As we just finished up the second stop of the FLW Tour on Lake Toho in Florida, I wanted to shed some light on my 38th place finish in Texas at Lake Sam Rayburn bass fishing and how I was able to find success over a thousand miles away from home.
Throughout my years of competitive fishing, I’ve had the opportunity to travel and fish new lakes across the country which can be one of the most exciting, but challenging things about this sport – especially when you’re going up against guys like Terry Bolton and Bryan Thrift (as well as many other FLW Tour pros) who have plenty of experience on some of these lakes. Our first stop for 2019, Sam Rayburn, is a legendary fishery and somewhere that I had no experience on going into the event.
Sam Rayburn Bass Fishing – Research and Pre-Practice
One of my biggest keys to success in this event was my tournament pre-practice and research. Before I went to the lake for pre-practice, I did as much online research as possible to find productive areas and sections of the lake. This gave me a basic starting point to look at when I showed up to Rayburn and is something I do when approaching most new bodies of water.
One of the key areas I found is called the Black Forest.
This area is known, especially in the spring, for putting out big limits of bass and being a productive area of the lake. Knowing this, I was able to go into my pre-practice time with a limited section of the lake to dissect and find fish.
During the pre-practice period, I really focused on learning how to run around Sam Rayburn. Rayburn is notorious for being dangerous, especially in the Black Forest area, if you don’t know where you’re going and at normal pool, this would have been key to know when running these areas during the event. Also during my practice, I was looking for areas that could be productive during the tournament.
Knowing that I’d have 13 days off-limits after this practice, I had to keep a somewhat open mind and anticipate what fish would be doing about 2 weeks now, so I focused on finding early pre-spawn areas where fish would position and stage up outside of spawning flats.
My key area that I fished during the event was found during my pre-practice.
Sam Rayburn Bass Fishing – My Key Spot
Going into the tournament itself, I had the one spot from the Black Forest area that I found during my pre-practice. The spot I fished ended up being a very small area – a one-cast sort of deal – where the hydrilla grew up slightly higher than the grass around it.
It was a very specific cast that you had to make on that spot – if you missed 10 feet to the left or right of the hydrilla clump, you wouldn’t get the fish to bite. Every fish was sitting on the edge of this hydrilla patch waiting to ambush the bait swimming through and around the grass.
Sam Rayburn Bass Fishing – Key Baits
I relied on two baits throughout the tournament – a ¾-ounce Z-Man Jack Hammer chatterbait and an Evergreen ZE lipless crankbait, also ¾-ounce. It was important to have that heavier weight during the event because my Sam Rayburn water levels were 9 feet high.
The area that I found in practice in about 6 feet of water was now 15 feet deep, so to stay in contact with the grass, I had to use heavier baits to keep the bait lower in the water column. As you can tell from my lure selection, all of my bites were reaction bites – coming as I popped the baits free from the grass.
The key to both of these lures, regardless of the depth you’re fishing, is deflection or varying the retrieve – I’d get the bait hung briefly in the grass and then snap it free; most of my bites coming right as the bait popped free.
Sam Rayburn Bass Fishing – My Rod and Reel Setup
My overall setup (rod, reel, and line) was important for these techniques. I chose to use a Favorite Emperor Rod, 7’6” Medium Heavy Model because it handled the heavier lipless crankbait and chatterbait easily, allowing me to make really long casts, but the rod still had enough backbone to pull the fish out of the grass if they buried themselves in it after being hooked.
I paired this up with a 6.8:1 reel and 15-pound test fluorocarbon line. The 6.8:1 reel is what I prefer for reaction baits because it helps me slow down a bit when winding the bait and I chose the 15-pound test because the smaller diameter helped me keep the bait deeper.
A rule of thumb when choosing line size – lighter line, or smaller diameter line, will help you fish a bait deeper because it has less drag in the water.
Overall, I consider my first tournament of the season to be a success. Finishing in 38th place got me check in the event, but more importantly gets me some good points to start the season. After a tough Lake Toho event, I’m getting ready to find some giant Georgia bass on Lake Seminole and keep this momentum rolling forward!
This article was contributed by an ANGLR Expert
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