By noon, the Bassmaster Elite Series pro from Jasper, Texas, had a five-fish limit. He decided they weighed enough, and they were all he should take from his prime fishing area of the Sabine River system, so he called it a day.
He was right: At the scales, his fish weighed 16 pounds, 8 ounces, bringing his two-day total to 26-15. It was enough for the Friday lead in the Sabine River Challenge presented by STARK Cultural Venues in Orange, Texas, the season opener of the Elite Series.
Enough, yes, to jump over first-day leader Dean Rojas, but by only 7 ounces. Rojas of Lake Havasu City, Ariz., had a two-day total of 26-8. He slipped to second place after his Day 2 catch of 10-14 was almost 5 pounds lighter than his big Day 1 bag of 15-10. Cliff Crochet of Pierre Part, La., took third place with a two-day total of 25-0.
Faircloth said he left his area after he caught his eighth keeper and had culled for his best five. His largest, a 4-6, was his first keeper of the day.
“I had a long boat ride back, so I kind of took it easy to make sure I got them (the fish) back safely,” he said.
His decision to return to the same area he worked Thursday was a tough one for him.
“I didn’t know how it was going to go. I was kind of reluctant to go back, after I’d fished there all day yesterday and caught only six keepers,” Faircloth said. “I left again today to save my fish. I don’t know how many are in there, but I do know that there’s more fish coming in there.”
Faircloth said the area is marshy. He’s keying in on shallow spots where the water is clearest. His fish are in various stages of spawning, he said.
“I’ve caught some that have spawned, some that still have eggs. That tells me there are more coming in,” he said.
Faircloth is confident that his large area holds the winning fish.
“I feel pretty good about it,” he said. “But this is fishing; you never know.”
Rojas lost his lead, but he wasn’t at all puzzled over the reason.
“It was a 6-pounder,” he said, referring to his 5-15 kicker of Thursday, the day’s largest bass. It didn’t happen for him Friday.
“Yesterday’s was a gift,” Rojas said. “There are some big ones there. They didn’t show themselves today, but they will Saturday or Sunday.”
In fourth place Friday was Terry Scroggins of San Mateo, Fla., with 24-5. Slipping from second place to fifth place was Mark Davis of Mount Ida, Ark., with 22-3 over two days.
The day’s largest bass was a 6-1 brought in by Scroggins, making him the top contender for the $1,500 Carhartt Big Bass bonus. Faircloth’s Day 2 bag of 16-8 made him the leader for the event’s Berkley Heavyweight bonus of $500.
The field was cut to the Top 50 for Saturday’s competition. Billy McCaghren of Mayflower, Ark., was the last man in with 10-0; Chris Zaldain of San Jose, Calif., was the first out with 9-15.
The Sabine River Challenge presented by STARK Cultural Venues continues Saturday when the 50 pros who survived Friday’s cut will launch at 7 a.m. CT from the City of Orange Boat Ramp at 1000 Simmons Drive and Harry Reed Road. The anglers will weigh their catches at the same location beginning at 3:15 p.m. CT. After Saturday’s competition, only the Top 12 will return to the water Sunday for a final charge at the first-place prize of $100,000 and an instant entry in the 2014 Bassmaster Classic. The winner will also take the lead in the points race to become the 2013 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year.
Bassmaster.com will provide extensive coverage of the tournament each day. Access to Bassmaster.com is free, and there’s no admission charge for any Bassmaster event.
The event’s title sponsor is STARK Cultural Venues, www.starkculutralvenues.org. The local sponsor is Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce, www.orangetexaschamber.org.
2013 Bassmaster Elite Series Official Sponsors: Toyota, Bass Pro Shops, Berkley, Evan Williams Bourbon, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Yamaha
2013 Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: Carhartt, Livingston Lures, Lowrance, Luck “E” Strike, Power-Pole, Ramada, Shimano
2013 Bassmaster Elite Series Proud Partner: Mustang Survival
About B.A.S.S. For more than 45 years, B.A.S.S. has served as the authority on bass fishing. The organization advances the sport through advocacy, outreach and an expansive tournament structure while connecting directly with the passionate community of bass anglers through its Bassmaster media vehicles.
The Bassmaster brand and its multimedia platforms are guided by a mission to serve all fishing fans. Through its industry-leading publications — Bassmaster Magazine and B.A.S.S. Times — comprehensive website Bassmaster.com and ESPN2 and Outdoor Channel television programming, Bassmaster provides rich, leading-edge content true to the lifestyle.
The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open Series, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series, B.A.S.S. Nation events and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the Bassmaster Classic.
B.A.S.S. offers an array of services to its more than 500,000 members and remains focused on issues related to conservation and water access. The organization is headquartered in Birmingham, Ala.