, venues where Mosley had two runner-up finishes and a third. Although long in coming – Mosley won in his 112th Bassmaster tournament – he’s finally off the schneid as the fifth first-time winner of an Elite in 2023.