WILL KIRKPATRICK

FISHING REPORT

SAM RAYBURN RESERVOIR

21815 FM 705

Broaddus, TX. 75929

Telephone: 409-584-3177

Or just drop me a line at willfish@consolidated.net

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2020 FISHING IS DIFFERENT & T.P.W.D.

 

 

Several years ago I wrote a column explaining why I don’t get tired of fishing only on Sam Rayburn Reservoir. First of all, I’ve already caught Bass (Largemouth, Smallmouth, Spotted, etc.) in 15 states and Canada. Secondly is we’ve never had two consecutive years of the same fishing conditions on Big Sam and this year is no different. 

Last year mid-January saw reservoir levels at EMSL 174 plus and rising. This January we were at EMSL 162, this 12 foot difference in reservoir depth equates to a difference of over 38,000 additional surface acres of water with much of that being back in flooded shoreline timber. Tied in with these lower water levels we have a unmistakable difference in water temperatures. Recently we had water surface temperatures of 60 degrees in the back end of Townsend Creek located in the northwest section of  5 Fingers Bay. 

Both these two differences combined present a pattern shift of Structure, Cover, Depth, Time, Presentation and Location. 

Structure is more interior points, drains and shoreline. 

Cover is Hydrilla, Torpedo Grass, Coontail, Buck Brush, Lay Downs, etc. rather than main lake areas of Stumps, Drop Offs, Brushpiles, etc. 

Depth is now shallower with more Bass in six to fifteen feet of water rather than out in twenty foot plus depths. 

This time of year normally lets us stay in until late morning allowing things to warm up. Butwith lots of cloud cover helping to keep both air and water warmer it puts us out fishing earlier. 

Presentation and location goes back to metabolism with fish being cold blooded, hence, they don’t have to feed as often. We now fish a little more using more moving baits which can cover more territory and go shallower, do to their metabolism rate. 

We are actually seeing weather and fishing conditions more like Fall rather than Winter. This takes us back to earlier fishing reports when I talked about my use of Lowrance electronics to mark the visible cover edges.  Anglers have now had three chances to have done this, yet many still haven’t which puts them at a disadvantage with our rising water levels again covering weed and cover lines. 

I have a Lowrance HDS 12 Live on my console which with its wide screen allows me to set up multiple screens at the same time.  Anglers figured out when Lowrance units first came out years ago with their multiple trail features we could use these for more than just plotting a trail. I started marking aquatic vegetation lines using my sonar before they became visible on the surface. This allowed us to stay back away from their edges where most feeding bass setup.

Many years ago, fishing buddy Billy Murray brought a video to one of my schools in which he had used a large septic tank half full of water with several Bass in it. He setup a studio light on one side, his camera on the other side and a sheet of plywood he could move on top which would provide a shade line. He would reach over the tank’s edge and release a handful of minnows into the water. Those Bass which were setting just back inside the shade line would feed while those farther back paid little attention.  I believe this is the same situation when we are actually casting to a weedline or other cover edge. Most Bass being ambush predators when feeding are going to hold back in the cover just far enough to be camouflaged. 

We’ve had that water fluctuation three times since the spring of 2019 which really hindered those who didn’t know the locations of those cover/vegetation edges. My Lowrance HDS 12 Live has a trail capacity of 100 with over a thousand way points per trail. I only fish about 50,000 acres on Rayburn so I’ll never exceed my 12 Live unit’s capacity. With each trail having description capacity of over 250 characters you can mark every major weedbed on my areas. One thing to be careful of is over whelming yourself with too much information. 

With your units ability to store 7 pages and up to six panels available for each, you can have basically any combination of the 7 available pages using any or all of the individual six panels each. 

I use six pages split into a maximum of six individual panels. I arrange my pages from top to bottom with individual panels left to right with split panels top and bottom. 

My first panel is used for high speed runs across the water using Chart and Sonar. Page two uses Sonar - Side Scan - Chart to be used when looking for Structure - Cover - Bait/Bass. Page three uses Sonar - Chart/Down Scan - Side Scan which I use fishing to the Left of marked weedlines. Page four Side Scan - Chart/Down Scan -  Sonar which I use fishing to the Right of marked weedlines. Page Five is set up Down Scan - Side Scan - Chart and used when fishing unknown water or fishing previous areas with and without previously marked structure or cover. Each individual page can use the adjust splits feature to adjust the size of each individual panel. I use this to enlarge my preferred feature panels. Page six I’ve setup a Dashboard with COG-SOG-VOLTAGE - BTW - XTE & DEPTH,  it also has a Center Compass with directional Travel Arrow. This page is great for use under low light conditions when traveling to early morning summer topwater areas. 

When selecting Icon’s to be used for identifying individual items that will be used for marking weedbeds, stumps and drains, etc., don’t confuse yourself with details.  Use as few as possible by utilizing similar Icons but different colors. As an example I use the $ sign Icon to signify a “Bank” and shoreline covered with vegetation. For grass I use GREEN, for pond weed I use PURPLE,  for hydrilla, I use chartreuse, etc. For points, I use the anchor but if there is vegetation on those points, I use a tepee, utilizing the same previous colors to identify various vegetations. A really important Icon  for me is the automobile symbol which I use to mark a (diversely named) Drain, Gully, Draw, Ditch, Depression, etc. used by Bass as a highway. 

The first Big Bass Class we did over twenty years ago opened a lot of eyes to the importance of those Bass Highways.  There was not a Bass caught over 19 inches that wasn’t within casting distance of one of these Highways. The anglers found these Highways by going to where the Bass was actually caught and not where their boat was sitting. When I first started fishing Rayburn in a B.A.S.S.  tournament in 1970 these highways were generally easy to find by looking at your shoreline but those highways have silted in and many times grown up with brush. Yet when you are in deeper water of ten to twelve feet, with Rayburn at conservation pool of EMSL 164.4, many are still there. Another shoreline indicator of these Drains are Weeping Willow trees and openings in Buck Brush (actually Babylon Willows) both indicating current or  previous Drains. 

Another important ICON for my use is the Airplane symbol indicating a previously marked location in one of my designed Routes. I use three sites to base my routes, first is Powell Park Marina Resort and Campground. It is located on the southeast side of the peninsula separating Ayish Bayou and the Angelina River. This location is a central axis for the entire southend of Sam Rayburn Reservoir.  By launching there, you’ve got direct open waterways to Needmore peninsula and its many coves plus Ayish Bayou, Bear Creek and Tiger Bay. There are twelve major Bays within a six mile radius, in addition to an untold number of points both main reservoir and interior within those Bays.

 

My second set of Routes leads into and out of Bayou Recreation Area which is a USFS Park/Ramp commonly known as 5 Fingers. At conservation pool, also called normal pool, it holds approximately six hundred surface acres of water. It has two feeder creeks and six individual pockets which allows wind breaks from all except major north blows. It also opens out to four principal bays including Veach Basin. 

The Third area I use is Rayburn Park which is on the south end of our peninsula and protected from those serious north winds. There are three fishable pockets in addition to North Cove with its six drains, in addition is one of Rayburn’s five major south funnels all within a short protected run. 

The previously described fall conditions utilize lures that mimic seasonal prey including baitfish, other Bass, Bream, Crawfish and any otherwise available Critters. 

With so many Bass in our shallower waters a good rule of thumb is to use lure families. These are individually the same body design but in different sizes in both body and diving lip. Probably one of the first families I remember using was Bomber Lures which were made of wood with a metal diving bill. I used four sizes for levelwind casting going up from the lighter #300 up to a #400, #500 and Bombers largest, a #600 series. Their name came from the fact they resembled the bombs being used in WW II. In the fifteen states and Canada, I’ve caught Bass on Bombers with the only place they really weren’t #1 was Florida’s St. John’s and Kissimme Rivers plus Tallahassee’s Lake Jackson which was due to their shallow water depths. Today there are various Bomber families which are currently molded plastic and presently in several different designs. 

For anglers in our southern waters where both Threadfin and Gizzard Shad are common forage, Bomber designed the family of Fat Free Shads. These currently come in six sizes from 2 inch that runs 4 - 6 feet to their 3 inch (Bill Dance) BD8F that hits bottom at 19/20 feet on a long cast. These come in all the basic color patterns with my favorite in deep water being their Citrus Shad which is bright Blue back, Silver side and Chartreuse belly. 

This Citrus Shad color combo has two of the most visible colors according to a study I read in one of Homer Circle’s fishing articles many years ago. He had a diver descend into continually deepwater where they found that the two colors which held their colors deepest were Blue and Chartreuse. Creme Lure Company use to make a six inch worm with a Blue body and Chartreuse tail that we caught the fire out of deep Rayburn Bass on.

These Fat Free Shad are the same silhouette as our Threadfin and juvenile Gizzard Shad which are prime forage due to their abundance in most southern waters. Gizzard Shad spawn earlier than the Threadfin but grow faster and can reach up to several pounds and over a foot in length. At maturity they are too big for all but our largest Bass but Threadfin seldom reach over four inches in length making them ideal for any adult Bass. If you are lucky or skilled enough to find Largemouths schooling on these juvenile five to six inch Gizzard Shad, it’s a Hoot. I’ve experienced this several times here on Rayburn with most of the Largemouths ranging from two to five pounds which is really big for Texas schoolies. The one really different thing was I only saw this feeding on my bow mounted Lowrance sonar unit as neither Bass or Shad were busting the surface but rather holding in four to eight feet of water. 

One advantage to using different members of lure famiilies is that Bass many times hold at different depths of water. This depth can be influenced by turbidity of water, amount of sunlight, raising or falling water levels, location of forage source and even the amount of angler pressure or boat traffic. Although Rayburn’s Bass and those of other East Texas impoundments have been holding shallower, our recent cold fronts may change that. 

By matching the silhouette of existing prey, you have the ability to search various depths while using other family versions having the same profile.

Bomber also makes two square bill Fat Free Shad models which are used for defecting off cover with their 2.5 inch diving to 8 - 10 feet and their 3 inch gets down to 14 feet. Their Model “A” family has 6 different sizes all with the same silhouette and a rounded diving lip which takes them down from approximately 2 to 13 feet. 

Historically, Winter Largemouth Bass move up from deeper waters as the day progresses. Its not unusual for these mid-afternoon Bass to come into shallower waters bordering Buck Brush, Lay Downs and Weed Edges. We’ve had some really good shallow bites using hard plastic Smithwick Rogues, Rebel Minnows (both jointed and one piece) and Bomber Long “A”. Both Rogues and Bomber Long “A” have suspending models which when fished using a pulling-jerking motion will dive deeper and hold longer. Rebel Minnows aren’t suspenders but by drilling a 11/64 inch hole behind their first hook hanger and inserting copper BB’s can be modified to suspend. It’s actually easy to do this with any narrow bodied lure. After inserting enough copper BB’s to cause your lure to “SLOWLY” rise, then cover the hole using a Storm Company’s round adhesive Suspend Dot over which I additionally cover using a couple of coats of fingernail polish. 

The same style lure being made of soft plastic also produces under similar conditions but instead of rising continues to sink. Yum Lure Company’s Money Minnow is a swimming style bait which comes  in several lengths/weights and baitfish tones. Yum also has several molded Jerkbaits, one being their Swurm which has a flatter body which Glides more on descend and can actually be made to quiver using a slight twitching motion with your rod tip when it’s falling. 

Yum also makes two other soft plastic Jerkbaits, one being their Houdini Shad and the other their Break ’N Shad. Both have a baitfish profile, are made in various colors and have erratic darting action that dies on the fall. The major difference is their Houdini Shad has a Diamond fin tail that can be modified to produce a different shaky - shivering tail motion using a gently twitching rod tip. Jerkbaits many times cause line twist due to our using a twitching/jerking motion on retrieve. Much of this can be alleviated by using Owner Hook Company’s #5167 W weighted twistlock hook. This hook has a wide gap and weight that acts like a Keel keeping the hook point facing upwards. If you want to really cut down on Jerkbait line twist, use the same Owner style hook but add a quality ball bearing swivel to the hook eye, this takes a little extra time but is well worth the time and effort.  

The most productive afternoon areas for both Hard and Soft plastic Jerkbaits have been shallow shelf tracts abutting deep water. A good example is the East bank entry into our Bayou Recreation Area (5 Fingers) that has several hundred yards with these ideal physical properties. 

During current water/weather conditions, Spinnerbaits are another productive method especially along and into weedline areas. Dual blade combo’s like War Eagles 3/8 ounce model WE38NN which has a gold Colorado in front of a nickle Indiana works really well along the deeper outside edges. They have a little more contrasting color flash than those with Willow blades but don’t rise as fast on a similar retrieve speed when using a Colorado combo or single. Under low light condition or in dingy water that single Colorado will many times be easier for Bass to locate.

BooYah Lure Co. makes a Single Colorado Blade spinnerbait Model BYBC in three weights with its 1/2 ounce dressed with a Chartreuse or Chartreuse and White silicone skirt being a good choice. Contrary to what many anglers believe a single Colorado puts out more vibration and lift than dual blades do. But if you want a little more flash and still lots of vibration a dual Colorado model might work better for you. BooYah’s double Colorado model BYBC is equipped both a #3 and #4 blade, again with a White and Chartreuse skirt. War Eagle Co. has several double Colorado weights up through 3/4 ounce with blade size mated to their weight. 

Later in the day, Bass may move into vegetation edges where a Willow Leaf style blade comes through both Hydrilla and Pond Weed better than either Indiana or Colorado. While a single Willow is even better in Vegetation than the two blades, they are hard to find. War Eagle’s bullet shaped head might be a little less likely to hang up or catch plant stems. A solution to the single Willow is purchase a BooYah double Willow and remove the second blade leaving only the one on the end with the swivel. The same option applies to War Eagle’s Screaming Eagle 1/2 ounce model WE12SE. 

Yet another lure for fishing the Vegetation edges, Buck Brush, Lay Downs, etc. are Yum Lure Co.’s Dinger stick worm. I refer to it as a stick worm because it has no appendages, paddle tails, etc. These Dingers work great rigged Texas style, however out in front of vegetation or along 

Lay Downs, Wacky style is a better option. This Wacky rig lets your Dinger fall in a more natural horizontal manner. Its only drawback is in deeper water it takes longer to sink down into those 8 to 12 foot depths. To offset the Dinger’s slower descend I use a Hall Hook Company’s (www.hallhooks.com) Ring weight. This ring weight with their 3/0 weedless Owner Mosquito style hook rigged Wacky style works perfectly with Yum’s 4 and 5 inch Dingers.  Hall’s weedguard is made using saltwater leader wire with which they make a full oval loop allowing us to position it over the hook point so nothing gets between your weedguard and hook. With this rigging, your Dinger falls and rises basically flat except for its ends which bow up or down depending on its movement. 

If we get more of our winter temperatures like those of this February 6th and 7th and the forecasted heavy rains in our upper water shed, the preceding conditions will change. 

If Bass go back to a more winter time pattern, this is covered in a section of one of my previous posted articles titled “It’s Fall”  which deals with a few deeper water methods. The Houston Chronicle in which my Freshwater on-line section appears has an Archive section including my previous postings starting February 2007.  You can access their Archives as follows:   Connect to the internet and then log into: https://blog.chron.com/freshwater then hit Enter and the Freshwater blog page appears. Then move down the page until you reach the end of the blog and you will see 2 Archives sections. Then click on the Select Month on whichever section you choose and it will bring up the list of all posted articles - then click on whichever article you want to read and it will bring it up (both sections have the same list which goes back to February 2007). You can read them all. 

One method I didn’t discuss about deep water in “It’s Fall” was the old standby Carolina Rig technique. 

For this I use a 7 foot Loomis’s Fast Action Heavy Power MBR844C rod which is rated for 1 ounce lures. I have a Shimano Calcutta reel loaded with Power Pro Braid and a six foot flurocarbon line leader. Using a 3/4  or 1 ounce bullet weight, this rod will cast your lure almost out of sight which is why I use Braid which alleviates line stretch. 

There are a vast array of lures used in this rigging with some more suited  than others. Most of my favorites are soft plastics that imitate a forage based existing prey. 

When I first started my Fishing Schools with Stephen F. Austin State University in 1989 I visited their library and read a book on Aquatic creatures. Most anglers including myself had no idea of what actually inhabits our East Texas waters. It includes multiple species of Lizards, Salamanders, Newts, Sirens and Amphiuma which has a long eel/worm like creature body. These Amphiuma’s hatch out at about 2 inches and can grow to a length of over 40 inches. I don’t know where in Rayburn we’ve got a forty incher but I’m after the Bass that could eat it. 

I’m certain these creatures are one reason our imitation Yum Lizard, various styled worms, Dingers, Christie Critters, Craw Papi, Money Craw, etc. are so productive when using Carolina rigs.Those imitations that have a flatter body style like Yum Company’s Lizard, Christie Critter, Christie Craw, Money Craw and 4.25 inch Bad Jamma tend to rise more when moved forward. 

I fish a Carolina rig by keeping my rod parallel to the boat hull just above the water line moving it  about 2 1/2 to 3 feet in short pulls. This keeps your bullet weight dragging along stirring up bottom debris which draws attention to your lure. Using a flatter bodied lure is like holding your hand out a moving auto window. If your hand is held with your fingers vertical there is very  little resistance and your hand doesn’t move. But if you move your hand so that it’s horizontal with a little tilt it rises up. I believe this rising motion tied in with the bottom disturbance is why our Carolina rigs are so successful. A common mistake some newly exposed Carolina Rig anglers make is when setting the hook. Instead of using a fast up stroke like that used on a Texas rig, use a fast flat side ways motion with your arms and entire rod length. Without going into a long detailed physical description, just believe me it’s one solution to losing Carolina Rig Bass. 

There is also a newly reintroduced soft plastic lure that itself floats made by Creme Lure Company called “The Tube Worm”. We really don’t know how deep this hollow bodied lure will hold air but there are remedies. I used the same as several years ago when Yum Lure Company made a hollow bodied Fat Money Minnow which had a posterior body opening that I closed using a CORK.

I sent some of these “CORKED” Creme Tube Worms to fishing buddy, Billy Murray who initiated the Bass Fishing Schools concept in the early seventies. He recently phoned with a much easier method for closing off the open end of “The Tube Worm”. It’s the same thing we use when putting a Yum Money Minnow, Curtail Grub or Pulse on a Jig head - - SUPER GLUE. With Creme’s The Tube Worms having a long worm like body, its easy to let its tail slits fall away and deposit a drop of Super Glue in the worm’s cavity opening body end and closing it using your fingers. You now have an enclosed permanently floating tube. 

When rigging this Tube don’t use a long shank hook that’s point reaches past the worm’s egg sack segment. For the Carolina Rigging, I use a Owner twistlock #5167 3/0 light wire hook. Owner also has the same basic 3/0 hook #5132 Bass hook made with XXX strong shank for use in stump beds or other heavy cover. Either of these hooks work well and will be floated using The Tube and the slower you fish it the higher it floats. 

Now for Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.

 It seems like the COFFER’s are bottomless for our state’s purported Wildlife Management team. 

I’ve written at length about a total disregard of their Fiduciary duties for the management of our monies. In the years I worked with their Freshwater Division it had been one item following another in the waste of funds we provide. 

I thought the building our new hatchery costing at last count approximately $43 Million was the example. This is almost double of what it should have been except it was miss located in a spot selected by political choice rather than financial responsibility. Then we were asked to pay for this with an additional $5.00 annual Freshwater fee. The Director of Texas Parks & Wildlife Department at that time was Bob Cook who told me during an Austin, Texas Freshwater Advisory Board meeting this fee would end in 10 years. It was implemented on September 1, 2004 and according to Mr. Cook in our face to face conversation was written in Stone to end August 31, 2014. According to professional Outdoor Writer and friend Shannon Tompkins, I screwed up by not asking Mr. Cook if this was Sand Stone or Granite. As here we sit in 2020 and still have that $5.00 fee which generates over $9 Million yearly. 

Last year they convinced our State’s legislature to change dispersement of State taxes on all Sporting Goods not just Hunting and Fishing providing them with yet more of our monies. 

Recently I found out that T.P.W.D. also gets additional monies from our state’s gasoline taxes. TXDOT  is “Estimating” how much of our gasoline taxes (I believe $.20 per gal. ) is spent by watercraft. 

I don’t know how long this practice has been in place or how much money it entails. But that’s another Freedom of Information request to be filed which may outline more than we want to know. It would be both interesting and probably disappointing to find out what is the true amount of monies being funded to T.P.W.D. and the percent of waste that is involved. 

Good fishing -  It is still fun. 

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There are still a couple of slots open for BigBass Week 

Our 2020 Fishing Schools schedule is as follows.

Map & Electronics Class     February 21 - 23, 2020

Big Bass Week     March 2 - 6, 2020

For further information, I can be reached before 8:00pm at 409-584-3177


Will is the Director of "The Fishing Schools” which are held on Sam Rayburn Reservoir. He is an active member of the Texas Outdoor Writer’s Association and before resigning, he was one of twelve anglers statewide who were members of Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s Freshwater Fisheries Advisory Board. In 2009 he was appointed by Governor Perry as one of the nine commissioned members of our state’s Advisory Panel on Recreational Boating Safety.

Our Sponsors include: Arbogast, Bandit, Bomber, Booyah, Cordell, Creek Chub, Heddon, Lindy, Norman, Rebel, Smithwick, Thill,  Yum, War Eagle, Gene Larew and Bobby Garland www.lurenet.com, Lowrance Electronics (www.lowrance.com), G. Loomis Rods (www.gloomis.com.

For further information on Sam Rayburn Resorvoir or The Fishing Schools, please use these links or give me a call at 409-584-3177

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Will Kirkpatrick

21815 FM 705

Broaddus, TX. 75929

Telephone: 409-584-3177