The weather forecast looks pretty typical for Orange, Texas, during early June. Hot, muggy and still. It’s going to be a cooker for sure, but not only in regards to temps — also in hot, sweaty competition at the 2018 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Elite at Sabine River presented by Econo Lodge, June 7-11.
This event was originally scheduled in early April, but the threat of severe flooding forced B.A.S.S. officials to postpone the event. The decision would prove to be the right call.
In looking back at my original picks, some of my original choices have changed for the second go-round, and some have not. I’ll mention both, including a dark horse, but the bottom line in my selection process is largely based on momentum.
I’m convinced that momentum plays a major role in success at this point in the season. The Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race is becoming more defined; likely champions are rising to the top.
However, there is a lot of season left, and I’m accounting for experience on certain fisheries, and the pressure that always accompanies AOY candidates. It’s a strange formula, but I think you’ll see the results speak for themselves at Sabine.
Let’s get to it:
BUCKET A: LUCAS
Justin Lucas is sitting in 13th place in AOY coming into Sabine, and I believe his momentum will continue as he battles the stingy fishery.
Previous pick: Lucas did well at Sabine in 2015 marking a 10th-place finish. His momentum is still intact, and he seems to have a knack for tough river fisheries. Just look at his wins and top finishes: Potomac, California Delta, Arkansas River and the list goes on. I think this is a very strong Bucket A selection, and I’m sticking with it.
Dark horse: If not Lucas, I’d strongly consider Greg Hackney, Jacob Wheeler or Aaron Martens. And to be honest, a strong majority of the anglers in this bucket will do well. That is based on my momentum theory. Safe bets top to bottom, me thinks.
BUCKET B: SWINDLE
Gerald Swindle is going to crack one, and soon. I’ve said it many times before, and momentum is swinging in his favor for the Sabine River event. A few of my Fantasy Pundit cohorts have also mentioned the Guntersville, Ala., resident, and for good reason. He’s likely the best junk fisherman on the planet, and the way this fishery will play out simply plays to his strengths. Plus he’s been nothing if not consistent this year so far.
Previous pick: Matt Lee was my previous selection, and he is now at the top of Bucket D. He has endured a couple of tough events this year, and I think you’ll see him turn it around at Sabine. Read on.
Dark horse: Another couple of options should include James Elam, Cliff Crochet and Chris Lane. Each of those anglers are doing well this year, and have proven their capability on this type of fishery.
BUCKET C: LESTER
I had Brandon Lester as my dark horse in this bucket last time, and now he’s at the top of my list. He’s been good this year, and he finished in fourth place on the Sabine back in 2015. I think with his experience, his momentum and the fact that he’s due to win one of these things all combine to make Lester a solid choice this week.
Previous pick: Mike McClelland was my Bucket C choice before, but he’s moved to Bucket D where you’ll find him in the same spot. Read on …
Dark horse: Not your cup of tea? I’d not feel bad one bit about picking Seth Feider or Todd Faircloth. Both are consistent and seem to do well at a tough fishery.
BUCKET D: MCCLELLAND
The last two times the Elite Series visited Sabine, Mike McClelland posted a second and 11th, respectively. Each time he made a long run, but I don’t think that's the only key to success. He’s good when the rest of the field struggles. The Sabine River is not an easy fishery, but it’s full of fish and when there’s a lot of culling going on, I think McClelland should be considered. Look for him to push a Top 12 cut, if not a win.
Previous pick: Bill Lowen was my previous pick, and I think he’s still a solid choice. He’s still hanging out in this bucket, and the way big fish will be caught at Sabine is exactly what Lowen likes to do. He’s continued to be quiet this season, and it wouldn't surprise me one bit to see him finally win one.
Dark horse: Lowen, obviously. Otherwise, Matt Lee or Keith Poche would be at the top of my list.
BUCKET E: SCROGGINS
Big Show has been quiet lately. I can’t explain it, and being in Bucket E means momentum is not necessarily on your side. But it’s time for a momentum shift, and Terry Scroggins is long overdue. In June at Sabine, a big jig and a frog will play for sure, which also happen to be right in the middle of Scroggins’ wheelhouse. I bet he’ll be a contender this week.
Previous pick: Mark Davis has taken medical leave for hip replacement surgery. We expect a fully recovered and very dangerous legendary Davis back in 2019.
Dark horse: It’s hard to believe Tommy Biffle, Alton Jones and Bernie Schultz are in this bucket. But it’s apart of the game, and I don’t think the trend will last much longer. I’d expect each of those three dudes to make some adjustments at Sabine and climb out of the uncharacteristic hole they’re in.