Dock Talk: Sabine River

This week’s Dock Talk happens at the sixth event of the 2023 Bassmaster Elite Series season. That means four events remain on the schedule, and Progressive Bassmaster Angler of the Year points become more valuable than ever. What makes the Folds of Honor Bassmaster Elite at Sabine River, in Orange, Texas stand out from the previous stops this year?
The playing field is a Texas Gulf Coast network of three rivers, including the Sabine, Neches and Trinity, and a vast area of tidal backwaters. To the west is Houston and to the east is the Sabine. That’s a lot of water to cover. What do the pros think about what’s to come? Here’s what they had to say at the City of Orange Boat Ramp. 
Tyler Rivet
“I normally stay near the ramp around here in Orange in Adams Bayou or Cow Bayou. It’s actually dirtier than normal around here right now,” Rivet said. 
“I fish here a lot, and normally around this time of the month in June it’s clearer than it is now. Clearer water is hard to find, but when you locate it, you can get bites.” 
“The water temperature is also not as warm, at least in the area where I am fishing. I don’t think the postspawn is as far along, as in the largemouth being on the points and those kind of transition areas.”
Chris Zaldain
“This is probably the only venue that we go to in the Elite Series schedule where I spend more time in my Toyota Tundra than I do in my Nitro Z21 practicing,” Zaldain said. 
“There are so many launch ramps from Houston to the Sabine River, and trailering around is much better for time management than running it all by boat, at least during practice. It’s about an hour or two hours total driving time between all the accesses to the rivers.”
“We have an interesting environmental situation going on here, with the generation schedules for Toledo Bend and Sam Rayburn, both of which produce the current that is conducive for stimulating bass activity outside the tide,” Zaldain said.
“Up the Sabine below Toledo Bend Dam there isn’t any generation and in fact, the water level has dropped three or four feet up there, which makes it dangerous to navigate. Then over at the Neches River below Sam Rayburn Dam the generators are wide open. The water is into the woods.”
Clent Davis
“For me, the water has been dirtier than in the past years,” Davis said. 
“You get bites when you find it, but you certainly can’t make a pattern out of running clear water, because it changes every day.” 
“Sizes are down, and that might obviously be because of the lack of clear water.” 
Cody Huff
And here’s this news from Cody Huff, who rolled up on the ramp on Wednesday afternoon. 
“I just got here late because my daughter decided to come into the world about two weeks early,” Huff said. “I’ve been at home being a daddy and my family is now home, safe and healthy.”
“I left my house (in Ava, Mo.) around 2 a.m., and here I am. I’m going to go out and get my first look at the Sabine River area.”
Joey Cifuentes 
“Water temperature is in the low 80s where I’ve been and that’s a good average all around,” Cifuentes.
“Certain areas have grass farther off the bank; others have sparse lily pads and plenty of flipping wood.”
“I haven’t seen any big difference all around, other than the rivers are healthy, with vegetation and water clarity.”
Bryan New
“What really stands out is the tide schedule. We are going to be fishing on the high tide the first two days of the tournament,” New said. 
“It’s really not going to reach low tide during the competition hours. I’m sure there will be some flow, which we need, but it’s not going to get true low tide.”
“Certain areas on this entire system are up and down with the water level. Toledo Bend went from generating to idle.”
Pat Schlapper
“I was here my rookie year the first time (in 2021). Overall, from what I have seen the water is muddier and higher,” Schlapper said. “I haven’t encountered the amount of vegetation like I did before, other than along the shoreline. 
“I don’t follow the tide charts because I don’t fish it. From what I understand there are two schools of thought.”
Either you know how to put together a milk run based on the high or low tide, or you commit to one area and ride it out. I’m taking the latter approach.” 
Cliff Prince
“There is more vegetation in the Sabine. Water clarity hasn’t been as good in the places where I normally fish,” said Prince. “That hasn’t affected the bite.”
“During the tournament it’s not the best tide, because it’s going to be mostly incoming. The outgoing and lower tide would be the better option.”
“Honestly, I haven’t studied the details just because I don’t want it affect my decision about where and when I’m going to fish in my areas.”
Patrick Walters
“There is a lot more vegetation this year, considering we are here in June and not April. The Sabine has the most vegetation overall from what I have seen,” Walters said. “Finding clean water is hard to do. There are bass in the clear water, when you can find it.”
“What’s really different is the range of water temperatures. I have seen some areas at 77 degrees, and others at 88, and I’ve caught bass from both ranges.”
“The water temperature varies a lot here. I think what will affect the catches most this year is the high water.”
Todd Auten
“Clean water is hard to find and when you find it, you’ll get the bites,” Auten said.
“There is more vegetation in the Sabine than anywhere else.”