January 23, 2014 by Kyle Wood
JASPER, Texas - The conditions on Sam Rayburn right now are great - the water levels are just a few feet shy of normal pool and the grass is plentiful, The only thing missing from this equation is a great bite. On a normally prolific fishery, anglers seem optimistic for the start of the 2014 Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division.
Clouds, wind and cool weather (nearly 20 degrees lower than the previous week) greeted the field at takeoff on legendary Sam Rayburn which generally leads to great fishing on this pond. However, the fish are in their winter patterns and it seems if the recent arctic blasts and fishing pressure are taking their toll on the lake.
"There are plenty of people complaining, huh?" laughed Kellogg's Rice Krispies Treats pro Jim Tutt who won a Central Division event here back in 2002. "It's going to be interesting that's for sure. Fishing has been really tough lately. I have been here since last Friday and I have had one good day of fishing. I just haven't found the fish bunched up. Typically you can find them in a little drain in the grass and they are loaded, but I haven't seen that."
A lot of the focus this week will be on the Rat-L-Trap bite in the grass around the 147 bridge area - one of the most well-known patterns on Rayburn.
"The lake actually fishes small for just how big it is," continued Tutt. "The really good grass gets hit pretty hard. But the great thing about trapping is that when you do get a bite this time of the year it's usually a good one. I think we will see at least one 10-pounder caught today.
"The grass is looking good and you can find it growing out to about 8 feet. The water has come up some and that has caused some of the grass to die off, but there is still plenty of good stuff. I love this lake, I love this time of the year and I love throwing a trap. I have five tied on and I'm not going to do anything different."
Along with lipless crankbaits, squarebills will also receive attention from the pros fishing shallow. Carolina rigs and football jigs will be standouts for the anglers who opt to fish deep.
"The deep fish out in 25 to 30 feet will play a role in this tournament," said Chevy pro Jay Yelas. "The guys that know their deep brush should do well and I think it could be won that way."
When you hear one of the best shallow anglers to ever grace the sport of bass fishing say something like that you take notice. Yelas used to call Rayburn home for several years earlier on in his career and knows what it takes to do well.
"I looked around deep a little during practice," Yelas went on to say. "I'd find some fish one day and they'd be gone the next because the bait would move. I just haven't been around the lake enough lately to really know what those fish do so I plan to fish my style and stay shallow.
"This is still my all-time favorite lake to fish. I haven't fished a tournament since October so this is more of an excuse to break in my new Z520C Ranger and Mercury and get warmed up for the FLW Tour in a few weeks. I guess you could say it is a fishing version of spring training.
"The fishing definitely isn't easy right now but I like the way it is. Winter time is feast or famine on this lake. I bet half the field will struggle today. Now, with that being said I still think that Rayburn will show off for us."
Neither angler wanted to throw out guesses on weights for the event but both did agree that the big bag could push 30 pounds. Depending on the weather it could take between 60 and 75 pounds to bring home the title.
Anglers will take off from the Umphrey Family Pavilion located at 5438 RR 255 W. in Brookeland, Texas, at 7:30 a.m. each day. Weigh-in will be held at the takeoff location on Thursday and Friday beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday's final weigh-in will be held at Walmart located at 800 W. Gibson St. in Jasper, Texas, beginning at 4 p.m. Takeoffs and weigh-ins are free and open to the public.
Pros will fish for a top award of $40,000 plus a Ranger Z518C with a 200-horsepower Evinrude or Mercury outboard if Ranger Cup guidelines are met. Co-anglers will cast for a top award consisting of a Ranger Z117 with 90-horsepower Evinrude or Mercury outboard and $5,000 if Ranger Cup guidelines are met.
The Rayovac FLW Series consists of five divisions - Central, Northern, Southeast, Texas and Western. Each division consists of three tournaments and competitors will be vying for valuable points in each division that could earn them the opportunity to fish in the Rayovac FLW Series Championship. The 2014 Rayovac FLW Series Championship is being held Oct. 30-Nov. 1 on Wheeler Lake in Rogersville, Ala.
The Rayovac FLW Series tournament on Sam Rayburn Reservoir is being hosted by the Jasper-Lake Sam Rayburn Chamber of Commerce.
For complete details and updated information visit FLWOutdoors.com. For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow the Rayovac Series on Facebook at Facebook.com/FLWFishing and on Twitter at Twitter.com/FLWFishing.
Sunrise: 7:12 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 42 degrees
Expected high temperature: 45 degrees
Water temperature: 46-54 degrees
Wind: NE 10 to 20
Day's outlook: Cloudy, cool and 50 percent chance of rain