The Bassmaster Elite Series anglers knocked it out of the park at Pickwick Lake despite the constantly changing conditions. However, my Rapala Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing picks at Pickwick were less than desirable. As always, there were plenty of surprises at Pickwick, and fans can certainly expect the same at the Bassmaster Elite at Sabine River.
The Sabine River is always circled on the Elite Series schedule by the pros as an event that they just want to “survive” with a good finish and move on. With that being said, we will be hitting it at a great time of the year, and barring weather issues, we could see a very good tournament play out. Unlike the last two Elite events, a solid amount of the field has history on the Sabine which will play into my picks, but also selecting anglers based on fishing style and their ability to grind out a tough event will be key.
Bass on the Sabine River don’t really have much of a choice but to live shallow, but given that it’s going to be the second weekend in April, it’s inevitable that it will be a shallow water event. We often associate shallow water with power fishing with big line and big baits for big bass, but typically anglers who are able to finesse fish or even power finesse fish are the ones who will be consistent over the course of four days at the Sabine. Although Greg Hackney dominated the last event at the Sabine River on a frog and a buzzbait, we’ve seen a great number of anglers succeed with weightless senkos or flukes as well as sizing down their weights when flipping a Texas rig.
When making my picks for this event, I tried to select anglers who will be able to milk an area for all it’s worth, as well downsize their bait selection when needed.
BUCKET A: MOSLEY
Mississippi’s Brock Mosley is becoming a true star on the Bassmaster Elite Series. After notching back-to-back Top-10 finishes, look for Brock Mosley to carry that momentum into the Sabine River. The last time the Elite Series visited the Sabine River, Mosley finished 12th. I certainly think that anglers who have never fished the Sabine River could have success, but understanding how the waterway works before practice starts should play into the hands of those who have history on the Sabine. I think that Mosley will be able to mix in a power finesse approach as well as power fishing to once again have success on the Sabine.
Solid secondary selection: It’s very possible that I will end up being disappointed that I didn’t select Greg Hackney in Bucket A, but I just can’t do it this go around. The last two Elite Series trips to the Sabine River have yielded Hackney a fifth-place finish in 2015 and a victory in 2018. There’s no question that the reigning Sabine River champion is a great selection in Bucket A, but at 47% player percentage, I’m going to ride with Mosley at only 3.6%.
BUCKET B: CREWS
I’m riding with John Crews in back-to-back events in Bucket B. In three Elite Series trips to the Sabine, Crews has never finished outside the cut and has recorded a sixth-place finish in the last two events at the Sabine, in 2015 and 2018. The Elite Series veteran has always had a positive outlook towards traditionally tough events such as the Sabine River. Rather than getting down on how tough the fishing is, Crews always keeps the mindset that someone has to win it, so it might as well be him. In 2018, we watched Crews maximize an area with plenty of company. Expect him to be able to duplicate that again.
Solid secondary selection: At only 2% player percentage, Ray Hanselman could be a solid risk to take in Bucket B. In 2018, the Texas native made the cut and finished in 26th place. Bucket B is full of shallow water specialists, so Hanselman may be an angler that goes under the radar but could score big for any team.
BUCKET C: COBB
Brandon Cobb is one of the very few anglers that I’ll be selecting who has absolutely no history on the Sabine River. Cobb’s fishing style alone is enough for me to believe that he will succeed on the Sabine. The South Carolinian is as good as it gets with a wacky rig worm, so I can’t imagine he will have a hard time getting bites. Look for Cobb to have a good event on the Sabine, also utilizing a power finesse approach.
Solid secondary selection: I highly doubt that Brad Whatley goes out of his way to fun fish the Sabine River, but being an East Texas native, I imagine he has had at least some experience on the river system. Even if not, Whatley has inevitably fished water that is similar to what he will be faced at the Sabine. At 3% player percentage, Whatley could be a sneaky pick in Bucket C.
BUCKET D: WHITAKER
Going back to the history theme, I’ll be selecting Jake Whitaker in Bucket D. In 2018, Whitaker relied on fishing a frog to finish fifth in the event. The North Carolinian is also one of the best on the Elites at throwing a wacky rig worm, which I can’t help but feel like will play a role on the Sabine River this go around. In a tournament that could be dominated by fishing hard structure, look for Whitaker to be a major factor again.
Solid secondary selection: Louisiana’s Robbie Latuso is coming off of a solid finish at Pickwick Lake and is coming back to water that he is much more familiar with. Latuso is extremely comfortable in waterways similar to the Sabine, so this will be right in his wheel house. In 2018, Latuso finished in the top 30 at the Sabine.
BUCKET E: ATKINS
After speaking with Justin Atkins on the final day of the Pickwick event, I can confirm that he has never fished the Sabine River. With that being said, Atkins will not stay in this slump forever. The Alabama native is another angler that is good with a wacky worm as well as fishing hard structure in general. There’s no doubt that Atkins has had a rough couple events in a row, but don’t expect that to continue much longer.
Solid secondary selection: Harvey Horne could be a bargain pick at just over 1% in Bucket E. I could easily see the Arkansan getting settled into an area and milking it for all its worth. Something we have seen Horne do well in the past.