April to August and back to April again, no matter what, the winner at the Bassmaster Elite Series at Sabine River will almost certainly average about 12 pounds a day. The anglers will probably catch more fish top to bottom in the field in April, and the anglers and fans will likely be much more comfortable weather-wise. That being said, pick anglers for Rapala Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing that have a strong mental game and can hang in a tournament where slow and steady will win the race.
For those fans that appreciate a good pitcher’s duel or defensive struggle when watching sports, the Sabine will deliver that and cleanse our pallets before we likely hit a slugfest two weeks later at Lake Fork. With the re-rescheduling of this event, B.A.S.S. is allowing an extra day of official practice. That will help some of the new anglers that did not get the chance to pre-practice this event.
The Sabine is a real interesting fishery for a few reasons: It is massively expansive but can fish very small at the same time. Anglers will only be able to fish in Texas waters, which cuts out about half of the productive areas for good bass fishing. The fishery also has a large stretch of unproductive water. On top of all that, it is very sensitive to tropical storms and other weather influxes that can shift and change these productive areas from year to year.
BUCKET A: HACKNEY
Pickwick taught us that Greg Hackney is not invincible to less-than-stellar events even after a solid start on Day 1. Hackney has a pretty strong track record in three previous Bassmaster Elite events on the Sabine, with a first, fifth and 45th. Not to mention, the Sabine fits Hackney’s strengths and style of fishing. When Hackney goes fun fishing around his house, those places fish much like the Sabine River.
Sneaky good: For those that want an angler with almost as much historical success and a lot less player percentage, look no further than Matt Herren. Herren has two top 25s and a top 50 in the exact same three events that Hackney fished and is not scared to wield a flipping stick in his hands all day.
BUCKET B: CREWS
It is starting to look like John Crews has returned to his pre-2020 fishing form based on his last few tournaments. On top of that, Crews has been super solid on the Sabine in past events with two sixth-place finishes and a 26th way back in 2013. Crews has previously won on the California Delta and has a pattern of success on similar style fisheries.
Sneaky good: Ray Hanselman has a pair of Top 25s in 2017 and 2018 and less than 3% ownership: That is some solid value. Although Hanselman is a Texas native, that doesn’t make him a local on the Sabine. Nonetheless, it appears he has something figured out to make him consistent on an otherwise unpredictable fishery.
BUCKET C: RIVET
Tyler Rivet might seem like an easy pick because he is from Louisiana. While that may be true, the real reason this is an easy pick for me is that Rivet has quietly been catching them the last year or so. Rivet actually lives several hours from the Sabine and likely not many people travel that far to fish the Sabine for fun. But, he should find his comfort zone at this fishery, and he did score a 21st-place finish in a 2017 Bassmaster Open here.
Sneaky good: You can’t go wrong with somebody that loves to flip, so while Bob Downey likely doesn’t have any experience on the Sabine, he seems most comfortable and dangerous when he can just lock his flipping stick in his hand all day. He has Bassmaster Open win flipping, and most of his high finishes last fall were flipping centric as well.
BUCKET D: MORGENTHALER
Chad Morgenthaler has had one really good event and one subpar event on the Sabine in his two appearances. I just have a feeling that Morgenthaler will find some fish, settle into an area and then pick the fish apart with his flipping sticks equipped with D-Bombs or Baby Destroyers. All that should result in solid Fantasy Fishing points for my team.
Safer pick: Catching five fish each day goes a long way on the Sabine River, and there are probably few techniques that are better for just getting bites than the wacky rig. Very few elite anglers are more comfortable embracing this mentality than Jake Whitaker. Whitaker had a Top 10 on the Sabine his rookie season, and he seems like a safe pick to get a team valuable points in Texas.
BUCKET E: HORNE
There are a couple of Louisiana and Texas anglers in Bucket E that are probably smarter picks, but the local angle in Bucket E has burned me hard this season. So, we are going to try something new this event. We are going with Harvey Horne because he has won on river systems, he loves to fish shallow and his Xpress aluminum-hulled bass boat should be perfect for the Sabine. Not to mention, aluminum hulls have won two of the three Bassmaster Elite events in 2021.
Safer pick: Randy Sullivan has two very solid finishes on the Sabine River, so since I did not pick him this week, it means it is probably safe for everyone else to take advantage of that.