A look at Sabine River

Stop No. 6 takes B.A.S.S.’s top circuit to Texas for the Folds of Honor Bassmaster Elite at Sabine River, June 1-4. The City of Orange will be hosting its sixth pro level event in the past decade.
Starting in northeast Texas prairie country, the Sabine River flows south to create Toledo Bend Reservoir, then continues through pine forests and bayou before emptying into Sabine Lake, which connects to the Gulf of Mexico.
The playing field for the Elites is enormous, including parts of seven counties. The Texas-Louisiana border runs through the Sabine, but the Louisiana side is off limits. The river is affected by tides that rise and fall about 2 feet in areas.
Anglers, hoping to bring in five fish measuring more than 12 inches, can fish as far north as the Toledo Bend dam or as far southwest as Galveston County south of Houston, which requires a run through the intracoastal waterway and across Galveston Bay.
The City of Orange Boat Ramp at 408 Pier Road is tournament central, with takeoffs there all four days at 6 a.m. CT. Weigh-ins will be held on park grounds at 3 p.m. All B.A.S.S. venues are free of charge.
The Expo opens at noon on Saturday and Sunday, and it runs in conjunction with the Orange County River Festival. The festival, featuring food, activities and live music, has helped Sabine tournaments set attendance records, including an Elite Series best 40,107 in 2021.
Greg Hackney went wire-to-wire in winning the 2018 Sabine Elite, which was held in early June after being rescheduled due to high water. Hackney, who lives less than three hours from the fishery, said the Sabine is loaded with bass but not that many big ones.
Fishing a canal, Hackney threw a buzzbait, a frog and jig in amassing 48 pounds, 5 ounces, including the big bag of 16-3 and big fish of 5-14 on Day 1. Tight weights – 10 pounds a day could make the Top 10 – make landing kicker fish game changers.
In 2021, Marc Frazier held the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the event, a 6-6 on Day 1. It held on for the $2,000 bonus, but also was the biggest part for the Georgia pro to make the two-day cut and earn $10,000.
Brock Mosley was among the few who traveled two hours down the intracoastal and Galveston Bay to ply Clear Creek near Houston. He led with 15-10 on Day 1 and ended up being in a two-man breakaway with Jason Christie. Mosley abandoned his run to Clear Creek on Championship Sunday but posted his second consecutive runner-up finish.
Christie, meanwhile, made a risky two-hour run – there were no gas stops – up the Sabine River, weighing 15-1 then 13-14 to take over the lead. Scouring maps, Christie went back further into Big Cow Creek to fish steeper banks as water rose. Two bags under 10 pounds allowed the spinnerbait expert to hold on.
Christie, making it back to the check-in with a gallon of gas, caught 15 pounds over the last two days to win with 43-15. With fish spread out, Christie said the quality is always key at the Sabine. “One big bite there can swing you 50 places,” he said. “You catch four keepers and you put a 4-pounder in there and that can be a big difference.”
The forecast shows it will be the hottest tournament of the year, with highs in the 90s and chance of thunderstorms. Darold Gleason, who guides on Toledo Bend, said the lake is up slightly and could make the upper ends of the river dirtier but could provide welcomed current.
It is one of the more worrisome events for the Elites, where a turn down the wrong canal can lead to a disastrous tournament finish. “Whenever you leave the boat ramp, you’re pretty much locked in to where you’re going,” Christie said.
Drew Cook had a fifth-place finish at the Sabine in 2021, and he’s hoping for a repeat so he can gain ground on Brandon Cobb in the Progressive Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. Cook is 49 points behind Cobb, who had a stellar 15th at Sabine in 2021. Will Davis Jr., who leads the Dakota Lithium Bassmaster Rookie of the Year race, is visiting the Sabine for the first time.
Christie said those hitting the Elite stage on Championship Sunday will have accomplished something most go into the daunting event believing their prospects range from first to last. “It’s going to be a tough event, but everybody knows that — everybody knows it’s going to be a grinder,” he said. “This is going to be the fifth time we’ve been there, so there’s not really any secrets left. It’s gonna happen in a lot of different areas, and now you’re just going to have to figure out how to out-fish those guys that are fishing the same area you’re fishing.”
Bassmaster LIVE kicks off tournament coverage Thursday and Friday mornings at 7 a.m. CT on Bassmaster.com, Tubi and the FOX Sports platforms while FS1 will broadcast live with the tournament leaders Saturday and Sunday.