We told you! All of the Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing pundits told you Jordan Lee was going to storm from the back and win another GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods. I mean none of us put him on our team, but we still told you. All joking aside, we should’ve seen it coming because big time players show up in big time moments. Lee is becoming one of those feared names and it’s so surprising because of how young he is, but man he is the real deal.
This will be the third visit to the Sabine River in Orange, Texas. However, this will be the first time the field will be confined to Texas waters only. So get prepared, because you will hear a lot about how small this vast fishery will be fishing once Day 1 kicks off.
Expect numerous pros to make long, risky runs to access overlooked waters.
BUCKET A: ROJAS
My pick: Dean Rojas
After a tough and uncharacteristic 2017, Rojas regained his expected form and notched a Top 12 at Lake Martin to start his 2018 campaign. He has historical success at the Sabine, which could be great, or it could mean nothing due to the different dynamics of this event. Either way, his experience has taught him to be effective around crowds or avoiding other anglers to catch untouched fish.
Dark horse: Justin Lucas
Justin Lucas was born and raised on the West Coast and he put that history to good use at the California Delta when he won in 2015. I am in no way comparing the Sabine and the Cal Delta as similar fisheries, but I think some parts can help West Coast anglers break down the vast fishery much quicker. There are plenty of canals and winding tributaries that Lucas will understand more than most. If all of that logic is incorrect, we can always go with momentum and a bounce-back effect after a great Top 12 at Martin.
BUCKET B: JONES JR
My pick: Alton Jones Jr.
Jones Jr. spent some time at the Sabine during pre-practice and saw enough to be content with how it will fish. If everyone takes a moment and remembers his success on rivers (qualified with three rivers on 2016 Central Opens schedule) then he could be a highly underrated selection. He knows how important it is to get bites on a tough fishery, and he did exactly that at the Red River in 2016 when he won in a landslide.
Dark horse: Cliff Crochet
The Cajun Baby from the opposite side of Louisiana started the season with a solid finish, a check and good points for the 2018 season. He has solid history on the Sabine with a 14th in 2013 and a 45th in 2015. I expect a good event from him, and continued momentum to keep his season moving along.
BUCKET C: POWROZNIK
My pick: Jacob Powroznik
Getting bites is crucial at a fishery like the Sabine. Pressured fish act much differently than those that don’t get pursued for seven straight days. I’m not sure what bait will excel for Powroznik, but I’d be shocked if he didn’t catch a bunch on a wacky rig, especially behind other anglers.
Dark horse: Fred Roumbanis
If Roumbanis can throw a frog for a solid week then he may be in fishing heaven. Although this event is in early April, there will be plenty of fish looking for a tasty frog to eat.
Note: Three of my anglers so far excel at frog fishing. Just noticed that so don’t read too much into it. It wasn’t on purpose, or maybe it was. Ribbit.
BUCKET D: BROWNING
My pick: Stephen Browning
Hot off the presses, but in case you didn’t hear already … Stephen Browning is a river rat and one of the best in the game. With a Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open victory already to his credit in 2018, he once again proved his worth on a tough fishery. Wins on the Red River and Ross Barnett could bode well for this Arkansas veteran.
Dark horse: Caleb Sumrall
He lives in the center of Louisiana, and guides on Toledo Bend during his spare time. You can believe the rumors about this rookie — he’s for real. He is comfortable fishing a shallow tidal river system, and I imagine he spent some time fishing around the Sabine before the cut-off. Extra studying here could help him earn some points not far from his backyard. Plus, he just got a taste of his first Bassmaster Classic, now his drive to get back to the big show will be even stronger.
BUCKET E: THARP
My pick: Randall Tharp
It seems like most of my picks are of the bounce-back nature after tough 2017 seasons. Randall Tharp is no exception. He narrowly missed the AOY Championship last year and started off his 2018 with a 100+ place finish at Martin. Time for the Honey Badger to return to his intimidating form. I’d be shocked if he backed up Martin with another bad finish at the Sabine. Shocked.
Dark horse: Shaw Grigsby
In 2015 he complimented fellow Elite and rookie at the time, Micah Frazier, about how he handled himself on the water fishing close to one another. In 2015 Grigsby was around a crowd and made a Top 12, he may just hunker down and do the same thing this time around as well.