Fantasy Fishing: Shallow grass anglers will play at Sabine

It’s hard to believe we are almost half way through the regular Bassmaster Elite Series season for 2018. I’m proud to say that after a dismal start, I’m getting close to the top 20 percent. Currently, I’m in the 78th percentile, and with a few more solid events I should be able to break into the top 10 percent.

I made a couple of great picks a few weeks ago on Lake Travis. KVD and Casey Ashley finished in 13th and 14th and barely missed the top 12. Mike McClelland also rallied the last day and posted a Top 30 finish.

The Sabine is a cool place, and it is apparently fishing better than in years past. It’s going to be very hot in Orange, Texas. The weather patterns are looking like highs in the low 100s during the event and generally down South, we don’t have much wind in the summer.

We have had a few high water events like the hurricane this last spring that have helped with the spawns. While a 1 1/2-pound bass played as a solid keeper last year, I think the average solid fish will be closer to 2 pounds this time around.

We will see a pretty good group of anglers with 9- to 10-pound bags each day. That said, a 2 1/2- to 3-pounder will be huge. I’m banking on guys that have proven themselves in shallow, semi-tidal fisheries where finding the “right” bites is key.

Let’s jump in.

BUCKET A: REESE

This is a toughy. Reese has really hurt me a few times, specifically at the Classic where he zeroed on Day 1. He turned it around and found a good bag, but it was too little too late. However, one thing I know about him is that he is one of the best at adjusting on the fly. He might have an average bag on Day 1, but he will go find a way to catch better quality the next day, or go out swinging.

He won the 2009 Bassmaster Classic on a muddy Red River fishing shallow vegetation and that will likely be a key ingredient here. He squeaked out a check in both prior events here, but they were spawning events. For whatever reason, he tends to land the big finishes in the hot, still, tough-to-get-a-bite type of events. 

Don’t forget: Jacob Wheeler

Wheeler has been on a tear this year and shows no signs of stopping. He has no recorded finishes at Sabine that I could find, but he loves shallow grass. He is an instinctual bass fisherman, and the ability to read one’s gut will go a long way.

BUCKET B: SWINDLE

This is easily one of the most stacked bucket Bs I have ever seen in my six seasons of Fantasy Fishing. Swindle has got his game face on this season. Four decent finishes in a row have him moving forward with some momentum. Swindle also landed in 24th here in 2015. You can expect this event to be a junk fisherman’s paradise. Right up his alley.

Don’t forget: Chris Lane

Chris Lane won here in 2015 in a spawn/prespawn flipping event. He’s had a pretty stellar year so far with only one slip-up at Grand. This is more like the Chris Lane that we are used to! There will certainly be a majority of the fish caught flipping shallow grass, and he is one of the best.

BUCKET C: FAIRCLOTH

If his history here is any indication, he will, at the bare minimum, score me some points. He is a Texan and a grass angler that knows how to find good populations of bass here. He won here in 2013 and posted a ninth in 2015. I’m going to lean hard on him and not worry about his ownership percentage, which will definitely be high.

Don’t forget: Keith Combs

This season has been up and down for Combs, but he will definitely feel at home here at the Sabine. With a solid fourth-place finish at Lake Travis, he should be able to carry some momentum over to this event. His prior finishes here would say he is probably a safe bet for a check and for some decent fantasy fishing points with a 49th and a 32nd in years past.

BUCKET D: MONROE

There are a ton of quality picks in this bucket, but I’m sticking with Monroe for one reason — he only fishes for good bites. He’ll be throwing a frog and flipping something big and bulky to target the better-than-average fish. He finished fourth on his frog in 2013 and cashed a check in 2015. Either way, he should be a shoe-in for some solid points and may come out with a big bass bonus.

Don’t forget: Mike McClelland

Mike McClelland made a crazy two-hour run each way to a few small canals in both of the previous tournaments here. I’m not sure if they’re allowed to run across the bay this time around or not, but if they are, there is a good chance I wake up and make a last second adjustment.

BUCKET E: GRIGSBY

Unfortunately, if you’re in bucket E, it’s because you are having a difficult year. Grigsby has consistently struggled with the exception of Kentucky Lake where he flipped his way to an 11th-place finish, and his first Elite Series Top 12 since the Sabine event in 2015 where he finished in seventh place. This event definitely is in line with his skill set. He’ll be relying on his flipping prowess, and if he can get around quality, he could find himself fishing his second Championship Sunday this season.

Don’t forget: Alton Jones

It is not normal to see Jones in bucket E, especially when we’ve had so many events in or around Texas. He had a Top 12 finish in the controversial 2013 event where he shared water with Rojas on the last day. He had a dismal 92nd finish here in 2015. He also struggled at Texas Fest, landing in 100th place. He is mad at Texas bass and will certainly have his head down for this event. He also has the highest ownership in the bucket at over 25 percent currently. Maybe someone knows something I don’t.

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