Tough fishing in South Texas

The sixth event of the Bassmaster Elite Series took place this past weekend in south Texas on the Sabine River, a tidal fishery on the Gulf of Mexico. Orange, Texas was the host community, their fifth time hosting an Elite Series tournament since 2013.

It was my second time visiting the Sabine River and it’s a stop on the schedule that makes me cringe when I see it. The people in Orange are great and this venue gets some of the biggest crowds at the weigh-ins that we’ll see all year, but the fishing is tough. It’s a shallow, dirty-water river that is influenced by the tide of the Atlantic Ocean.

Even though the Sabine River consists of fresh water, we were only several miles from actual saltwater where we were taking off from. Being that close to the saltwater, the river is influenced by the tide, changing the water levels every few hours. Over all the years I’ve spent fishing professionally in the U.S., I don’t think I’ve ever had a good tournament on a tidal fishery. I just always struggle trying to figure out when to fish specific locations on the tournament days. The fish change locations based on the water level changes at high and low tide. When the tide changes, there is naturally flowing current, which can cause fish to set up in specific locations to feed. It’s just an added element to take into consideration. I have an understanding of how this cycle works, but I seem to have a hard time capitalizing on it during competition.

To put the size of the fish into perspective at the Sabine River, a two pound bass — which is generally meaningless at most of our tournaments — is a big fish. It took 13 pounds for two days and ten bass to make the top fifty cut to fish the third day and earn a cheque for ten thousand dollars. A 1.3 pound average per fish. The size of the fish is relative wherever we go, but it just feels weird going to Texas to fish for these small bass, a state known for all its big bass, available on many lakes across the state.

I don’t want to come across as whiney when I write about the Sabine River because the Elite Series visits a variety of waters across the country every year. It’s hard to do well at every tournament because of all the different fisheries that we visit. Whichever angler is fortunate to win the Angler of the Year title has truly accomplished something because they have been successful throughout the season on all types of waters. This river is just not up my ally with regards to my fishing skills, but at least I know what I have to work on. Further adding to my frustration, it was very hot in Texas last week, as hot of weather as I’ve ever fished in.

The tournament did not go the way that I wanted, ending up with a 78th place finish, my worst in a couple of years. I caught four bass for 3-14 on day one, but I had a better second day, landing a five-fish limit weighing 7-5. Congratulations to Brock Mosley on winning the super tough Sabine River tournament with a four day total of 44-3. Brock finished second the last time we visited this fishery so he obviously has it figured out pretty good. He is a good friend so it was also good to see him win his first blue trophy. He has several second place finishes the past few years so he was due.

We get a nice break in the schedule now until later in the July when we visit Lake St. Clair in Michigan, followed by the final two events of the year out in New York in August. These remaining events are all smallmouth bass tournaments which are up my ally so I’m looking forward to them. In the meantime, I’m excited to get to spend some time around home and enjoy some of our beautiful Sunset Country summer.

Jeff Gustafson had a tough outing on the Sabine River in Texas this past weekend. The next Bassmaster Elite instalment will be in Lake St. Clair at the end of July before he returns home for the Kenora Bass International. —Submitted photo