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Slugfest on Tap at Rayburn

Slugfest on Tap at Rayburn

Day one of the 2017 Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division opener on Sam Rayburn presented by YETI kicked off this morning out of the Umphrey Family Pavilion in Brookeland, Texas. The event, which is hosted by the Jasper-Lake Sam Rayburn Area Chamber of Commerce and Jasper County Development District, pits 207 pros and co-anglers against each other in a three-day showdown. Anglers will face warm, sunny conditions today as they vie for the tournaments five-figure top prize.

Rayburn's water level a key factor

 

About the fishery

This Angelina River impoundment is largely regarded as one of the Lone Star State’s top big-bass factories. With a pair of major arms – Ayish Bayou and Mill Creek – at the southeast end, the lake reaches roughly northwest to a split between the Angelina and Attoyac rivers. Throughout its 114,500 acres, Rayburn boasts abundant shallow habitat: hackberry and willow trees, cypress trees, scattered buck brush, and submergent grass.

 

Current conditions

Anglers will have plenty of sunshine, which should aid with sight-fishing where bass have moved up. Rayburn’s water level is currently a couple feet below normal level, which has taken away a lot of the shoreline cover that some might target, but an explosion of grass growth offers additional habitat that will also serve to maintain favorable water clarity.

Each day should see light winds, which will allow anglers to run the lake with ease. That’s important because this vast water body will offer legitimate potential from within eyesight of the takeoff site on the lower end to The Canyons area north of the Highway 147 Bridge.

Texas legend Tommy Martin says the fishing should benefit greatly from the balmy weather this week.

“This is the warmest winter I can ever remember as long as I’ve lived in Texas. It’ll be 80 degrees today,” he says. “Normally, we wouldn’t see spawning fish here until mid-March, but here it is late February and we already have spawning fish. We already have fish on the beds and around the beds. I expect that the sight-fishermen that can do this all day will have some really good bags today.”

 

Tactics in play

Given the lower water level, don’t look for much of the heavy-cover pitching that dominated last year’s event. Rather, Martin expects more open-water presentations.

“Last year, it was a lot of flipping creature baits and jigs, but I think you’ll see a lot of floating worms, Senkos and Baby Brush Hogs with really light sinkers,” he says. “There’s still a lot of fish on the main lake that haven’t moved up yet, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see someone catch a big bag in 20 feet of water.”

Martin also expects topwater walking baits and buzzbaits to play a prominent role. Texas pro David Mansue agrees and notes that the usual prespawn efforts – from lipless baits and square-bill crankbaits to Carolina rigs – will still be in play this week.

“You can catch them a lot of different ways right now. It’s just getting that quality bite that makes a difference,” Mansue adds.

 

Critical factors

It’s likely that the local sight-fishing studs could find a few gold nuggets, but there should still be a strong prespawn game. In fact, Mansue says he’s looking for the latter to be strongest. He won’t pass up an opportunity to engage a big fish on bed, of course, but he’s not confident that there will be enough of this to formulate a solid game plan.

“We fully expected to see more fish up on the beds, but I’m just not seeing it yet,” he says. “I think the majority of fish are somewhere between that 6- to 12-foot range. Wednesday was a very warm day, and today’s going to be a bright, sunny day, so I think what you’re going to see is people making constant adjustments.

“It’s going to be a constant adjustment because the fish are going to be moving farther and farther to the bank. I think the guy that wins is going to be keyed in on exactly where those fish move every day.”

 

Dock talk

Exactly how this event shakes out will be defined by how the fish respond to the week’s warming trend. Regardless of what tactics take precedence, this is still Sam Rayburn, so anglers are looking for big weights.

Saturday’s forecast indicates a considerable cooling. Friday’s overnight temperatures could drop by 8 to 10 degrees, which could greatly affect the outcome on the final day.

Most agree that reaching Saturday’s top 10 will take two limits from the high teens to 20-plus pounds. This lake is fairly generous with quality fish, but the guys who find those kickers of 7 to 10 pounds will fair best.

 

Tournament details

Location: Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Brookeland, Texas

Date: Feb. 23-25, 2017

Host: Jasper-Lake Sam Rayburn Area Chamber of Commerce and Jasper County Development District

Presenting sponsor: YETI

Format: Costa FLW Series tournaments are three-day events. The entire field of pros and co-anglers fishes on days one and two. The top 10 pros and top 10 co-anglers based on cumulative weight after two days make the cut to fish on day three. The winner in each category is the angler with the heaviest three-day cumulative weight.

Takeoff: 7 a.m. CT at Umphrey Family Pavilion, 5438 RR 255, Brookeland, TX

Weigh-in: 3 p.m. CT at Umphrey Family Pavilion

 

Tags: sam-rayburn  david-a-brown  morning-story  2017-02-23-sam-rayburn-reservoir 

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