March 24, 2014
Stop No. 3 of the 2014 Walmart FLW Tour is at Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Lufkin, Texas, March 27-30. Late March is usually the end of the spawn at Rayburn, but early reports indicate that winter's lingering grip could have the spawn running a bit behind. Still, pros should be able to catch them with techniques ranging from dragging football jigs out deep to sight-fishing in the shallows to grass patterns in between.
Here are the fast facts on Rayburn.
Lake name: Sam Rayburn Reservoir
Tournament: Walmart FLW Tour
Presenting sponsor: Chevy
Date: March 27-30, 2014
Tournament host town: Lufkin, Texas
Tournament site marina/park: Cassels-Boykin County Park
Lake type: lowland reservoir
Lake size: 114,500 acres
Shoreline: 560 miles
Major tributaries: Angelina River
Water visibility: 2 to 3 feet
Water level prediction for event: a few feet below summer pool
Estimated water temperature for event: low to mid-60s
Primary species: largemouth bass
Minimum length requirement: 14 inches
Seasonal pattern timing: spawn
Primary bass cover: grass, stumps, humps
Here's what to expect.
Sight-fishing with soft plastics and jigs
Casting topwaters in the shallows
Ripping lipless crankbaits in grass
Dragging football jigs on offshore structure
Air and water temps - Bass spawn when they're ready to spawn, but short-term weather trends that affect the air and water temperatures could impact whether pros arrive at the heart of the spawn or at the tail end of the action. Currently, the water temperature is a few degrees behind normal, and Kellogg's pro Jim Tutt says that if the lake trends like other local fisheries he's sampled recently, the Tour could arrive right in the middle of the spawn.
Bank vegetation that grew up while the lake was low, along with slightly off-colored water - depending on the part of the lake - could make sight-fishing slightly more difficult than at a place with clear water like Beaver Lake.
Rain - Spring rains can also drastically change the water level, says Tutt. He's seen the lake vary from more than 10 feet high to 5 feet low in early spring. Currently, he reports that it's about 3 feet below normal pool, which should be just fine for catching fish. The long-term forecast doesn't currently indicate any major precipitation.
Wind - The other potential weather-related hurdle is the wind. If a cold front moves through, it'll bring winds from the north, which blow straight down this north-south situated reservoir. That means the prospect of long, rough boat rides could dissuade some anglers from running too far. Fortunately, the tournament is launching up north, near some of the lake's best areas, so being forced to stay close might not be a bad thing.
Tutt expects sight-fishing to be popular, but doesn't rule out topwater baits in the shallows and lipless crankbaits fished in the grass. Really, a pro can do just about anything he wants, Tutt figures, including targeting offshore structure with football jigs. The key is figuring out how to catch around 20 pounds per day, which should contend for the win.
Right now, according to Tutt, Rayburn is stable and warm, and the fish are biting. A recent local tournament victor had 21 pounds and it took 19 pounds to place second. If the spring-like weather continues, the best anglers who fish the Tour could average that much over four days.
Since 2009, FLW has hosted 25 tournaments at Sam Rayburn Reservoir (as of March 7, 2014). To get an idea of what the lake is capable of and what pros will have to catch for a high finish, we broke out some stats from those events.
Average Daily Weight Caught by Winner: 18 pounds, 1 ounce
Average Daily Weight Caught by Winner in Events Held in March: 18 pounds, 15 ounces
Average Daily Weight Caught by 10th-Place Finisher: 12 pounds
Average Daily Weight Caught by 10th-Place Finisher in Events Held in March: 12 pounds, 13 ounces
The 10 Heaviest Five-Bass Limits Weighed in at Sam Rayburn in FLW History (pros and co-anglers)
Weight Date Event Angler
36-5, Feb. 2, 2013 BFL Cowboy Division Dicky Newberry
32-12, Oct. 11, 2012 Walmart FLW Tour Open Phil Marks
29-6, March 1, 2014 BFL Cowboy Division Todd Castledine
28-13, Feb. 5, 2000 BFL Cowboy Division Jeff Buchanan
28-3, Oct. 13, 2007 Texas Tournament Trail David Curtis
27-13, Feb. 10, 2011 Rayovac FLW Series Bert Thompson
27-2, Feb. 23, 2005 Rayovac FLW Series William Davis
26-9, March 19, 2009 Rayovac FLW Series Randy Hicks*
26-7, Jan. 27, 2007 BFL Cowboy Division Andy Gaia
26-6, March 1, 2014 BFL Cowboy Division Eric Hunt