Bassmaster Elite Series pros John Cox and Brandon Lester were in their boats putting the finishing touches on tackle as I checked in to the hotel here in Orange, Texas. Tomorrow morning marks the start of the Dovetail Games Bassmaster Elite at the Sabine River; a body of water often characterized by fickle fishing, long boat rides, and shallow water techniques.
Both Lester and Cox are known for their shallow water prowess and you’d be hard-pressed to find two more steady, even-keeled anglers than this pair. Before I let them go eat dinner and celebrate Lester’s birthday, I asked them to preview all things Sabine River.
This week is the first time John Cox has ever fished the Sabine, but his love of sneaking around shallow water hidey-holes in his aluminum Crestliner boat is well documented. Team Toyota’s Brandon Lester has fished two Elite Series derbies here and has cashed a check each time. If anyone can break down the intricate puzzle the Sabine River offers after a few short days of practice, it would be these two.
1. The Sabine River is known for some strange and unique “bycatch” when the Elite Series comes to town. What species of fish, other than bass, have you caught this week?
Lester: “I’ve caught a couple big redfish, catfish, gar, a bowfin, and some kind of weird bluegill lookin’ thing. Plenty of fish in this river system no doubt!”
Cox: “I actually can’t say I caught any trash fish during practice. I’ve seen quite a few redfish, some great big ones, and I tried to catch them but I couldn’t get them to eat.”
2. What percentage of the population of bass in this fishery do you think are spawning?
Lester: “In my opinion, I think most of these fish are done spawning, I’d say 15% at most are still spawning.”
Cox: “I’ve been looking for spawners but I haven’t found much to talk about. Actually, that’s not true… I got stuck for four hours the other day trying to get into what looked like a sweet little spawning pond. Unfortunately, I found out there was no water back there and I had to wait until the tide came in. Anyway, I’ll say 10% or less are still spawning.”
3. How much weight will an angler need to catch each day to make Championship Sunday?
Lester: “If a guy can catch ten pounds per day, I think they’d find themselves fishing on Sunday.”
Cox: “Shoot, if someone catches ten pounds per day they might win! The weights will be really tight, but I’d agree somewhere around the upper nines or ten pounds per day.”
4. What are two techniques you could see excelling this week on the Sabine River?
Lester: “Flipping and pitching soft plastics always plays a role when we come to this place, I’d expect a lot of guys to be doing that and for my second I’d say a spinnerbait.”
Cox: “As you can see by the amount of rods I have on my front deck, I’m definitely not dialed in to just two techniques… but I’d say flipping a soft plastic and a topwater frog.”