This will be the third time in five years that the Elite Series has visited Orange, Texas, and the Sabine River. However, this will be the first time the field will be confined to Texas waters only. Another change is fishing will take place in June, the latest the Elites have ever fished the Sabine. Large weigh-in crowds, crowded fishing and long runs for anglers looking to escape the crowded regions of the fishery will be the hot topics.
This tournament was originally scheduled April 6-9, but was postponed due to flooded conditions. Rescheduling for the second week of June does change some aspects worth considering. For instance, the vegetation will be thicker than in the two previous Elite events on the Sabine. The 10-day forecast prior to the tournament is for consistent temperatures ranging from lows in the 70s to highs in the 90s. This will set up as a grinder’s paradise. The hot weather, tight fishing areas and mid-season AOY points struggle will benefit those with patience.
Here are my adjusted picks based on Sabine in June. I also included my comparison of picks based on the previously scheduled April event and what buckets those anglers are in now.
BUCKET A: LINTNER
June pick: Jared Lintner
Jared Lintner’s strong 2018 campaign continued at Lake Travis. He narrowly missed his second Elite Series Top 12 of the year and finished 15th. Lake Travis and the Sabine fish completely different, but Lintner’s success reminds me of his hot streak in 2014 when he posted a top 10 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year finish. He’s in the top five through four events and hasn’t finished below 49th this year on both the Elite Series and Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens.
April pick: Dean Rojas (now Bucket B)
After a tough and uncharacteristic 2017, Rojas regained his expected form and notched a Top 12 at Lake Martin to start the 2018 season. He has documented historical success at the Sabine, which could be great, or it could mean nothing due to the different dynamics of this event. Until the most recent Elite at Lake Travis (104th), Rojas had a great year. Two top 20s and a missed cut (51st by 1 ounce) have him in Bucket B.
BUCKET B: CROCHET
June pick: Cliff Crochet
Cliff Crochet has fished well in 2018. He sits in 42nd in the AOY race after making two checks and narrowly missing a third in the first four events. Crochet has a solid history on the Sabine, finishing 14th and 45th, respectively. The Sabine has a few characteristics similar to his home waters of the Atchafalaya Basin, which means Crochet is used to fishing around and behind anglers during tough conditions.
April pick: Alton Jones Jr. (still Bucket B)
Alton 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 Jones Jr.’s success on rivers (qualified with three rivers on 2016 Central Opens schedule) then he could be a deadly underrated pick. He knows how important getting bites on a tough fishery can be, and he did so at the Red River in 2016 when he won in a landslide.
BUCKET C: BROWNING
June pick: Stephen Browning
Stephen Browning sits in a bucket of interesting anglers. With 2013 Sabine winner Todd Faircloth, 2017 Angler of the Year Brandon Palaniuk and a slew of stars, Browning is a sneaky pick. Sitting at 1.8-percent ownership, he is undervalued, but can be a big winner for Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing players who choose him. With wins at the Red River and Ross Barnett, he certainly knows how to not only survive at tough fisheries but excel.
April pick: Jacob Powroznik (now Bucket A)
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. Whether it’s wacky-rigging, topwater or flipping/pitching Jacob Powroznik should do well at the Sabine.
BUCKET D: LOWEN
June pick: Bill Lowen
Bill Lowen is categorized as a shallow-water expert. Historically that has been true, especially in low-weight Elite Series events on those type fisheries. Top 12s on the Potomac River, Chesapeake Bay, Delaware River and Red River over the last few years backup that notion as well. He may not be favored in the shallow-heavyweight shootouts, but in the tough tournaments that happen in less than 8 feet of water, he is your guy.
April pick: Stephen Browning (now Bucket C)
Move Browning up a bucket and reconsider. He’s doing well this year and could really beef up your Sabine Fantasy selections.
BUCKET E: LEFEBRE
June pick: Dave Lefebre
Dave Lefebre is off to his toughest Elite Series start and possibly of his professional career. There’s no denying his ability, especially with shallow-water techniques. Having been successful previously on fisheries like the Potomac River, this could be a comeback event for Lefebre.
April pick: Randall Tharp (now Bucket C)
My original selection of Randall Tharp was based around a bounce-back effort after a poor event at Lake Martin. Since then, he has notched a Top 12 at Grand Lake and made the cut at Kentucky Lake. He had a 60th at a deep, clear Lake Travis, which isn’t a bad finish in the big scheme of a long Elite Series season. His stellar power-fishing prowess should be noted in this event.