UPCOMING EVENT: Costa FLW Series - 2019 - Potomac River

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Let the Rayburn Catchfest Begin

Let the Rayburn Catchfest Begin

If you followed the coverage of the FLW Tour event on Sam Rayburn Reservoir back in January, you know that heavy rains produced high-water conditions that opened up plenty of new territory for pros to flip and pitch.

We’re five months later into the year now, and while the water level at Rayburn has fluctuated in the months since the Tour event, it’s still about 4 1/2 feet above full pool as anglers take to Big Sam for the Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division event presented by Mercury.

The extra water has really changed the game from what would be a typical June tournament at Rayburn. Bass are piled into the bushes and hay grass, and they’re easy to catch. The offshore bite that usually dominates this time of year will still certainly be a factor, but it’s not likely to dominate the standings like it should.

Overall, fishing is fantastic at Rayburn right now. The weather is perfect for a bass derby, too.

It should be a downright wonderful week in east Texas.

 

About the fishery

At more than 114,000 surface acres, Sam Rayburn is the largest reservoir wholly within the state of Texas. And it’s as legendary as it is big. Rayburn is perennially one of the best bass fisheries in the country, as well as one of the all-time great tournament destinations.

The Angelina River feeds Rayburn’s bass-rich waters, which encompass plenty of fishable habitat, such as hydrilla, brush piles, flooded shoreline bushes, ditches and drains, hay grass, and lake-bottom offshore structure.

It’s an easy 20-plus-pound lake where limits that weigh in the upper 20s are common, and 8- to 10-pound bass frequently make it to weigh-ins.

 

Current conditions

Full pool at Rayburn is 164 feet. When the Tour event on Big Sam wrapped up on Jan. 13, the water level was 174.28 feet. It crested several inches higher a couple weeks later.

By mid-April, the water had bottomed out at about 165, only to shoot back up to about 170 by the middle of May.

Currently, the lake level is in the midst of a gradual fall. Since June 1, the water has come down about 2 feet to its current level of 168.84.

According to Texan James Biggs, the water level is the biggest factor in this tournament, and it’ll have a major influence on everything from navigating the lake to probable fishing patterns.

“As a whole, I think you’re going to see tons of five-fish limits caught,” Biggs says. “It’s very easy to run down the lake and flip bushes and catch fish. The water’s starting to pull out, and that’s going to make the fish a lot more accessible. It’s possible that, from practice to the end of the tournament, they’re going to be easier to catch as new fish follow the water out to where people can get to them.”

Last fall, Biggs says there were mats of hydrilla on Rayburn. Though he hasn’t scoured every stretch of the reservoir, Biggs hasn’t found much grass this year. He says the bass also aren’t set up offshore on brush piles and other areas like in a typical June.

Granted, this year has been anything but typical in the Lone Star State.

“Nothing is fishing normal because the water’s just been so high,” Biggs says. “I think because the water has been so high so long, the fish have gotten comfortable up shallow. I fully expect to be fishing offshore when we come to Rayburn [in June]. You still can, but it’s not what I expected.”

The tactics we’re likely to see from the majority of the field this week won’t surprise many people. Up shallow, pros will flip and pitch all types of flooded cover, swim a jig or buzz frog around hay grass, work hollow frogs in flooded willows, and possibly sling a spinnerbait around if there’s a little breeze. Out deep, pros will probably crank, wind a swimbait, or fish Texas and Carolina rigs.

The ratio of offshore to shallow anglers in the top 10 is tougher to predict. Biggs figures two-thirds of the top 10 will fish shallow.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of people who get their heart broken offshore,” he says.

Results from last weekend’s T-H Marine FLW Bass Fishing League Cowboy Division event on Rayburn back up Biggs’ prediction. Louisiana’s Rylon Ganey flipped and pitched bushes and hay grass to catch a winning stringer worth 20 pounds, 11 ounces.

In addition to the water level, weather conditions look ideal for the week, with daily highs around 90 degrees, no precipitation and mild winds that should make getting around on the lake very easy.

 

Critical factors

  • Falling water – Biggs says there are inaccessible areas on Rayburn where the water reaches 50 feet or so behind the tree line. As the water falls, bass tucked way up in those areas should start to retreat back toward deeper water, putting them in position for anglers to flip them out of shallow cover.
  • Inconsistent offshore – There are enough giants out deep on Rayburn for this tournament to be won by someone fishing strictly offshore. Biggs is skeptical of that approach, though. He says the offshore bite seems inconsistent because the water is dingy and there is so much cover up shallow that bass are sticking to the flooded areas. There simply aren’t as many fish out deep as is normal for June. Still, if a pro can find a sizable school out deep or an offshore pattern, they could score quickly while everyone else gets lost in the woods. Or, what’s more likely is a deep/shallow combo game plan resulting in a win.
  • Tough-to-find shallow giants – Catching a low “teens” bag on Rayburn is practically easy right now, especially for the caliber of anglers fishing this event. Getting into the upper teens or over 20 pounds is more difficult because the biggest bass are so spread out. Catching a couple of 5-pound-class fish each day will be the difference maker.

 

Dock talk

Ganey’s 20-11 winning limit in the BFL is a little light for Rayburn in early June. It took 16 pounds to make the top 10 in that tournament, and 13-10 to make a check, both of which are also a little low for the locals who fish this lake.

Biggs figures weights will improve as the water falls.

“I’d predict 60 to 65 pounds to win,” he says, “and probably a two-day total of 27 to cut a check. So about 14 pounds a day to get paid, and I think one guy will probably have 64, so about 21 a day. That guy may have 28 and turn around and have 12. That’s the thing; if he’s offshore fishing that very likely could happen.

“In my mind, everything tells me you win deep on Rayburn. It’s hard to win flipping because it’s hard to find those good bites. But I really believe two-thirds of the guys who cut checks will be shallow. I think the winner will be fishing deep some.”

A winning stringer could come from just about anywhere on the reservoir right now, though the traditional best stretches – about five miles each side of Cassels-Boykin Park in the mid-lake area – will probably draw most of the attention.

Where and how this tournament gets won will be settled on Saturday. In the meantime, this should be one of the more exciting tournaments to follow this year, as Big Sam is being generous with its bass, and the Southwestern Division’s best pros are ready to get after them.

 

Tournament details

Format: All boaters and co-anglers will compete for two days. The top 10 boaters and co-anglers based on cumulative weight after two days of competition will advance to the third and final round, with the winner determined by the heaviest cumulative three-day weight.

Takeoff Time: 6 a.m. CT

Takeoff Location: Umphrey Family Pavilion, 5438 RR 255, Brookeland, Texas

Weigh-In Time: 2 p.m. CT

Weigh-In Location: Umphrey Family Pavilion

Complete details

Tags: curtis-niedermier  morning-story  2019-06-13-lake-sam-rayburn 

Cup Top 10: Osborne Fished Finesse

Cup Top 10: Osborne Fished Finesse

Osborne spent the early visit graphing for brush in Hamilton’s lower end. In practice, it was more of the same, as Osborne spent only a couple of hours beating the bank. READ MORE »

Cup Top 10: Douglas Fished Brush and a Buzzbait

Cup Top 10: Douglas Fished Brush and a Buzzbait

Minnesota pro Josh Douglas is regarded as an electronics expert. But while he put his Lowrance units to the test at the FLW Cup on Lake Hamilton to find offshore brush piles, even Douglas couldn’t resist spending some time in the mornings hunting shallow bass. READ MORE »

Cup Top 10: Salzman Went Shallow to Deep

Cup Top 10: Salzman Went Shallow to Deep

Ryan Salzman earned an eighth-place finish at the FLW Cup at Lake Hamilton with a well-executed two-part strategy. READ MORE »

Cup Top 10: Webster Wormed Brush

Cup Top 10: Webster Wormed Brush

Among the FLW Cup pros that committed the entire tournament to one pattern was Joseph Webster, who weighed in a three-day total of 28 pounds, 2 ounces at Lake Hamilton. He finished seventh. READ MORE »

Cup Top 10: Felix Keyed on Clear Water

Cup Top 10: Felix Keyed on Clear Water

Eden Prairie, Minn., pro Austin Felix finished sixth in this year’s FLW Cup at Lake Hamilton, but he’s convinced that if the engineers operating Blakely Mountain Dam had released water on a more consistent schedule, the results might have been even better for him. Felix spent most of the tournament keying on the clear waters of Hamilton’s upper end. READ MORE »

Cup Top 10: Martin went up the River

Cup Top 10: Martin went up the River

Prior to practice, Scott Martin had no idea that the far upper end of Lake Hamilton, where the cold waters from the bottom of Lake Ouachita flow in through Blakely Mountain Dam, was such a drastically different mini-fishery within the reservoir. Then he started scouting it in practice and realized there was potential to win the tournament in the tailrace in areas where the water temperature was below 60 degrees. READ MORE »

Cup Top 10: Lawyer Mixes it Up for Fourth

Cup Top 10: Lawyer Mixes it Up for Fourth

Fourth-place pro Jeremy Lawyer was the highest finisher to utilize the shallow-early, brush-later strategy. Lawyer stacked together limits of 12 pounds, 1 ounce and 12-5 on the first two days to go into the final day in fourth place. He weighed in just 7 pounds on Sunday. READ MORE »

Cup Top 10: Ebare Fished the Tailrace

Cup Top 10: Ebare Fished the Tailrace

Most of the time, fishing Southern impoundments in August is all about slowly dragging worms through brush piles. That’s what Dakota Ebare planned to do at the FLW Cup on Lake Hamilton. How he wound up catching enough fish to finish in third place felt more like Southern stream fishing. Ebare spent three days fishing the tailrace below Blakely Mountain Dam where the cold, clear waters drained through from the bottom of Lake Ouachita. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from the Cup at Hamilton

Top 10 Baits from the Cup at Hamilton

While there weren’t too many patterns in play at the 2019 FLW Cup at Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs, Ark., the nature of an August tournament in the South forced most of the top finishers to mix in a bunch of baits to catch their fish. Here’s what the top 10 used to catch schoolers and ply brush, docks and various types of shallow grass. READ MORE »

Cup Top 10: Walters Committed to Brush

Cup Top 10: Walters Committed to Brush

Coming into the FLW Cup at Lake Hamilton, Florida pro Kyle Walters figured the only chance he had to win was to stay away from the bank, where competing with the best in the sport was a tall order, and commit to finding as many brush piles as he could. READ MORE »

Thrift Finally Wins the Cup

Thrift Finally Wins the Cup

Everyone knew it was only a matter of time, and that time is finally now. Bryan Thrift is an FLW Cup champion. READ MORE »

Thrift on the Brink of First Cup

Thrift on the Brink of First Cup

For the second day in a row, Shelby, N.C., pro Bryan Thrift will go to bed with the lead in the 2019 FLW Cup at Lake Hamilton. Today, Thrift weighed in 12 pounds, 7 ounces for a two-day total of 27-10. He leads Florida pro Kyle Walters by 1 1/2 pounds. READ MORE »

Thrift, LeBrun Ounces Apart

Thrift, LeBrun Ounces Apart

The first day of the FLW Cup on Lake Hamilton offered better fishing than many expected, with plenty of limits crossing the stage and a bunch of quality fish caught by pros throughout the field. In the lead, as he so often seems to be, Bryan Thrift weighed 15 pounds, 13 ounces to start things off. Just behind him, Nick LeBrun of Bossier City, La., weighed an even 15 pounds and is hot on his heels heading into the weekend. READ MORE »

Hard Lessons and the FLW Cup

Hard Lessons and the FLW Cup

Two terrible tournaments to end the season cost Miles Burghoff his shot at the Polaris Rookie of the Year title. This week at the FLW Cup on Lake Hamilton, he's hoping to apply the lessons learned at the end of the season to his preparation for the championship event. READ MORE »

Riding Around Practice on Day 2

Riding Around Practice on Day 2

In a Ranger Z520L with a 250-hp Evinrude G2, it takes about 15 minutes to run from Carpenter Dam, which impounds Lake Hamilton, to the Blakely Mountain Dam that separates Hamilton from Lake Ouachita. If you stop and chat with 11 pros along the way, however, you’ll need most of the morning, but you’ll also wind up with a pretty sound idea of what’s going on at Hamilton for this week’s FLW Cup. READ MORE »

The First Morning with B. Lat

The First Morning with B. Lat

You won’t hear Brian Latimer complain about hot weather and tough fishing in Arkansas during this week’s FLW Cup at Lake Hamilton. For B. Lat, sweating it out on the water is vastly better than working in the heat installing landscaping and mowing lawns for a living, which is what he was doing just a few years ago. A lot’s changed since those days. Now, Latimer is an FLW Tour champion, with a growing fishing media company and his first shot at a Cup title. READ MORE »

McCaghren Lives Out Childhood Baseball Dream

McCaghren Lives Out Childhood Baseball Dream

FLW Tour pro Billy McCaghren, who’ll be competing in the FLW Cup this week at Lake Hamilton, says his childhood dream was not to be a pro bass angler. He wanted to play professional baseball. Well, this week, the Mayflower, Ark., angler gets to dabble in both professions. The 2019 FLW Cup qualifier will compete on Lake Hamilton in front of what is practically a hometown crowd, and last night he was honored for his fishing accomplishments by the Arkansas Travelers baseball team, which invited McCaghren to throw out the first pitch in a game against the Springfield Cardinals. READ MORE »

How Brad Knight Plans to Win the Cup

How Brad Knight Plans to Win the Cup

Brad Knight’s life changed forever in Hot Springs. In 2015, the Tennessee pro won the FLW Cup on Lake Ouachita, earning $500,000 and thrusting himself into the pro bass fishing spotlight. Now that he knows just what a Cup win can do for a tournament angler’s career, Knight is even more motivated to win the title again, which he’ll have a chance to do Aug. 9-11 on Lake Hamilton, right back in Hot Springs, Ark.  READ MORE »

The Boltons Win FLW Charity Derby

The Boltons Win FLW Charity Derby

In a couple weeks, Terry Bolton will be competing in the 2019 FLW Cup at Lake Hamilton with $300,000 on the line. This weekend, however, Terry and his wife, Dacy, are celebrating getting the win in the 2019 FLW Foundation Benefit Tournament on Kentucky Lake. READ MORE »

Training Future Pros at Summer Camp 

Training Future Pros at Summer Camp 

There were more than a dozen FLW pros in attendance for the first round of lakeside seminars at the Costa FLW High School Fishing Campthis morning. But within the crowd, chances are high that there are at least a couple dozen more future pros among the 230 high schoolers who traveled to Kentucky Lake to attend the camp.  It’s clear from the level of knowledge and experience the campers have exhibited during the seminars that these are some of the more accomplished high school anglers in the country. Their dedication is obvious, too. Campers came from as far away as Nevada, California, Vermont and even Montreal.  READ MORE »