LUFKIN, Texas. – There's not much concern over catching fish on Sam Rayburn Reservoir – it's catching big fish that's going to take some extra effort in the FLW Tour Open on Sam Rayburn Reservoir.
Some reported catching quality bass of the day-changing variety during practice, but doing so with consistency has been the challenge. With the fall transition underway, the bank is predictably loaded with small to mid-size fish and the occasional kicker. Most of the big-fish potential still remains on deeper structure, so a lot of anglers started shallow before moving offshore.
Rayburn remains about three feet below full pool (164.40), but the lingering Texas drought had it much lower in recent months. Shoreline grass that sprouted during the lower stages now stands flooded. This, along with healthy beds of hydrilla provides plenty of shallow bass cover. Nevertheless, it's likely that the majority of bigger fish weighed during this event will come from deeper water.
Anglers will enjoy a warm, partly cloudy day with just enough wind to benefit the fishing without impeding runs or boat handling. Days are growing shorter; nights cooler and bass know it's time to keep their mouths open.
"The fishing has gotten really, really good – there are lots of bites to be had," said Strike King pro Phil Marks. "We had three cold in the last month, the water has cooled down and the fish are just eating. There are a lot of fish schooling and chasing shad shallow.
"There will be fish caught from one foot out to 30 feet of water so I expect lots and lots of limits. The big fish are a little bit harder to come by. I'm going to go away from trying to get 50 bites a day and try to get five (big ones). I'm going to fish deep because I think that's where the (winning fish) are."
Marks said he'll fish Strike King crankbaits and football jigs. He'll also employ a Strike King Titanium umbrella rig. The flexible arms impart lots of action with less mass and lower visibility. He runs Strike King Caffeine Shad on weighted hooks and modifies his rig with a ¾-ounce tungsten bullet weight ahead of the center bait to pull the rig deeper to those bigger fish.
"Earlier in the week, it was extremely cold and we had a lot of small fish biting," said Michigan pro Tommy Robinson. "The last day of practice, it warmed up good and the big ones started coming up and feeding. Hopefully, over the next few days, the big ones will stay in a feeding mode."
Robinson scheduled some morning time with topwaters, followed by crankbaits and Carolina rigs out deep. Texas pro Cody Bird will also keep a Carolina rig handy, as he's fared well over the years in tricking big bass with the slow drag. He'll use a Kick Fish Bubble Fry, which is made to trap air bubbles and release them in lifelike form.
Powerfishing machine Takahiro Omori said he'll start his day with a crankbait in his hand. In the early goings, he'll throw a squarebill or lipless crank shallow, but switch to a jigging spoon or a Carolina-rigged creature bait by midday.
"I'm going to start shallow and look for big fish around hydrilla in 5-7 feet and then try to upgrade my limit in the deep water," Omori said. "Most of my experience (on Rayburn) is in the spring, so I don't know if there's a lot of (hydrilla) right now. But there's a lot of bank grass and so much of that vegetation looks good. There's a lot of stuff to fish right now.
Chevy Pro Luke Clausen is coming off a second-place finish at the last FLW Tour event on Wheeler Lake but the former Forrest Wood Cup champ said he did not find anything that excited him during practice. He loaded his deck with rods this morning and plans to leverage the strategy of diversity to dial in what he needs.
"It's kind of random – the fish are hard to pattern this early in the fall," Clausen said. "I'm going to go out a sling a lot of baits and hopefully figure something out that will put me in position to get some big bites. I caught a tremendous number of fish over the past few days but I haven't been getting the big bites I like to get but I'm going to try some new stuff, some new areas and hopefully figure out a few little things that get you two or three big bites throughout the day and that changes your whole tournament."
Clausen's plan includes preparation for schooling bass opportunities. Topwaters like his Megabass Dog-X are a common option, but he also intends to throw in something far less common for fall fishing – a jerkbait. His choice here is a Megabass Vision 110 squarebill model. The shorter, square lip keeps the bait running shallow, while imparting the enticing wiggle that tempts bass into biting.
During FLW Tour competition, pros supply the boats, fish from the front deck against other pros and control boat movement. Co-anglers fish from the back deck and compete against other co-anglers. Anglers are permitted to weigh in their best five bass each day. Every angler who receives weight credit in a tournament earns points that determine angler standings. The full field competes on days one and two. After Friday’s day-two weigh-in, both the co-angler and pro fields will be cut to the top 20. On day three, the co-angler champion will be crowned based on the field’s three-day accumulated weight. Also on Saturday, the pro field will be cut down to the top 10 pros. The remaining pro field will then compete during Sunday’s final round of tournament action. The pro winner ultimately will be determined by the heaviest accumulated weight from all four days.
The tournament will feature a full field with top awards of up to $125,000 in the Pro Division and up to $25,000 in the Co-angler Division.
Tourney Expo and Logistics
In FLW Tour Open competition, anglers are also vying for valuable points in hopes of qualifying for the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup, the world championship of bass fishing. The 2013 Forrest Wood Cup will be in Shreveport, La., Aug. 15-18 on the Red River.
Anglers will take off from Cassels-Boykin County Park located at FM Road 3123 (Off State Hwy 147) in Zavalla, Texas, at 7:30 a.m. daily. Thursday and Friday’s weigh-ins will also be held at Cassels-Boykin County Park beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday’s final weigh-ins will be held at the Walmart located at 2500 Daniel McCall Drive in Lufkin beginning at 4 p.m.
Fans will be treated to the FLW Outdoors Expo at the Walmart on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. prior to the final weigh-ins. The Expo includes Ranger boat simulators, the opportunity to interact with professional anglers, enjoy interactive games, activities and giveaways provided by sponsors, and fans can learn more about the sport of fishing and other outdoor activities. All activities are free and open to the public.
Coverage of the Sam Rayburn Reservoir tournament will be broadcast in high-definition (HD) on NBC Sports Network when “FLW” airs Nov. 18 from 1 to 2 p.m. ET. "FLW" is hosted by Jason Harper and is broadcast to more than 559 million households worldwide, making it the most widely distributed weekly outdoors-sports television show in the world.
For complete details and updated information visit FLWOutdoors.com. For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/FLWFishing and on Twitter at Twitter.com/FLWFishing.
Bass-fishing fans take note
Want to watch the weigh in live but can’t make it in person? Then tune into FLW Live on FLWOutdoors.com shortly before 2:30 p.m. Central Time to watch live streaming video and audio of today’s opening-round weigh in.
Daily on-the-water coverage will also be available online at FLWOutdoors.com.
Sunrise: 7:19 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 70 degrees
Expected high temperature: 84 degrees
Water temperature: 74-75 degrees
Wind: South 8 mph
Humidity: 10 percent
Day’s outlook: Partly Cloudy