SAM RAYBURN RESERVOIR
21815 FM 705
Broaddus, TX. 75929
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TEMPERATURE DROPPING - SHAD MOVING - TPWD AGAIN We finally saw the surface temperatures on Rayburn drop below 70 degrees on Thursday, November 1st and the Reservoir level was 162.37 with the conservation pool being 164.4 EMSL. This is the first year that I remember Rayburn being this high in November and with our rainy season coming up, who knows what 2019 will bring. The Threadfin Shad are moving in our coves with several schools showing on my Lowrance HDS 10 Sonar unit bigger than my Thumb. This annual migration signifies our fall bass fishing is changing as game fish tend to follow their main forage which in most of our southern reservoirs those are Threadfin Shad. This movement will continue throughout the fall with them continuing to the back of our major creeks and drains. When our surface water temperatures reach down into the low 50’s Shad will move back out into deep waters. This Threadfin Shad movement ties in with their four annual migrations starting with this fall period. They will stay in deep water until shallow water temperatures again reach into the low 70’s when they will come shallow for their first of several annual spawns. This first spawn coincides with our annual Largemouth Basses recent hatch of bass fingerling who will feed on these Shad eggs and fry. From now until these Shad retreat back into deep water is my favorite time of the year for true Topwater Bass action. We will have many days of cloud cover for our entire daylight period allowing us to fish Topwater lures and shallow Crankbaits all day. In earlier postings I’ve written about using my Lowrance HDS Sonar’s “Trail feature” to outline edges of our existing Hydrilla beds. The recent rise of Rayburn’s surface levels from 160.01 to 162.38 EMSL has covered up these Hydrilla beds making their edges undefinable until you are at their edge. By marking their edge earlier with my Lowrance HDS unit, I can sit out from their edge and either cast over their cover and come out or cast parallel to its edge. Fishing by yourself allows you to fish parallel to the edge, hence the lure can be positioned to stay in their strike zone clear to the boat. The number one Big Bass topwater over much of the South is Heddon’s Zara Spook with the size and color depending on water clarity and forage base. Here on Rayburn Heddon’s 3/4 ounce One Knocker Spook in Bone/Silver or Arkansas Shiner is hard to beat. If it’s clear and quiet, the Original 3/4 ounce Zara Spook without internal rattlers sometimes produces better using a Clear or Flitter Shad finish. If the 3/4 ounce is a little much for our weekend anglers or your rod is too light, Heddon makes a lighter 1/2 ounce Super Spook Jr. in the same color combinations. With our Threadfin Shad moving in that same Spook Jr. is a better size match and can be worked all day without totally wearing your wrist out. With our incoming Shad, Slushbaits are another overlooked bait that can be a real killer on surface bass. This bait has either a single propeller on its rear or propellers on both ends. We named these lures slushbaits because with a little practice you can make these lures mimic the same “Slushing” noise made by bass taking shad on the surface. The two slushbaits I use most of the time are Cotton Cordell’s 3/8 ounce Crazy Shad which has a prop on both ends and is really easy to work. It is about the same size of our Threadfin Shad and comes in most basic color patterns. The two colors I use most are Silver body with Blue back and Clear with a Blue nose. Heddon also makes a 3/4 ounce double prop model with a Spook style body and the same prop location of a Crazy Shad called a Wounded Spook. The biggest topwater string I’ve ever caught on Rayburn came on this Wounded Spook from a narrow deep drain with Hydrilla on both sides. My customer’s first cast nailed a 7 pounder and we ended up with five bass weighting over 34 pounds in the next hour until the sun cleared our pine trees. Another good double prop lure is the old wooden Nip-I-Diddee that can still be found in resale shops and older anglers tackle boxes. One advantage of duel prop topwater is they lay horizontal on the surface while the single prop model’s tail hangs down sometime catching shallow grass. My second choice is Heddon's single prop style Torpedo lure family consisting of their 5/8 ounce Magnum, in addition to a 3/8 ounce Baby model and a 1/4 ounce Tiny Torpedo. With our recent surface rise of about 2 feet its hard to see our aforementioned weed edges. So until the water recedes, you should mark existing edges for future use or work across shallow points hoping they have vegetation. Should you have sunlight and windless conditions in our current clear waters fish will many times suspend deeper in grass. This is when our Popping/Spitting Topwaters come into play, especially along the deeper drain edges used by migrating shad. One of our original poppers was Fred Arbogast’s Hula Popper which is older than todays anglers. It was probably one of my first purchased lures and with its weights of 3/16, 1/4, 3/8 and 5/8 ounces has a size for most conditions and with its extra large mouth can really make a racket, many times pulling them out of deeper vegetation. Rebel Lure Company’s Pop-R was developed over 50 years ago and in the eighties was actually discontinued for several years until angler demand forced its return. Anglers in our area didn’t really suffer as Tackle Reps Billy and Bobby Murray, twin brothers who are well known bass gurus, kept anglers supplied. They would order 3,600 of this 1/4 ounce popping/spitting topwater in various colors for a tackle dealer in Spring who in turn sold them to individual tackle shops for retail angler sales. Billy actually started the Bass Fishing school concept back in the early seventies. He is also the originator of todays large traveling fish tank having built the first one used for lure demonstrations at fishing events and boat shows. He and I met during our tournament fishing days, became friends and he helped me set up my current fishing schools that started in 1989 with Stephen F. Austin State University. He still comes to my week long Fishing School each year for a half-day of hands-on lure instruction for attendees. While the 1/4 ounce Rebel Pop-R originally started out as a Popper, the story goes that Rick Clunn while guiding on Lake Conroe found that by removing some of the lower lip, it would spit water when twitched. This spitting closely resembles the action created by a shad when they break the water’s surface while trying to escape a foraging bass. Many times in the fall with our dense vegetation or wind causing surface ripples, a larger bait is needed. Rebel and BOOYAH (Boss Pop) Bait Companies both make a larger 3 inch size which produces a little more commotion and casts better into the wind. For a topwater rod I use several different G. Loomis Crankbait rods which have a Moderate-Fast action. Previously our rods were pretty stiff being made out of wood or steel, then solid fiberglass on to tubular fiberglass and now mostly graphite. I have better results using the Slower/Softer action of these rods which for me loads better and doesn’t tend to take the lure away before you get a good hook set. For the larger Zara Spooks, I use a 7 ft. rod power rated for up to 1 ounce lures. With a big percent of our topwaters weighing 3/8 of an ounce, I use a Loomis 7 foot Saltwater popping rod with a 5X1 Shimano baitcaster loaded with either 12 or 14 pound test Silver Thread copolymer monofilament line. The reason for monofilament over Fluorocarbon is its water absorption rate tends to pull your topwaters face down, curtailing its surface action. I started using a Popping rod while working in Houston and fishing saltwater around Matagorda with guide Raymond Cox. Those popping rods not only loaded great but let the fish stay hooked without tearing it out of their mouth plus saved the cost of buying two rods. Another floating surface lure is BOOYAH Bait Company’s new Toadrunner topwater frog which has a boot shaped rotating tail. This tail makes as much or more surface commotion than many buzzbaits, buzz Frogs or Toads but like their Pod Crasher Frog and Arbogast’s Buzz Plug doesn’t sink. Many times you won’t get a good hook set on your regular Buzzbait and if you quit reeling it sinks into the grass, hydrilla, pondweed, etc. Using a floating buzzbait you can quit reeling, let it sit, then twitch and restart reeling, hopefully generating another strike. With our rising water levels we again have got some open water pockets behind shoreline Torpedo grass which is holding bass.These pockets are workable with the Frog baits, in addition to regular buzzbaits like a BOOYAH BUZZ. Their 1/4 ounce with a white skirt will work until cold weather finally pushes bass deep or the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers pulls water off the bank. Many of these water filled pockets are also open to the main lake which allows you to use a spinnerbait. War Eagle makes a compact Finesse spinnerbait in both 3/16 and 5/16 ounce with Colorado and Indiana style combo blade setup. I’ve been using their 5/16 ounce with one gold and one nickel blade equipped with a white skirt on shaded banks with bass to 3 pounds. If you use a Palomar knot its tag end sometimes catches grass strands. To alleviate this, slide a 6 or 8 mm clear bead on your line before attaching the lure. This bead slides down and covers the tag end solving the grass strand problem. When fishing both frogs and blade baits in and around these grass pockets I use two G. Loomis 6’ 9” Spinnerbait rods with Extra Fast Action, one for 3/8 ounce and the second for heavier lures up to 3/4 ounce. Both have Shimano low profile 6X1 reels, one loaded with Power Pro 20 lb. braid for lighter lures and the other with 30 lb. Before the Shad work their way into the back of coves they travel along creek edges and over points coming in from the big water. These fish are ideal for crankbaits diving from 3 to 15 feet deep depending on depth and type of cover. Bomber Lure Company has a family of lures modeled after the Threadfin Shad called their Fat Free Shad. These are in 6 different sizes ranging from 1/4 ounce to largest at 3/4 ounce which covers the water column from 4 feet to 19 feet plus. For deeper bass just coming in off the main lake, their 3/4 ounce Fat Free Shad and Deep Fat Free Shad are ideal for deeper points and creek bends. As shad move farther back, there are 3/8 and 1/2 ounce models that cover the 4 to 12 foot depths. With several of the shallow pockets in the back of 5 Fingers, North Cove and Coleman all having clear water, the smaller 2 inch 1/4 ounce Fat Free Fry has been working better. I use the same rod and reel setup for these crankbaits as I do for Topwater except the Fat Free Fry. For the Fry I use a Loomis 6’ 6” Medium Power Fast Action spinning Rod. I have a Shimano Sustain 2500 loaded with Power Pro 10 lb. test braid and a 5 foot Silver Thread Fluorocarbon leader. By using Power Pro braided line I alleviate about 90% of line twist and all of the line stretch associated with mono. Another Bomber lure that emulates Threadfin Shad is their Flat A that has the same basic silhouette. This lure comes with two different diving lips, one takes it down 3 to 5 feet and the other 4 to 8 feet. Two outstanding Shad replicas are their Silver Flash which has a clear body with a silver inset and a grey back. The second has a Tennessee Shad style white base, grey top and red gill outline. Both of these weigh in at 3/8 ounce and being flatter bodied don’t cast that well into the wind unless its a cross wind. But when our shad get back into our narrower creeks which are protected by higher banks with tall East Texas pine trees, Flat A’s are protected from all but severe winds. Our fall and early winter seasons can be great fishing but its also a time anglers need to be careful. Several years of my 31 year career with the Bell Telephone system were spent working on the Dew line in Alaska and Iceland. We were given extensive arctic survival training by the U. S. Air Force including information on how long it takes for water temperatures to drop our body core below a life sustainable temperature. The subnormal body temperature is caused by improper clothing or falling out of your boat into the water. Recently there was a Kayak Fishing Tournament held on Toledo Bend in which a woman died. She was found late at night still wearing her life jacket tethered to her Kayak. What happens is called hypothermia and starts out with your body starting to shiver which is its attempt to generate and/or transfer internal heat. You will also begin slurring your speech and getting drowsy. The final step is you go to sleep and die. It’s also possible she may have drowned due to swallowing water caused by wave action. The information I have is it was very windy which can be really bad on Toledo Bend. With todays (November 14th) air temperature being in the thirties and our North winds at a sustained 15 - 20 MPH Rayburn’s surface water will drop further down into the sixties. It is supposed to warm up this weekend (November 16 & 17) into the low seventies “BUT” water temperature will stay in the sixties. Unless you have a partner who can get you back in your boat or another boat is near enough to help, you’ve got a problem. Our State Game Wardens do a great job of stressing on the water safety with my local Warden giving talks at our local schools and public events. Their main thrust is wearing life jacket but they can’t be every place on our Reservoir. From now until summer, unless somebody is there to help a life jacket’s biggest advantage is keeping your body afloat making it easier to find. Back to fishing. The majority of our Creeks, Drains, Draws, Gullies, etc. have little adjoining points which will hold bass as shad move shallow. The farther out these submerged points go the less vegetation they have making the use of soft plastics easier. Yum Lure Company’s Dinger is a ideal lure with its straight pencil shaped tapered body that comes in four sizes from 3 inch through 6 inch. I rig mine using a screw lock (spiral) bullet weight paired with a straight shanked Owner hook. The Yum Dinger works better when fished through grass type vegetation than worm style baits with multiple appendages or a ribbon tail. Size of the hook relates to the mass of your worm. The 3 inch Dinger works well with a #1 Owner hook using the previously described 6’ 6” Loomis spinning rod and Sustain reel. For the 4 and 5 inch Dingers I use the same style hook but in a 2/0 wide gap Owner hook. My rod is a 7’ 1” Loomis NRX Medium power and Extra Fast action paired with a 5X1 Calcutta reel loaded with 20 lb. test Power Pro braided line and a 6’ Silver Thread 17 lb. test Fluorocarbon leader. For the 6 inch Dinger I step up to a 4/0 Owner hook in the same style with my rod being a Loomis’ NRX but in a Medium Heavy Power, 30 lb. test Power Pro braid and Silver Thread’s 20 lb. test Fluorocarbon leader. As our water temperature dwindles bass begin to relate more to warming periods which means the “5 AM” bite isn’t the norm. As winter sets in, we’ve got a lot more angler friendly days with fishing hours moving towards that mid-day bite. The following is related to Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s recent promotion of Bass tournament’s new “Catch - Weigh - Release”. They contend that this method is much more “Bass” friendly by not keeping Bass in the live well all day. The following are two issues they haven’t and probably won’t address due to outside pressure. One is the live well temperatures issue has been extensively studied and its the period when water temperatures run from low seventies on up. In Southern impoundments that is only about five months a year. A second issue is according to previous studies only approximately Fourteen percent of anglers in Texas regularly fish tournaments. The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s Catch - Weigh - Release method requires anglers to handle (majority with dry hands) bass twice. What this ends up doing is showing anglers in Media events mishandling Bass, in turn alluding to this as an accepted method. While our other Eighty Five percent of anglers who don’t fish Bass tournaments will assume its an accepted method and therefore use it, wiping out over twenty years of us trying to teach real Catch & Release protocol. The response I received from a B.A.S.S. official was the Sponsors of these Tournaments prefer this method for the Hoopla and Bellyhoo which results into those anglers who hopefully will buy said Sponsors products. My question was how much did those sponsors pay to help alleviate their burden placed on our fisheries whose costs are overwhelmingly provided by Mom - Dad and their Kids who only occasionally get to fish.
Good Fishing, hopefully for years to come! __________________________________________________________________
Our 2019 Fishing Schools schedule is as follows.
Map & Electronics Class is February 15-17, 2019
Big Bass is April 1-5, 2019
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, Silver Thread, Smithwick, Thill, Yum, War Eagle, 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
[ Fishing Report ] [ Fishing Schools ] [ Home ]
21815 FM 705
Broaddus, TX. 75929