Big limits expected at Sam Rayburn

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. Hot Patterns Sight-fishing with soft plastics and jigs Casting topwaters in the shallows Ripping lipless crankbaits in grass Dragging football jigs on offshore structure Deciding factors 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. Rayburn Ways 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. Bottom Line 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. Previous Results 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 *non-boater

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