One bite could win it
ORANGE, Texas – Only six of the 100 Bassmaster Elite Series anglers have caught a five-bass limit each day of the Sabine River Challenge presented by STARK Cultural Venues.
And those six made the Top 12 cut for Sunday's final.
This tournament has been all about consistency, like possibly no other Elite Series event. It's a challenge to catch five 14-inch largemouth bass a day here.
Day Three leader Dean Rojas knows what he has to do Sunday – catch five keepers, as he's done the previous three days.
"You have to have a limit to win this thing," Rojas said. "I know that. That's my goal for tomorrow: catch five."
Rojas' three-day weight of 38-6 has given him a 3-pound, 9-ounce lead over second-place Todd Faircloth, who was one bass short of a limit Saturday.
Bill Lowen and Brandon Card haven't had a double-digit sack over the last three days, but they've weighed five each day. And they took two of the final three spots for Sunday's finale, where the winner receives $100,000 and an automatic berth in the 2014 Bassmaster Classic.
There's a wildcard Sunday, however, and no one knows it better than Rojas. He called it "a gift" when he landed the biggest bass of Day One, a 5-15, which is the second-biggest bass caught in three days on the Sabine River.
There are two key factors working here: 1) keeper-size fish are hard to catch, and 2) bass are moving onto spawning beds, so there's always a chance for a game-changer.
Even though Bobby Lane was the last man in Sunday's field and is almost 12 pounds behind Rojas, everyone still standing has a slugger's chance.
There's no better example than Terry Scroggins. He has weighed only three bass two times. But his five-fish limit Friday included the big bass of the tournament so far – a 6-1.
With largemouths moving shallow onto their spawning beds, anything is possible.
But it's equally possible you'll get bit, swing and miss.
"It's so frustrating," said Jeff Kriet, who is in fifth place with 30-6. "I missed so many today. You're working just to get a bite.
"You pick up and feel – thunk! – and it's swimming four feet off to one side. You jerk and air-ball it."
Scroggins had the same kind of day.
"I missed seven or eight bites in a row," Scroggins said. "For whatever reason, I couldn't get them hooked today. I tried setting the hook early, letting them take it, it didn't make a difference.
"They're wanting to spawn. There's more fish moving up."
But spawning fish equal finicky bites, unlike any other time of year.
All those factors set up a highly-interesting Sunday, where the only guarantee is that another Elite Series record crowd will turn out to see the outcome in Orange, Texas.