ORANGE, Texas -- With many areas flooded and the tide playing havoc with others, Alabama angler Chris Lane figured he would have a one-hour window to make a big score during Thursday’s opening round of the Bassmaster Elite at Sabine River Presented by STARK Cultural Venues.
He was right – and he made the most of it, bringing in five bass that weighed 15 pounds, 10 ounces to claim the opening-round lead after the launch was delayed nearly two hours by fog. Terry “Big Show” Scroggins is a close second with 15-2, followed by Aaron Martens (13-14), Shaw Grigsby (13-4) and 2014 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Greg Hackney (12-9).
Lane, who caught all of his fish from 2 feet of water or less, said that one magic hour when the tide was just right proved to be his best ever on the Sabine.
“With tidal water, there are times to really capitalize,” said Lane, who finished 22nd in the 2013 Elite Series event on the Sabine. “Those windows are very short. But when you find what really works on a certain fishery during that hour window that you have, you can really put some good fish in the boat.”
Lane already had a limit before his magic hour began, but he culled his three smallest fish for his three biggest of the day during that window.
“I culled three times within that hour, and that made all the difference between bringing in 10 and 15 pounds,” Lane said. “Those were the three biggest fish I think I’ve ever caught in the Sabine River – two pushing four pounds and one almost three.”
Considering the fishery’s proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, the tide plays a big role in any event held on the Sabine River. But with three days left to fish, Lane wouldn’t go into specifics about the tide or how he identified the perfect hour for fishing.
It was understandable, considering he’s sharing at least some of his areas with Martens, less than two pounds back. The two met head-on around lunchtime as Martens was leaving a narrow, grass-lined canal and Lane was attempting to enter. They exchanged only friendly gestures.
Whatever secrets Lane has unlocked seem to have been figured out by Martens as well. The California native, who now lives in Leeds, Ala., had a five-fish limit well before lunch and steadily culled fish from super-shallow water throughout the day to manage his total of 13-14.
“I think a lot of the big ones are a little bit smarter,” Martens said. “If you catch them on the right tide, they’ll bite. But if you catch them on the wrong tide, they won’t. It’s just a matter of timing.”
Again, because he’s sharing water with Lane, Martens wouldn’t explain what makes the “right tide.”
Sharing water was also an issue for Scroggins, who caught 15-2 from an area he described as “100 yards long and 50 yards across,” while fishing alongside Kansas angler Brent Chapman.
“Brent was in there going down the other side, and I watched him catch a 3-pounder,” Scroggins said. “But then a little bit later, I caught my biggest fish of the day. That made me feel a little better.”
Scroggins’ best fish weighed 6-10 and took big-bass honors for the day. Chapman brought only four bass to the scales that weighed 10-0 and is in 23rd place.
“It’s hard to say what will happen the rest of the way,” Scroggins said. “The fish aren’t really replenishing once you catch them out of an area. So who knows what tomorrow might look like?”
The most secretive angler from the Top 5 was veteran Florida pro Shaw Grigsby. After bringing in five bass that weighed 13-4, Grigsby said only that he was using “Strike King Lures tied onto Seaguar Line.”
After Friday’s round, the field will be reduced to the top 53 anglers in the standings. Then after Saturday’s round, only the top 12 will advance to Sunday’s championship.
Daily take-offs are scheduled for 7:10 a.m. at City of Orange Boat Ramp with weigh-ins scheduled back at the ramp at 4 p.m.