SAM RAYBURN RESERVOIR
21815 FM 705
Broaddus, TX. 75929
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HOT WEATHER - HIGH WATER - TPWD AGAIN It’s Summer time in East Texas with Sam Rayburn reservoir’s level sitting at about 3 feet below pool. This is fairly high for this time of year which for many years has been from 5 to 8 feet below pool. We are starting out at 5:30 AM with surface water temperatures ranging 89 to 91 degrees and continually rising to the mid 90’s when we come back in before noon to miss the brutal midday Sun.
The South section of Rayburn that I fish encompasses the area from Veach Basin down through Miller Creek has a tremendous amount of Hydrilla. This Hydrilla is starting in front of the invasive Torpedo Grass, being locally misnamed Hay Grass, and going out to about the twelve foot depths Although this torpedo grass helps control shoreline erosion and provides both cover and forage such as freshwater Shrimp and Threadfin Shad, it’s not native. Its big drawback is its massive root system gets so dense that most of our native terrestrials can’t get a foothold.
Dr. Dian Smith, a senior member at our U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Texas research facility below Lake Lewisville did a lengthy study on Torpedo Grass in Florida. Her study found native vegetation which provides many of the necessary nutrients to revitalize our reservoir couldn’t reestablish. This reestablishment happens when our Reservoir levels recede in the summer allowing shoreline vegetation to grow for several months. Then when we get our winter and early spring rains, the reservoir’s water levels begin rising, hence flooding the new shoreline cover. This flooding causes the vegetation to rot which releases nutrients needed to revitalize our Reservoirs. The Torpedo Grass stems are made up of tough sinewy fibers that are almost impervious to rot.
Dr. Smith asked me to see what our Torpedo Grass did three years ago when our Reservoir levels reached 10 feet above pool level totally submerging existing grass. Rayburn’s water levels later receded below the top of this grass and it wasn’t a bit affected but rather seemed healthier than ever. All this being said, it looks like the Torpedo Grass is here to stay and we will have to learn to fish in it.
We are hitting the water before sunrise choosing one of the three separate boat ramp areas facing North - South and East on our main lake peninsula protecting us from the wind. Our lure choice while fishing the deeper outside areas of grass is one of Booyah’s 3/8 ounce Spinnerbaits. Our selection has one Colorado blade and one Indiana blade with either an all white or white/chartreuse skirt. This spinnerbait puts out good vibrations which usually works but sometimes the Bass want a faster flashier blade type calling for Booyah’s double Willow blade using the same skirt combo. As our Hydrilla beds rise and Reservoir levels drop, there is another spinnerbait for use in grass. This lure requires anglers to either make their own or modify Booyah’s 1/4 oz. or 3/8 oz. single Colorado by substituting the Colorado blade with a Willow leaf #3 1/2 or #4 single blade. Another option is to buy Spinnerbait heads without skirts or blades and rig your own. I use two different suppliers that have basically any type of miscellaneous fishing hardware be it glass beads, blades, swivels, skirt material, etc. One is Barlows Tackle in Richardson, Texas, phone # 1-972-231-5982 or www.barlowstackle.com. The second is Janns Netcraft, phone # 1-800-638-2723 or www.jannsnetcraft.com. Both of these tackle outlets have free catalogs they will send and good customer service staff. The key to using these lures is reeling just fast enough to feel the blades turning and let it fall about every 8 or 10 cranks of your reel before continuing to reel.
A good rod for this outfit is a 6 ft. 9 in. G. Loomis IMX-PRO Spinnerbait model with a medium retrieve speed Shimano bait casting reel spooled with 14 - 17 lb. test Silver Thread Copolymer line depending on density of holding cover. Another trick when fishing spinnerbaits in and around grass or weeds where tendrils catch on your knot is to slip a 6 or 8 MM round bead on your line before tying on the bait. This bead slides to the knot protecting its tag end from catching anything.
When it gets light enough to see cover such as grass, bushes, etc. we tie on topwater lures and look for cover that is sitting on a point next to some sort of a drain. Many of our main lake and shoreline banks have both major and secondary points easily identified by sprigs of Torpedo grass sticking above the surface. I’ve found that prime points are those with drains on each side providing double deep water access paths into cover.
Our main topwater baits are those providing surface disturbance such as Sloshing, Popping or Chugging. The Popping/Chuggers are usually anglers number one choice ranging from the Rebel Pop-R, Booyah’s Boss Pop to the old Arbogast Hula Popper. At our Winter early boat and outdoor shows the number one lure question is “What’s New” and not what’s catching bass. I can guarantee that the overwhelming majority of Largemouth Bass in our major reservoirs have never seen a Hula Popper or Heddon Chugger which are both older than most anglers. Many anglers aren’t aware that most of our Largemouths are less than five years old and weigh in at under three pounds, hence haven’t seen most “OLD” lures.
Our chuggers have a cupped head with its lower and top lip extending out equally while most poppers lower lip extends further out. The chuggers actually provide the true Popping noise while your Rebel Pop-R style really spit.
Many of Rayburn’s dense Hydrilla beds have not come all the way to the top and matted over but still have open pockets. Anglers can work the Chuggers over these holes then using slight subtle rod jerks causing them to pop but not move much. The longer you keep your bait in a Bass’ strike zone the better chance of getting a fish.
The Rebel Pop-R and other spitters many times work better when used to mimic a fleeing bait fish such as our Threadfin Shad. These lures can also be walked somewhat like a Heddon Zara Spook. Any anglers who’ve fished the Rebel Pop-R have had Bass come up and hit your lure after you exited what you thought was the strike zone then speeded up your retrieve making the Pop-R spit - pop and walk imitating a fleeing bait fish when a bass hits.
Our third style Topwater lure which is the King of Topwater lures for really Big Bass is the Heddon Zara Spook which has a long history of Big Bass. The biggest topwater bass caught by one of my guide trip anglers was an enormous 10 pound 1 ounce giant that hit a 3/4 ounce Spook in a Flitter Shad finish one October in Five Fingers bay. These Heddon Spooks come in every color game fish hit plus five sizes from the 1 ounce Super Spook XT to a 1/4 ounce Puppy.
My rod and reel outfit for eighty percent of my topwater Bassing is a G. Loomis 7 Ft. Saltwater Popping rod for 1/4 to 5/8 ounce lures. I’ve mounted a 5 X 1 gear ratio Shimano baitcaster spooled with 12 or 14 lb. test Silver Thread Copolymer depending on cover type and density on this rod.
Under the right wind conditions we can extend our topwater bite for another hour after sunrise by utilizing our high east bank especially those with mature stands of shoreline pine trees. If you get any early morning cloud cover that also will extend our topwater bite.
Another series of lures for fishing over and in Hydrilla, Pondweed, Buck Brush, Lily Pads, etc. is our solid soft plastic toad type with kicking style frog feet. Yum Lure Company has a new Toad type soft plastic lure named the Tip Toad which is heavy enough to cast without any weight that I use a Owner screwlock #5/0 wide gap hook to rig. You need to screw the hook keeper up to the Tip Toad’s nose with the hooks laying on the bottom side. There is a premolded slot that when you run your hook through the slots end, it will lay flat against Tip Toad’s top making it pretty weedless.
Creme Lure Company makes a “Du Dad” lure that has a flat Bream style body of similar material which comes on top quickly with both its kicker feet really churning. It has an oversized body which requires a larger hook with my choice being Mustard 5/0 wide gap double Frog hook with a screwlock type lure keeper.
Another type frog bait is the hollow bodied floating style Booyah Pad Crasher coming in both a 1/4 and 1/2 ounce size with multi strand spinnerbait type legs. I use the same rod and reel setup as with spinnerbaits but using a 7 X 1 gear ratio reel and 30 lb. Power Pro braided line with a fluorocarbon leader.
We are having our best results with this Toad when bass blow up on either the Booyah Pad Crasher, Popping Pad Crasher or other Frog styles and miss the bait. By keeping a Tip Toad rigged on a second rod you can cast it then let it settle before reeling using a twitching motion which many times will draw a strike.
For Bass anglers wanting action this time of year, the 1/2 ounce Super Spook, Jr. can be hard to beat. If you have a distinct vegetation line or drain coming along or between points the Junior is easier to walk on most lighter Bass tackle and with our clear water pulls distant fish.
Mickey Eastman, Radio host of Houston’s KILT Outdoors, outstanding saltwater guide and I continually talk about “Fish Who Eat Meat” on his radio show. This statement references basically all game who hit lures and I’ve landed everything from a 40 inch Musky, 9 1/2 lb. bass, 5 lb. saltwater Spec and 11 lb. Redfish (Channel Bass) on Spooks.
Several years ago I fished with old friend, Billy Murray while he had one of his week long “Fishing Schools” on Ouachita Reservoir in Arkansas. He would get all the school anglers out in early morning and then he and I fished. We had good weather the whole time starting each day with he and I fishing over rocky points with Spook Juniors continually catching bass on each point.
Billy started the Bass Fishing School concept over forty years ago and now fishes out of a low profile 1973 Bass Master Classic Ranger. We had the two of us, both over 70 years old, fishing out of a 40 plus year old boat with lures originating before either Billy or I, so it’s evident that Bass don’t care about age of equipment or anglers, they just want something to eat.
One key to catching game fish is not just spending seventy thousand dollars for a boat with another six to seven thousand on electronics. You also need to understand what I refer to as CCF meaning Comfort-Cover-Forage. This includes available forage, the topographies of your water body seasonal fish patterns and types of available cover.
I’ve been using the Frog/Toad setup casting into Torpedo Grass that has Hydrilla starting at its outside edge where most of our larger bass are holding with one 5 and 3/4 last week. If there is a little too much wind or the bass are deeper in the grass Booyah has the same 1/2 ounce frog with a Popper style mouth. It’s called a Poppin Pad Crasher coming in 10 color patterns with matching spinnerbait style strand legs with its surface commotion accounting for some good bass.
Booyah also has a new style frog using a modified Pad Crasher body with a revolving foot shaped tail named the TOADRUNNER. This tail rotates on a swivel attached to a molded in wire which allows you to change the angle of its foot providing a different surface. disturbance. The people who’ve used these told me they are drawing more strikes plus they are also doing well here over Rayburn’s Hydrilla beds and in Torpedo Grass drains.
Another grass lure is Heddon Lure Company’s Moss Boss which is a heavy solid plastic style spoon lure that has a large single hook. This lure always falls with its hook facing up and its spoon shaped body landing flat. My most productive method using the 3/8 ounce model is to bring it over the vegetation using a slow retrieve with a up and down motion of my rod tip. This retrieve technique causes the Moss Boss to actually “SPIT” water with this down movement. A great deal of our Hydrilla beds haven’t completely matted over and have numerous holes scattered throughout. If you cast onto the mats and work the Moss Boss back to these holes then quit reeling which allows the lure to sink with a wobbling action many times drawing a strike. The bait casting outfit I use when fishing in this dense cover is a G. Loomis “Fast Action” heavy power 6’ 6” to 7’ 1” rod and 6 or 7 X 1 gear ratio Shimano reel. I use 30 lb. Power Pro braided line which is not for forcing the Bass into your boat but rather to keep the line from being cut in the heavy cover.
The Loomis rods I use include everything from their $500.00 NRX Jig and Worm special through a $300.00 IMX - Pro Deep-Flex crankbait rod and while there are less expensive rods, you get what you pay for. An option to paying for these top of the line rods is to drop down one size in you next outboard. This saves several thousand to spend on tackle to actually catch fish. If you don’t find Bass early with the Booyah Spinnerbaits, Yum’s Frogs, Toads or Topwater Zara Spooks but see bait, try Crankbaits or Jerkbaits.
When I run into this I’ll use my Lowrance sonar units to verify bait locations either on my HDS 9 bow unit or on my console model HDS 10 which has a Side Scan unit. This Side Scan allows me to look out both sides of my boat and see if bait is holding towards deeper water or shallow cover. If you don’t find any Threadfin Shad or other Bass forage fish, it’s time to move. But when there is bait, I’m switching to crank baits starting with a 3/8 ounce suspending Rogue in either a Blue Back-Silver sided-Orange belly or Foxy Shad. If this doesn’t work there is a multitude of shallow early morning crank baits that may be the ticket. These include Bombers Shallow A in Bass color, Bandit Lure Company’s Pack-It lure weighing just over 1/2 ounce in Pearl-Black Back or Bone. The Flex II is one of Booyah’s newer square billed 1/2 oz. lures with their Smoke Shad and Bluegill finishes both working outside the vegetation. I use the same 7 Ft. G. Loomis popping rod outfit for lures of 5/8 oz. or less, just like my topwaters.
Once the sun gets over the trees we’ve had two choices, either a Wacky Rig in deeper grass or Texas Rig outside grass which has emerging Hydrilla.
I’ve written before about the Hall Hook Company’s Ring weights and Owner Mosquito hooks on which Hall uses saltwater leader wire, which doesn’t take a set to make these hooks weedless.
Our number one soft plastic has been Yum’s 5 inch Dinger in Junebug (purple), Watermelon Pearl laminate or Watermelon Seed. For the deeper fish we are Texas rigging using a 2/0 or 3/0 Owner straight shanked hook and screwlock 3/16 or 1/4 ounce bullet weight. By fishing the outside edges of our deeper east banks we are catching bass until about 10 AM. The deeper Hydrilla that’s up to the surface provides shade just like standing timber or steep banks until the Sun is directly overhead. By working your Yum Dinger parallel along the outside edge you will keep it in front of bass holding just inside cover waiting to waylay “Lunch”.
While those same 5 inch Yum Dingers are dense enough to cast without any weight they sink too slow and are harder to cast into a wind. Hall Hook Company’s ring weight slides over your Dinger and by positioning it over the egg sack will allow your Dinger to fall in a more normal horizontal fashion. I use Hall’s 3/0 weedless hook which slips through the weights 2 pre-drilled holes. By using the attached loop style weed-guards over your hooks point, you can fish any of the weedbeds we’ve got in East Texas.
Those same holes we previously talked about fishing the Heddon Moss Boss lures in are also ideal for using your Wacky rigged Yum Dingers. The way to get a good lure fall is to cast past the hole then using your rod, pull the bait, without reeling, towards the hole and slowly let it descend until it reaches the bottom. We use a slight up and down rod movement on the fall which gives your Dinger an irresistible twitching motion.
If we get any late morning cloud cover, there are stump beds out in 15 to 30 feet of water that some Bass move into. We’ve been using both a 7.5 inch Yum Ribbontail worm and their Swim’N Dinger rigged Texas style. The only difference is we are using a 3/0 hook and 3/8 oz. screwlock bullet sinker. With the deeper water and cloud cover darker colors such as Junebug, Green Pumpkin and Black have been producing better.
I use two rods for worms one being a 7 ft. l inch NRX model 852C JWR which has extra fast action and medium power for lighter soft plastics. I use a Shimano Calcutta reel for two reasons on this rod, the first being its low 5 X 1 Gear ratio and its all metal. I use 20 lb. test Power Pro braided line with a Silver Threads Fluorocarbon leader that I can wrap around the reel spool pillars and break it off when hung in stumps, treetops or brush piles which I can’t do using my hands.
My second rod is for the heavier worm rigs again using a 7 ft. 1 inch Loomis NRX rod but model 853C JWR with extra fast action and medium heavy power. I again use a Calcutta reel but loaded with Power Pro 30 lb. test braid for the same reasons as before.
Under the same weather conditions we’re using Booyah’s Pigskin football style jig in 1/2 ounce dressed with Yum’s Money Craw or Craw Chunk in the same stump areas. The two Jig colors I prefer are River Craw (Black Blue) or Molting Craw (Green Brown) with trailers being the same colors as those deep worms.
For my deep football jigs I use a Loomis 7 ft. GLX Magnum rod rated for 1 oz. lures with a fast action and heavy power with a Calcutta reel loaded with 30 lb. test Power Pro Braid.
My reason for using Power Pro Braid is I can cast longer distances with these rod setups. If using monofilament you lessen your ability to set the lures hook due to line stretch on those long casts. In addition braid doesn’t have the memory of mono and doesn’t degrade over time in direct sunlight.
Our current fishing condition will basically stay the same until we finally see our first Teal start flying through going to the coast in September or first part of October. About the same time Teal are beginning to head south, our big schools of Threadfin Shad who’ve been holding in our main lakes deeper water also begin moving. There are some consistent fall patterns we’ve been using to catch Bass for years we will layout depending on weather changes. The only significant up coming change anglers will see is our Hydrilla beds will mat up into a solid mass as it continues to grow and water levels recede.
Now For Texas Parks & Wildlife Department
It’s about time for those anglers fishing Freshwater to cough up that annual $5.00 fee for payment purportedly to build a new freshwater fish hatchery. The hatchery’ s initial cost starting out was $13.5 million dollars, then went up to $20 million, then $33 million and the last figure Texas Parks & Wildlife gave me it’s now over $41 million.
I was one of 10 members on TPWD’s statewide Freshwater Advisory Board when the original $5 fee was imposed. This fee was set to run ten years beginning September 1, 2004 and conclude August 31, 2014. When our Advisory Board agreed to sponsor this with our state legislature, I personally asked Robert Cook, Executive Director of TPWD if this would end in 2014. He explained to me face to face, it was written in Stone.
Outdoor writer, Shannon Tompkins said my mistake was I should have gotten clarification if it was Sand Stone or Granite since it’s been sixteen years and still counting.
With the total number of Freshwater anglers, TPWD reaps about $9 million each year for this fee alone. Using this average number of fees, TPWD has taken in to date approximately $45 million above and beyond what we anglers agreed upon.
When treated as a legal contract between two parties this would be considered fraud which is misrepresentation by deception. What this all boils down to is Freshwater anglers were intentionally “LIED” to by TPWD executive leadership.
In addition, we still have Tens of Thousands of dollars being made each year by Tournament Organizations utilizing Texas’ waters. All these events require is a Fishing License just like Mom-Dad and the Kids pay. According to TPWD’s figures only 15% of Freshwater anglers fish tournaments which leaves the other 85% of just recreational anglers carrying the major burden of supporting TPWD.
Good Fishing, hopefully for years to come! __________________________________________________________________
Our 2019 Fishing Schools schedule will follow at a later date in the next Fishing Report. The dates should be in approximately the same time frame
Our 2018 Fishing Schools schedule is as follows.
Map & Electronics Class is February 9-11, 2018
Big Bass is March 26-30, 2018
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
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21815 FM 705
Broaddus, TX. 75929