BASS Sabine River Baits, Gear & Patterns

Todd Faircloth Wins BASS Sabine River

Speckled trout and redfish. That's all Todd Faircloth had fished for in his previous few trips to Orange, Texas. While chasing saltwater species on Sabine Lake, the sparse population of bass in the surrounding area was merely an afterthought. "Other than that it was all new to me," he said. Not anymore. The resident of nearby Jasper, Texas, added another triumph to his already stellar tournament record with a grind-it-out victory at the Sabine River Elite Series. At the sprawling venue many had never heard of or seen before it was announced as the site of the season opener, the 5th-ranked angler in the BassFan World Rankings presented by Livingston Lures coaxed pre-spawners and spawning fish out of a shallow, remote bayou he had all to himself all week. His 49-06 winning total was slightly more that some pre-tournament estimates that predicted a 12-pound average would win. He overcame having just four fish on day 3 to catch a 14-09 limit on the final day to win a virtual tug o war with Dean Rojas by more than 6 1/2 pounds. Only Kevin VanDam (six) has more Elite Series victories than Faircloth (four) now. Since the start of 2012 (Bassmaster Classics and Toyota Texas Bass Classic included), Faircloth has collected two Elite Series wins, four other Top-10 finishes and failed to cash a check just once. With a berth in next year's Classic already locked up, he's free to take some more chances he wouldn't otherwise. "I've got the Classic made now, so I'm not worried about points to qualify," he said. "I can kind of roll the dice if needed - maybe gamble. I've never been in this position in my career."

The proximity of Jasper to Orange (90-minute drive) made it fairly easy for Faircloth to work in a few days of scouting in December before the Sabine went off limits. In addition to marking fishy-looking locales, he was more concerned with learning how to get around on the delta system as very little depth detail was available on the latest mapping chips. "I didn't have a real good understanding how everything laid out down here," he said. "I hadn't ever spent any time down here or bass fished down here. Being that close to my house, you feel obligated when there's an event that close to your home to put more effort into it because it's so convenient." "I rode around a bunch and this one area that I ended up fishing in, to me, looked the best and looked the most fertile. It looked like a miniature Florida fishery or a Venice, (La.), area. It had a lot of grass and had some pads and reeds in it." The water in Taylor Bayou that he focused on was much cleaner in December than it was last week, but he still made it part of his rounds during official practice. The first day, he practiced side by side with Aaron Martens and neither were all that impressed with the fishing. "I went through there the first day of practice and only had like three bites, but it was cold and it was real muddy," he said. "I won this tournament on the third day of practice. I went back to the area around noon and the water had warmed up and it had cleaned up and I had like eight bites in like 2 hours. My confidence just went through the roof. "Up until noon on the third day of practice, I had no idea where I was going to fish the tournament."

Competition:

Faircloth opened the tournament with a decent limit for 10-07 that had him in 10th place, a little more than 5 pounds behind leader Rojas. The bites in his prime area weren't as furious, though, as they had been the day before and he briefly considered going elsewhere to start day 2. Ultimately, he opted to stick with his game plan and it resulted in a tournament-best 16-08 stringer on Friday that catapulted him to the lead. His key fish, a 4-plus pounder, came first thing in the morning as he probed deeper into the bayou. He had his limit before noon and backed off the spot since he was the only angler in there. "After the first day, I fished in there all day and only caught six keepers, and I was a little hesitant to go back in there," he said. "I had another area in Taylor Bayou where I felt like I could catch a few keepers out of. I contemplated going in there first and then going back in there later in day. I fought that off and it was definitely the right decision." He admitted to fishing too fast through the outer reaches of his area on day 3 because he was anxious to see if he could catch similar quality out of the back of it. Instead, he caught plenty of short fish and wound up with just four keepers for 7-14 that dropped him back to 2nd, more than 3 1/2 pounds behind Rojas. Knowing Rojas was sharing an area with two other anglers in the Top 12, Faircloth was confident that if made the right decisions and fished methodically enough on the final day, he could make a run at the win. That's exactly what happened as he boxed another 4-pounder and got on a roll that helped him close with final-day 14-09 and seal the victory before the largest crowd ever to witness an Elite Series weigh-in.

Winning Pattern:

The area Faircloth fished was a flat that stretched nearly a mile in length and was about 500 yards wide. He worked back and forth each day and would bypass certain stretches that didn't produce any bites the previous day. He keyed mainly on vegetation, but wood was also prevalent. With the water temperature climbing into the mid-60s during the event, he surmised that most of the fish were moving in to spawn, although he wasn't necessarily sight-fishing due to the stained water. "It's a vast, wide-open area, and the fish were scattered throughout it," he said. "Before off-limits, the water was a lot cleaner than it was while we were here. Any time when I'm driving around on a new body of water and I see an area that has a lot of grass in it or vegetation, generally speaking, somewhere within that area is going to be a large population of fish. In my opinion, it was the best-looking water I saw down here." The flat was so shallow, he was genuinely concerned about navigating his way out of the area each day. "Back where I was at, I could run in there on pad, but I couldn't get on pad once I was back there," he said. "I had to idle probably 3/4 of a mile out before I could get back up on pad. That was something that added to the stress level as well. It was about a 15- to 20-minute idle before I could get on pad and it was real shallow even where I was getting on pad. You're idling through all that muck and grass and you're losing fishing time, but you're also worried that something could possibly happen."

Winning Gear:

Swimbait gear: 7' heavy-action CastAway casting rod, Shimano Chronarch (7:1 gear ratio) casting reel, 30-pound Sunline braided line, 1/16-ounce worm weight, unnamed 4/0 heavy-gauge offset hook, 5" Strike King KVD Perfect Plastic Swim'n Caffeine Shad (double header red and watermelon red/clear sparkle). The retrieve was key to triggering bites with the swimbait. "I was just swimming it through the grass real slow," he said. "You couldn't fish it fast. I was fishing it anywhere from 6 inches to a foot down in the water column and just crawling it through there. That bait was the bait for me."

Soft stickbait gear: Same rod, same reel, 16-pound Sunline Shooter fluorocarbon line, unnamed 4/0 offset hook, 5" Strike King KVD Perfect Plastic Ocho (double header). While he caught the majority of his fish on the swimbait, a couple key big fish fell for the Ocho. "Whenever one would miss the Caffeine Shad, I'd cast back in there and catch them on that," he added.

Main factor: Commitment to the area and also not giving up on it after the first day of practice. That was the biggest deal. I could've very easily have gone to some other section of the river or another area and totally missed out on it."

Performance edge: "My (Skeeter) boat and (Yamaha) motor, definitely. I got up on pad in 1.8 feet of water and if I didn't get up on pad there, I would've had another mile to idle before I could. It saved me about 30 minutes of fishing time. There are many boats and motors that can't get up in that shallow of water."

Sabine River Winning Pattern Bassfan 3/19/13 (Todd Ceisner)

Dean Rojas' Pattern, Baits & Gear

Dean Rojas spent 3 days riding around the Sabine system before it went off limits and leading up to the event he heard the dock talk about where the community areas would likely be. That prompted him to dig a little deeper and attempt "to find something thatŐs off the beaten path and away from everybody else," he said. "Everybody talked about the Neches River and the Calcasieu and Taylor Bayou, so I tried to find something different." What he found was Bayou D'Inde, a snaking creek that feeds into the tide-influenced Intercoastal Waterway in western Louisiana. "It had a defined channel where it was 4 to 5 feet deep and out further where I'd start it was closer to 10," he said "It had access to deep water so you had fish moving up and down on it. I just felt like there were a lot of fish in there. "I think I had a better practice day somewhere else, but I felt for 4 days, that was going to be my best chance because I was confined to an area and I felt that if I just ground it out, I could catch 9 or 10 pounds a day. That was my goal." While he eventually had to share water with Alton Jones and, to a lesser extent, Jeff Kriet, both of whom also finished among the Top 10, he managed to coax some big fish out of the creek, including a 5-15 on day 1 that helped give him the early lead. "Getting those big bites were key," he said. "Catching that 5-15 and a 4 (on day 4) were big. Not a lot of guys were catching that kind of quality."

Squarebill crankbait gear: 7' medium-light Quantum Tour Elite Gerald Swindle casting rod, Quantum EXO casting reel (5.3:1 gear ratio), 14-pound Sunline Super FC Sniper fluorocarbon line, unnamed squarebill crankbait (chartreuse/black and silver/black). He swapped out the stock hooks on the crankbait for Gamakatsu trebles.

Pitching and flipping gear: 7' medium-heavy Quantum Tour Edition casting rod, Quantum EXO casting reel (6.6:1 gear ratio), 20-pound Sunline Super FC Sniper fluorocarbon line, unnamed 3/16-oz. tungsten flipping weight, 4/0 Gamakatsu Superline offset EWG hook, 4" Big Bite Baits Fighting Frog (sapphire blue).

Main factor: "Fishing with the game plan I had going into the event and utilizing the area to its maximum. I felt like it was an area where I could win or finish in the Top 5 in. In the big picture, I hit every goal I set except for winning."

Performance edge: "My Yamaha ran great all week making those long runs. All of my equipment worked great."

Sabine River 2-5 Patterns Bassfan 3/20/13 (Todd Ceisner)

Terry Scroggins' Pattern, Baits & Gear

Terry Scroggins grew up learning to run away from dirty water in Florida. At the Sabine River, he couldn't escape it, but with the bites he was getting he'd have been silly to pass it up. "The water I was fishing, you could see about a half-inch. It was extremely muddy," he said. "Any time you're in Florida and you see muddy water, you better get away from it. It was a little tough on me mentally to fish in the mud." Faced with seemingly endless options as to where to fish, he opted for the Calcasieu River, one of several waterways that connects to the Sabine that has a saltwater barrier. The Neches and Taylor Bayou are the others. "To me, that made it easy," he said. "Those were the three areas I concentrated on because you didn't have to worry about the salinity of the water behind those walls." Only Dennis Tietje, who had mechanical problems on day 1, caught fewer keepers (13) than Scroggins among those who finished in the Top 12. That he was able to rise to 3rd speaks to the quality of bass Scroggins was sticking. He had a 5-10 on day 1, a 6-01 on day 2 and another close to 5 pounds on the final day. His only limit came on day 2 when he moved into contention. He concentrated his flipping program in sloughs that had deep water (7 to 8 feet) in the center and that were outlined with cypress and hyacinth.

Flipping gear: 7'3" heavy-action Duckett Fishing White Ice casting rod, Lew's Tournament Pro casting reel (7.1:1 ratio), 20-pound Hi-Seas 100% fluorocarbon line, unnamed 5/16-oz. flipping weight, 3/0 Gamakatsu flipping hook, 4.25" YUM Wooly Bug (black blue shadow).

Main factor: "Just being persistent. It was a grind going up there and my time was limited. It was 140 miles round trip so I had to put my head down and go and not worry about catching a whole bunch of numbers. There were some quality fish around where I was at and I was fortunate to get three or four good bites."

Performance edge: "My Triton boat and Mercury engine played a big role, but most of the time we use our electronics to find fish and look at the bottom. (Last week), I was using my Humminbird tripometer which told me where I'd been and that played an important role in knowing how far I could go."

Sabine River 2-5 Patterns Bassfan 3/20/13 (Todd Ceisner)

Ish Monroe's Pattern, Baits & Gear

With such a diverse ecosystem around the Sabine River, Ish Monroe was hoping he could find an area that 1) he could have mostly to himself, and 2) would have all the fish-holding features he was looking for (grass, wood, mats, etc.). He connected on both fronts as he uncovered a narrow dead-end canal that he said, "had a ton of fish in it." Catching limits was not a problem for him, but he never encountered a specimen over 2 1/2 pounds. During a 3-day scouting trip, he looked around the well-known bayous and other rivers that flowed into the area south of Orange. He was keyed in on a flipping bite, but wanted options to work a frog and a spinnerbait as well. "I wasn't wanting to flip just cypress trees or just hyacinth," he said. "I was looking for a place that had a mixture of everything and this area had it. It had hyacinth and duckweed and when you have duckweed in an area that means there's very little salt in that area. It also had gator grass and cypress stumps and cypress trees that weren't so dead-looking from the salt. They didn't have a bunch of barnacles on them so I knew I had some really good fresh water and usually when you have that in a place like that, it's a good fishery area." The water was much cleaner (2 feet visibility) than elsewhere in the system and that helped him track his baits better. His area bottomed out at 4 feet at high tide and wouldn't get below 2 feet when the tide was out. "I got to flip and frog and throw a spinnerbait," he added. "Those are the things I love to do best. The best part of my bayou was it was a mile-long stretch that you couldn't turn a boat around until you got to the end. You'd get in there and you could flip both sides and throw a spinnerbait in the middle of it or a frog down the middle or on both sides."

Frog gear: 7'4" extra-heavy Daiwa Steez XBD frog rod, Daiwa Zillion Type R casting reel (7.3:1 ratio), 65-pound Maxima braided line (ultra green), Snag Proof Ish's Phat Frog (papa midnight).

Spinnerbait gear: 7' medium-action Daiwa Cielo spinnerbait rod, Daiwa Lexa casting reel (6.3:1 ratio), 15-pound Maxima Ultragreen monofilament line, 3/8-oz. River2Sea Bling spinnerbait (lemonade twist). The spinnerbait had a gold Indiana blade on top of a red kicker blade. He threaded a trailer hook on the bait, but every fish he caught with it was on the main hook.

Flipping gear (craw): 8' Daiwa Steez punch rod, same reel as frog, same line as frog, 1-oz. River2Sea Trash Bomb tungsten flipping weight, 4/0 Paychex Baits punch hook, Missile Baits Missile Craw (California love). He'd throw the craw when flipping gator grass and hyacinth.

Flipping gear (creature): Same rod, Daiwa Steez casting reel (7.9:1 ratio), 25-Maxima fluorocarbon line, 1/4-oz. River2Sea tungsten weight, 5/0 Paychex Baits punch hook, Missile Baits D-Bomb (California love). When he'd see fish follow his frog, he'd come back through with the D-Bomb near cypress stumps.

Main factor: "I found an area with a ton of fish in it. I literally, over the course of 4 days, caught at least 50 keepers and probably another 50-plus shorts. I don't think anybody else did that."

Performance edge: "My Yamaha (motor) ran excellent. I'm loving this new Ranger 520Z. I got 73.7 mph out of my boat. It was amazing. I ran around a lot and never burned a full tank of gas in 4 days."

Sabine River 2-5 Patterns Bassfan 3/20/13 (Todd Ceisner)

Bill Lowen's Pattern, Baits & Gear

Unlike a number of his competitors, Bill Lowen didn't get an in-person look at the Sabine River in advance of the opener. Instead, he relied upon map study and the word of a friend, who told him that while the rest of the field would likely scatter across a couple hundred miles, the 4-mile radius around the City Launch Ramp in Orange was good, fishable water. "I just focused my time on that," he said. He struggled in practice with fewer than 10 keeper bites across 3 days, but he didn't punt. He used the same tank of gas the entire tournament and caught the majority of his fish flipping in and around spawning areas. "I probably had a lot more cleaner water than a lot of the guys did," he added. "I was able to see them on beds once the tide got low enough to do it. During practice, the water was a lot more stained, but as the week progressed it got cleaner and cleaner. I don't know how all of that tide stuff works. Everybody says, Chase the tide, it's better when it does this or does that. I have no clue. I just fish and fish and fish and hope it works out." He and Monroe were the only two anglers who weighed limits each day of the event, but that's all he was fishing for - five bites a day. "The biggest key for me was I would never get discouraged or never felt like I was out it," he said. "I'm used to fishing for, literally, five bites a day. When you're used to that and you only have three in the livewell, it doesn't bother you. I know a lot of guys get spun out and they start panicking. To me, it's just another day. I get spun out when I'm getting 30 bites." Another key element to Lowen's performance was being thorough in his areas due to the volume of local anglers on the water. "I tried to fish a lot of different angles on things and places where I thought some of the guys were missing," he said. "There were a lot of locals fishing on the river system, probably the most I've ever had to deal with. That doesn't bother me, but I always figure that I need to get into the nooks and crannies where the other guys aren't making casts. That was a big key for me."

Flipping gear: 7'6" heavy action CastAway Skeleton flipping rod, Abu Garcia Revo Premier casting reel (ratio), 17- and 20-pound Berkley Trilene 100% fluorocarbon line, Reins 3/16- and 1/4-oz. tungsten flipping weights, 4/0 Mustad Big Mouth tube hook, 4" Tightlines UV tube (green-pumpkin). He also flipped a 4" Berkley PowerBait Power Hawg (green-pumpkin). In the dirtier water in practice, he flipped a black neon and black/blue tube. "Those helped me locate the fish because I couldn't get bit on anything else," he said.

ChatterBait gear: 7' medium-heavy CastAway Skeleton casting rod, same reel, 15-pound Berkley Trilene 100% fluorocarbon line, 1/4-oz. Z-Man ChatterBait (black/blue), unnamed straight-legged trailer.

Main factor: "Keeping my head and not getting down and knowing that any cast could be the right bite. Keeping 100 percent confidence in what I was doing was probably the biggest key. It was so easy to get on the big motor and take off somewhere, but I just tried to keep myself in the high-percentage areas."

Performance edge: "I've been wearing a pair of prototype polarized sunglasses from Vicious Fishing since the (Bassmaster) Classic. The water (on day 4) was a tanicky, dirty color and it was really cool to have a pair of glasses on that allowed me to see those fish. For whatever reason, it made the bellies of the fish really jump out. To know that I'm the only guy out there with this pair of sunglasses is pretty awesome."

Sabine River 2-5 Patterns Bassfan 3/20/13 (Todd Ceisner)