In the corner of his eye, Lake Charles’ Ken Chaumont spied what he was looking for.
On a weedy point on the Louisiana side of the Sabine River across from Orange, Texas, balls of “rain shad” as he called them were erupting out of the water.
“Oh, we are gonna get into them now,” said the 59-year-old angler and veteran lure designer with Egret Baits.
Picking up his rod, he quickly cast a pearly-white, 3 ¼-inch plastic VuDu shrimp within the boiling fray on the eddy side of the point. He worked the shrimp as a swim-bait moving it slowly without a popping cork when suddenly he felt the tap and set the hook.
“It’s a small bass, and there should be plenty more here,” he said.
Sure enough and cast after cast, four 10- to 12-inch fish were taken on that point.
“Lots of numbers,” said the angler. “We have some tidal movement, and as you can see the baitfish are here.”
The bite slowed after the fourth fish, so Chaumont then backed his boat off the point. Picking up another rod, he re-maneuvered back up the current flow while tying on a small, ¼-ounce white-skirted spinnerbait adorned with a small Colorado, thumper blade – a lure he named as the Stanley Speed Bump spinnerbait.
This bait too he cast into the tidal movement, and once again the line started running.
He pulled the fish in, a tad larger specimen at 15 inches.
“Now then, this is exactly what I call the standard length of the bass you catch here in the fall,” said Chaumont. “But you’ll catch one keeper (14 inches and over) out of every four- to five-bass taken. The rest of them will be under the limit.”
“My largest taken in this system was a six- pounder some years ago,” he said. “But I can tell you that’s an extremely rare bass weight on the Sabine.”
Chaumont is no stranger to the Sabine River as he has fished the area for some 43 years with friends and family. He also enjoyed the nearby Calcasieu River for 52 years as its banks were home to his family’s camp in Indian Village.
“The Calcasieu may offer better bass quality and size,” said Chaumont. “But the Sabine in comparison has a much greater bass population.”
Sabine River located on the Louisiana/Texas border was placed in the national spotlight during the first Bassmaster Elite tournament of 2013, the Sabine River Challenge conducted in March. Todd Faircloth of Jasper, Tx. won the event with 49.6- pounds of bass taken near Texas’ Taylor Bayou – reachable waters from the launch site in Orange.
Many of the elite professional bass anglers found the Sabine River itself very tough in March – with loads of small, non-keeper bass reported.
The fact of the matter however is prior to this event, the Sabine River was also an unknown to the vast majority of Louisiana bass anglers – save those in the northwestern, western and southwestern parishes who fished this river basin regularly.
As for the Sabine River estuary itself, it divides Louisiana and Texas for approximately 275 miles, including Toledo Bend Reservoir, before emptying into Sabine Lake and ultimately into the Gulf of Mexico.
The southern sweetwaters south of I-10
On the southern end just north of the City of Orange’s public boat landing, Chaumont motored to points, drains, marsh cuts, old bridge remnants and abandoned dock pilings.
In these areas, he caught small bass and a few keepers above 14- inches on white Stanley Speed Bump spinnerbaits and pearly white (ghost) VuDu shrimp.
“You want to work current,” he said. “So if the river is dead, and there is no current whatsoever – you’re looking at tough fishing. This southern part is tide-driven off the Sabine Lake and the Gulf of Mexico.
“You have two major influences here – the water coming down the river from the north, and your tides moving in and out on the south end,” he explained. “So you have to try and coordinate a little bit.
“I like to fish a falling tide, and you’ll see the cuts bleed around the points and the eddies forming around the old pilings and abandoned dock structures. So if you pull up to a piling or to a stump during a flow, you’ll find bass concentrated in numbers on the down side of the eddy created by the resistance of the structure. These fish will hold and wait for bait to swim by and then charge out and hit the lures.”
According to the angler, shrimp on the southern end are prime bass prey in addition to schools of shad
“Watch for your balls of shad, as they’ll look like little balls of bait swimming,” he described. “You’ll see them explode on top and the ball break apart to the surface. A spinnerbait with a silver blade on it and a shad-colored crankbait will work well by casting them in there and ripping it to those shrimp and shad balls.
“You don’t want to just plow your baits through it. You want the lure to run up into the shad and then let the bait fall through the ball. Slowly pick it up and bass will charge it and hit it.”
Chaumont also picked up a couple of small redfish, but he did see larger redfish in the system on the day of the trip.
Chaumont uses a spinnerbait technique he termed as the “Wake and Break” to mimic the erupting balls of shad on the waters.
“You want to take that white Stanley Speed Bump spinnerbait and wake it to the surface near and within the shad ball and then let it fall and immediately wake it again,” he explained. “When doing this the blade pops out the water and imitates shad breaking on top.
“On the south end, you can actually catch a mixed bag of fish in the sweetwaters here to include bass, redfish, trout and flounder in just one trip especially when using VuDu shrimp, the new VuDu Mullet and small spinnerbaits,” he said. “This can be expected to occur in August, September, October and early November. The keys are little to no rainfall, tidal movement and the presence of baitfish balls and shrimp popping out the water.”
On the Louisiana side, there is a landing accessible to the southern sweetwaters of the Sabine River although it can be congested especially on weekends. It is termed the Old Hwy. 90 Burnout Bridge launch and ventures into a tributary of the Sabine River located on the western end of the old Hwy. 90 near Vinton. The launch however is better suited towards small craft, aluminum boats, canoes and kayaks.
Other than the Burnout Bridge Launch, the available launch for both small and large craft alike close to areas south of I-10 is the City of Orange Boat Ramp, a free public landing located at 1000 Simmons Dr. & Harry Reed Rd. in Orange, Texas.