It’s finally here. After a two-month delay, the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Elite at Sabine River presented by Econo Lodge will be held June 7-10 out of Orange, Texas.
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Heavy rains in the Sabine River watershed before the originally scheduled dates of April 6-9 created dangerous boating conditions and forced B.A.S.S. to postpone.
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The Sabine crowd set the Elite attendance record in 2013 with 33,650, which was passed later that year at the St. Lawrence Elite in Waddington, N.Y., with 34,100. Will east Texas take back the title this time around?
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The Sabine River forms part of the boundary between Texas and Louisiana. It empties into Sabine Lake, an estuary of the Gulf of Mexico where development includes lumber and oil. It’s bayou country near the Gulf, and the fishery is said to be in best condition since the Elites began visiting it.
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The Elite event action is centered at the City of Orange Boat Ramp, 408 Pier Road. The public is invited free of charge to watch the 108 anglers launch at 6:05 a.m. CT. The site also hosts the free weigh-ins each day at 3 p.m. CT. The fishing coincides with Orange County River Festival, with activities and bands on the schedule.
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The most recent B.A.S.S. event held on the Sabine was the Bass Pro Shops Central Open. Local angler T-Roy Brussard held the lead and was threatening to break through for a long-awaited Classic berth. Broussard reported he became ill, falling into renal failure after Day 1, and his two-day lead ended in a disappointing 11-ounce loss.
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Carl Svebek III, who had just experienced a second resurrection of his fishing career, came in with 12 pounds, 3 ounces for a three-day total of 36-12, giving the 50-year-old an emotional win and berth to his first Classic.
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Chris Lane won the most recent Elite event on the Sabine in 2015, enduring one of the hardest days of rain the circuit has ever experienced.
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It was Day 3 in 2015 Elite, and the flooding rains played havoc with the Bassmaster LIVE cameras but the fishing was good. Most all of those who advance to Championship Sunday filled a limit.
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Aaron Martens, who finished third, was with the leaders in Taylor Bayou and received bonus coverage on LIVE as his camera was the only one that didn’t falter during the downpour. A blow dryer was used to help dry out the cameras that afternoon and night, and some equipment was left out in the sun the following day to bake out the remaining moisture.
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Fans still came to the Day 3 weigh-in even though they had to trudge through inches of standing water. The rain might have kept enough away to prevent another record crowd.
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On Championship Sunday, Mike McClelland made a serious run at Lane, and that included traveling about 228-miles round trip through Galveston Bay to fish near Houston. McClelland caught all his fish there, and on Day 4 brought in the big bag of 13-1 to finish with 46-0.
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Chris Lane had to make adjustments on the final day but was able to finish his limit that weighed 10-6 for a total of 50-0. It was the 2012 Classic champ’s seventh B.A.S.S. victory.
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In 2013, the east Texas fans came out in full force to see the Elite Series up close and personal. There were a lot of activities scheduled to help brings fans into Orange and set the Elite attendance mark.
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Home-state fans were thrilled when Texas’ own Todd Faircloth overcame leader Dean Rojas on the final day to win with 49-6.
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In 2013, Mike Iaconelli experienced a mishap when he hit something underwater and took himself and his Marshal into the trees. Neither was injured and the boat was pulled back into the water to complete the day.
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Hurricane Harvey that devastated the region last year had one benefit - it improved fishing on the Sabine. Texas Parks & Wildlife Department fisheries biologist Todd Driscoll said the Sabine is fishing as good as ever. During a tournament, Justin Royal of Bridge City landed this 9.73-pound kicker fish in his winning 18.26 stringer.
Photo: Courtesy Justin Royal
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So who’s going to make the biggest splash and take home the blue trophy? Our Fantasy Fishing pundits say to look to the shallow water experts, which include those who have done well here in the first two Elite events. Who do you have?