After placing 12th on Day 1 with 9-15, Mosley added a second-round limit of 11-7 on Friday. He heads into Semifinal Saturday with a half-pound lead over Kyle Welcher of Opelika, Ala., and a 3/4-pound margin over Keith Poche of Cecil, Ala.
“This place fishes a lot like how I do back home,” Mosley said. “You just put your head down and grind it out and know that you’re only going to get a handful of bites and you’re going to have to capitalize on them.”
Mosley, who finished second the last time the Elites fished the Sabine (2021), spent the first three days of that event fishing 110 miles west in the Houston area. This time, he traded that long-range game plan for a more local strategy that began on the main river within a couple miles of takeoff.
“Every year, I’ve caught them a different way,” Mosley said. “This morning I got off to a good start and then I made a long run up Taylor Bayou, but I had boat problems and had to come back in. The service crews did a good job getting me back on the water and I ended up making that long run (back up Taylor) and got some bites.
“I was kind of questioning if I had enough fuel to make the run again, so I took my time, eased over there and conserved my fuel. I got over there and realized that I still had enough fuel to make it back.”
Mosley began his day with a mix of topwater and flipping baits. Prior to his mechanical issue, he had about 10 pounds in his livewell.
“I had 8 pounds pretty quickly and then I slowly culled up,” he said. “I caught one that I lost in practice by trying to boat flip it. The fish was on a piece of structure I fished today. It looked like about the same quality.
“I have a whole other deal going in Taylor that’s different from in the Sabine. Over here, I just want to get a limit and get my day started. They just seemed to be a little better quality.”
Noting a key difference in his first two days, Mosley said Day 1 saw him lose a couple of nice bass early. Fishing clean on Day 2 propelled him to the top of the leaderboard.
Summarizing his improvement, Mosley said: “Everything just went right today, other than the boat problem.”
Welcher placed 17th on Day 1 with a limit that weighed 9-6. Adding 11-8 and climbing 15 spots to second with 20-14 was a matter of capitalizing on the right opportunities.
“Yesterday, I got two quality bites — two 2 1/2-pounders — and today I got two quality bites, but one of them just happened to be a 4-pounder,” Welcher said. “That’s the difference maker. A lot of us are catching a bunch of 1- to 1 1/4-pound fish. The person that catches two fish over 2 pounds a day stays up (high) on the leaderboard.”
Welcher said he’s catching his bass on a mix of flipping and reaction baits. He found the latter produced his best results.
“Yesterday, both of my biggest bites were on reaction baits,” he said. “Today, my 4-pounder was on a reaction bait. I caught my 3-pounder today flipping.”
Welcher said he figured out that proximity was his ally. In his mind, it is all about physics.
“I actually get really close to the bank because when you’re fishing really shallow cover and you know the fish are up there tight to the cover, I don’t want my bait to make a big splash when it hits the water,” Welcher said. “I don’t feel like fish are boat shy. I feel like they’re trolling motor shy. So, when I’m up there around those trees and grass, I want a really natural presentation.”
Poche caught a seventh-place limit of 11-2 on Day 1 and moved into third with a second-round bag that went 9-8. His two-day total was 20-10.
Employing his signature strategy of seeking secluded backwaters, Poche drove his 18-foot Gatortrax aluminum boat through a narrow passage off the Neches River, which led to an inner sanctum with 20-foot depths.
The deep water had produced good bites in practice. But today, Poche could only find quality fish on the shallow flow-through. After boating a few keepers in his backwater area, Poche moved to Cow Bayou and finished his bag.
“I like this place. It sets up well for me because I’m a shallow-water guy,” Poche said. “The tides were terrible today, so I’m so fortunate to have those fish I had. I had two good bites, but I had to run all over the place to get my limit today.”
Poche caught his fish flipping a Texas-rigged 3-inch Berkley Pit Boss.
Day 1 leader Chad Pipkens of DeWitt, Mich., is in the lead for the $2,000 Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Tournament award with a 5-12. David Williams of Newton, N.C., earned the daily $1,000 Big Bass award for a 5-8.
Pipkens is currently in the lead for the VMC Monster Bag award with his opening-round limit of 14-7.
By placing second, Welcher took the lead in the Progressive Insurance Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings with 516 points. John Cox of DeBary, Fla., is in second with 507, while Brandon Cobb of Greenwood, S.C. — the AOY leader coming into the event — fell to third place with 499. Tyler Rivet of Raceland, La., is fourth with 467, and Will Davis, Jr. of Sylacauga, Ala., is fifth with 457.
Davis, Jr. also leads the Dakota Lithium Bassmaster Rookie of the Year standings with 457 points.
The Top 50 remaining anglers will take off Saturday at 6 a.m. CT from the City of Orange Boat Ramp. The weigh-in will be held at the ramp at 3 p.m., with only the Top 10 advancing to Championship Sunday with a chance to win the $100,000 first-place prize.
FS1 will broadcast live with the leaders beginning at 6 a.m. CT with continuing coverage on Bassmaster.com.