March 25, 2014 by Kyle Wood
Sam Rayburn Reservoir marks the third of six regular-season stops on the Walmart FLW Tour. It’s the first time the FLW Tour has been back to Rayburn since the Open held in the fall 2012. With the season already a third of the way over, the race is beginning to tighten for the Angler of the Year presented by Kellogg's title along with earning valuable points to qualify for the Forrest Wood Cup presented by Walmart and hosted by Capital City Lake Murray Country Aug. 14-17. Rayburn is a massive fishery that sprawls nearly 115,000 acres of grass, stumps and offshore structure. Sight-fishing is predicted to play a vital role, however, both pre- and postspawn patterns shouldn’t be ruled out. With that in mind, below are five pros that bear monitoring as competition begins Thursday. Brett Hite – Thus far on the Walmart FLW Tour, Hite has already captured a win to start the season on Okeechobee and carried that energy to a sixth-place showing at Hartwell a few weeks ago. A lot has been said about Hite being a “momentum angler” and this year is a prime example. With a ChatterBait in hand, the Arizona pro also took the top prize in the B.A.S.S. Elite event on Lake Seminole the week after Hartwell. Not only is he fishing relaxed and confident, but he has been able to put his favorite bait to good use – the Z-Man Original ChatterBait. Though his experience on Rayburn is limited, the lake couldn’t suit him better. Loads of grass and ditches leading to spawning flats make the perfect recipe for him to capitalize on fish coming to and from the bank. Dustin Grice – Though his first year on Tour has been rough – currently 118th in points – Sam Rayburn is the event that Grice has been licking his chops for. He owns a 12th-place finish on Rayburn from a Rayovac FLW Series event last fall, but other than that he doesn’t have much history on the lake with FLW. But don’t let that fool you. Grice is spoken very highly of by some legendary Texas studs – Jim Tutt and Phil Marks to name a few – and this event will be the place to showcase what those guys see. Rumor has it that Grice is still keyed in on some secret areas that Rayburn still holds, which could very well play to his advantage. Grice is also a guy who excels in a “steady grind” type of event where catching a good fish here and there carries you through four days of competition. Jay Yelas – It will be a trip down memory lane this week as the Chevy pro returns to the lake that basically helped start his fishing career. Yelas moved from Oregon to Rayburn back in 1991 and called the shores of the impoundment home until 1996. I guess the move served him well because he has since captured two Angler of the Year titles (2002, 2007), a Bassmaster Classic trophy (2002) and the B.A.S.S. AOY title in 2003. It’s no secret that Yelas loves to flip and pitch the shallows and it seems like he will get to focus on that this week. Yelas admits that the lake has changed since he used to fish it, yet he still managed to land in 18th during the Rayovac FLW Series event on Rayburn this past January – only proving he still knows a thing or two about the lake. Randy Haynes – So it might not be a TVA impoundment in the summer, but Haynes could be one of the dark horses on Rayburn this week. He loves to fish away from the crowd, and with the majority of anglers flooding the bank, it leaves a lot of the lake untouched for the ledge master. A prime example of this was last year’s Tour event on Lake Chickamauga where the majority of the field was playing bumper boats on the ledges and Haynes – wanting nothing to do with that – went shallow. Rayburn offers a plentiful amount of offshore structure from ditches to brush piles, so Haynes should have no shortage of areas to find pre- and postspawn bass. Koby Kreiger – If things go as planned this week, much of the field will be focused on sight-fishing. If that is the case, then all eyes should be on Kreiger. He is one of the best in the game when it comes to working a fish on a bed. The other weapon he carries with him is his topwater prowess. This leads to a double-edge sword in terms of being able to tackle not only bedding fish but also the first fish that are guarding fry. Kreiger is by no means having a tough year, but this tournament will offer him the chance to get on a roll with a top-10 finish and be on his way to punching his seventh-straight Forrest Wood Cup ticket this August.