SAM RAYBURN RESERVOIR
21815 FM 705
Broaddus, TX. 75929
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IT’S WINTER - NEW TACKLE - TPWD MOVING BACKWARDS
Before we get to fishing, the Lower Neches Valley Authority’s, Director Scott Hall and I’ve had a lengthy discussion about our reservoir’s current water levels. He explained that they expect our current drought condition to continue.
This drought ties in with the damage suffered by their saltwater intrusion barrier. Hurricane Harvey dumped over 40 inches of rain in our Neches River basin with 20 plus inches draining into the river causing intensive damage to the entire barrier including its control system. This barrier was installed in 2003 at a cost of $56 million dollars borne by the LNVA (Lower Neches Valley Authority) and our U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Prior to the barrier’s installation we relied on the placement of a temporary floating contraption being installed. While this barrier was quite costly to install it was required to curtail saltwater from reaching commercial freshwater intake Pumps located upstream.
In order to keep our freshwater flow at the level needed to keep our Neches River above sea level, Rayburn would have to release water at 2,500 CFS (cubic feet per second). This tied in with natural flow of the Neches would provide the daily required 5,000 acre feet of water which at 325,852 gallons per acre foot equates to 1,629,260,000 gallons of water. That is over 1 1/2 Trillion gallons per day but as of January 4, 2018 Rayburn had 814 Billion gallons behind its Dam without its natural flow from the Angelina and Attoyac Rivers or Ayish Bayou so we have water at this time. As of January 5th, the LNVA has repaired and reactivated the barrier at a cost of approximately $600,000.00. This will cut down on required releases this year and hopefully maintain fishable water levels.
At this time, we can assume that Rayburn's high spring water levels we saw in 2016 at 10 foot and 2017 at 6 foot, both above conservation pool of 164.4, won’t happen this year. Those high waters pushed our spawning areas behind both the Torpedo Grass and Buckbrush (Button Willows). This protected both the large Spawning Females/Males plus their surviving offspring allowing a 2 year above average survival of new bass into Rayburn.
If we see low post spawn water levels, a lot of those smaller eight to fourteen inch bass will be pulled out into catchable waters. This will be great for anglers, especially those just getting into bass fishing, as smaller bass are easier to catch the first few times. It’s when they’ve been caught a few times before and then like big Whitetails become more selective in cover use and forage hence, tougher to outwit.
But it’s those big pre-spawn and spawning bass which most anglers want and many times these come on Soft Plastics. We found out when Nick Creme of Creme Lures came out with his original Scoundrel the best way to find out how to catch bass on plastic worms was by catching “Lots” of Bass.
Although the last sixty years have seen tremendous improvements in our entire fishing industry, it still goes back to learning soft Plastic usage is by catching bass. Hollow fiberglass casting rods were the first really big improvement in Bass fishing as they were lighter in weight hence, more sensitive. Next, monofilament became more pliable and less springy adopting well to the new free spool Garcia Ambassadeur 5000. This all tied in with the Creme worm and according to Bass Hall of Fame’s Billy Murray, an angler named Dave Hawk who put together the “TEXAS” rig. He used a bell sinker with the brass pin cut out, ran mono through it thus becoming our original slip sinker in the late fifties or early sixties.
Back to Fishing. We previously saw 8 days of below freezing temperatures here on Rayburn which dropped our surface waters down to 48 degrees. Then we had another four to five days with below freezing. This should move our Threadfin Shad out into deep water where they many times will school up in large bunches.
For those anglers who’ve never been fortunate enough to get into deep water schooling Bass, it’s an anglers dream come true. Here in East Texas this type of fishing ties directly into Threadfin Shad and cold water temperatures.
Threadfin Shad move several times each year with these moves tied into comfort, forage and reproduction cycles. When our water temperature drops into the low fifties they start moving out into our deeper, warmer waters.
These Shad have a low temperature tolerance and can suffer extreme die offs in cold shallow waters which is the same thing we’re seeing this year with our saltwater flats and dying Spec’s, turtles, etc. Once they move into those deeper warmer waters, they bunch up into large sometimes massive schools. This is when many of our Largemouths also move off shore following these Shad.
There are three items anglers must use in order to take full advantage of deep water Bass. First is good maps of our Reservoirs with the most common being HYDROGRAPHIC type which means those of bodies of water that show your actual Reservoir at normal pool. The second type are Topographic maps which show contour lines of a region both above and below the reservoir’s water levels. These topo maps require more angler effort but are well worth the extra trouble especially during spring and winter. We extensively cover the use of Rayburn’s original pre outlined Topo Maps during my annual Electronics/Maps class.
Your second item is understanding and using good Electronics. I have Lowrance HDS units on both my console and bow with my console unit being equipped with not only Sonar, GPS and Down scan but also Side scan.
The third item is simple but a must for winter time, deep water fishing success “BUOYS”. Without these to mark your fishing locations you will waste an inordinate amount of time trying to relocate Shad schools your HDS units pinpointed. By tying these three items together you will drastically cut down on wasted fishing time.
You start by using your maps to pinpoint deeper Structural changes in our Reservoir bottoms. Shad normally hold over Humps, Drop-offs, Creek beds and Bends or Points which by previewing your maps and establishing areas to search cuts down on wasted time.
All newer Lowrance units have preloaded mapping but there are minor variations on these. The way I change and move items such as drains, points and humps is by using dedicated Icons which is a simple yet accurate method.
Another advantage to previewing your reservoir’s Topo or Hydro maps is you can look at a much larger section without having to actually move your units screen. After you do this it’s much easier to scan your previously identified locations on your personal unit.
While there are many deep water methods, one I’ve been using is a Cotton Cordell 3/4 ounce CC Spoon with success down to fifty feet here on Rayburn. The following are two modifications I make on this spoon, first I put a split ring ball bearing swivel on the top eye which cuts down on line twist when jigging this spoon. Another way to cut down on monofilament line twist is by using Power Pro braided line with a Silver Thread Fluorocarbon leader. Second, I remove the treble hook and install, using its same spit ring, a 3/0 or 4/0 Siwash hook. This is easy to do since the Siwash comes with an open eye that you close after installing. The reason for this is normal treble hooks have a narrower gap and shallower throat than a Siwash which makes them easier to throw when your Bass comes up out of deep water jumping and shaking its head. A second advantage is the single hook doesn’t hang-up in stumps or brush as much and is easier to free by shaking your rod tip which usually bounces the hook loose.
Bomber Lure Company also makes a jigging spoon called the Slab in six colors and four sizes with their 1/2 and 7/8 ounce being the size of choice for most bass anglers. This is also a great jigging lure for Strippers, Hybrid Strippers and White Bass. I use the same two modifications on these as the Cordell CC Spoon for the same reasons.
I use a G. Loomis GLX 783C MBR rod and have a Curado 5 X 1 reel on with 20 lb. Power Pro and 17 Ib. Silver Thread Fluorocarbon leader. I use a blood/barrel knot for splicing all my leader to line rigging as its easy to tie and doesn’t slip.
It’s not unusual while utilizing my HDS side/down scan to see small groups of fish holding over the lower portion of deep points. One year about this time I found a group of bass holding off Gazebo point in Tiger Bay’s Squirrel Creek at about 25 feet where it dropped into the Creek. I have no idea how many bass I caught but it lasted from about 1 PM to 4 PM using the same two lures. My first lure was a 3/4 ounce Booyah football head Pigskin Jig with a Brown/Green Skirt and a Yum Green Pumpkin 3 3/4 inch Money Craw trailer. When the bass were suspended just off the bottom it was a fish about every third or fourth cast. Then things would slow down and individual bass would move up on the point to maybe 15 feet and being suspended they didn’t take the jig.
I switched to Bomber’s deepest diver, a 3/4 ounce Deep Fat Free Shad in Tennessee Shad that on a long cast with 12-14 lb. test Silver Thread mono line will dive that deep. It took more casts per fish since they were scattered but it would last until they moved back out into the creek edge of the point.
For the Jigs, I used a Loomis GLX 855 C JWR which is 7’ 1” and handles up to 1 ounce lures. It’s got a Curado 5 X 1 spooled with 30 lb. test Power Pro braid and a 20 lb. test Silver Thread Fluorocarbon 6 ft. leader.
I just got a new IMX-PRO Deep-Flex Crankbait rod for big lures but I was using my 7’ 6” Loomis CBR 906 Crankbait rod for 1 ounce lures. They originally made this rod for fishing large lipless crankbaits in Hydrilla but with its 7 1/2 foot arch it will really put extra distance to your cast. This extra distance is why Bass tournaments have extended rod length to 10 feet. Two problems with a 10 foot rod is my boat isn’t set up nor has storage for that length rod. Secondly, with my 21 foot Triton I have three seats setup for guide parties and that 10 foot rod is going to be too close to somebody's head on many casts.
The reel I have on my 7 1/2 foot crankbait rod is a Shimano 5 X 1 Calais that picks up 17 inches of line per crank. We found many years ago that this time of year with colder water a bass’s Metabolism slows down and a slower retrieve on Big Crank baits would actually get them down deeper and catch more than a fast retrieve. Long time fishing friend Billy Murray has a saying that the faster you reel the smaller the Bass. His statement is backed by lots of years we’ve fished and found that “Big Bass” seldom chase but mostly use ambush.
In my new 2018 Bass Pro Shop catalog the slowest retrieve reel I found was Abu Garcia’s 4.9 X 1 Revo Beast at $399.99 plus tax. Luckily Danny and Joe Meyer, owners of several Fishing Tackle Unlimited stores in the Houston area still have a top notch reel repair department I’ve been using for years. With a little care and yearly overhaul with them, I’m using 15 year old reels that are just as good mechanically as the day I bought them.
Now for Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s Moving Backwards.
The key to our smaller bass becoming Lunkers is how we anglers handle and release the fish we catch. We have used documented methods of Catch & Release in my Fishing Schools and Guide Service for over twenty years with input from our nation’s leading Bass biologists but now we have a problem.
In a 2007 Toyota Texas Bass Tournament held on Lake Fork, a new method was implemented called “Catch-Weigh-Release”. This continues to be touted as the latest and greatest methods of handling tournament caught Bass. Not only does TPWD continue to promote this method but B.A.S.S., B.F.L. and others are starting to also implement this procedure.
I have watched two events utilizing this method and they contradict all previously approved methods of handling “OUR BASS”. The most indepth study ever compiled was the 44 page booklet which I helped with on its original draft, published by B.A.S.S titled “Keeping Bass Alive”. It and other accredited studies all addressed the issue of removing a Bass’s Slime coating as Don’t Do It. In both televised tournaments I watched over half of the Bass caught by professional anglers were grasped twice with “DRY” hands.
During a long discussion with a senior TPWD Freshwater official, he stated that although Bass were bodily handled with dry hands it was better than using livewells. Shortly after that discussion I talked with a B.A.S.S. official I’ve known for many years about this same procedure. After much beating around the bush, the reason is SPONSORS LIKE THE FAST PACED HYPE which attracts the age group of anglers they want to draw. What it really boils down to is tournaments receive more money from Sponsors for advertising from this hype. My question is how much funding do these Sponsors provide for the use of our state’s resources such as Reservoirs, Facilities and Fish since there are no fees in place for tournament events. The obvious answer is none as previously spelled out.
T.P.W.D. continues to tout all that Gulf States Toyota does for THEM including donating $2.5 Million dollars over the last ten years. This totals out to $250 thousand a year and last year we paid “70” TPWD employees to work a week at the Bass Master Classic sponsored by Toyota in Houston and on Lake Conroe. I’m sure there were other department employees which were involved in these events before and after that weren’t accounted for. I initiated a Freedom Of Information request on the total cost to provide those 70 T.P.W.D employees with their response being my cost would be $720.00 for that information. I guess they just don’t want us to know what WE paid. If this is tied in with the huge unknown Subliminal value to Gulf States Toyota and Toyota Motor Corporation they are getting a terrific deal at Mom, Dad and their Kids license fee costs.
Freshwater anglers pay in over $9 Million Dollars in Freshwater stamp fees alone not counting regular license costs every year. The overwhelming majority of over 90% of Freshwater anglers fund TPWD’s existence because they enjoy fishing and yet don’t make a dime off the resource.
Tournament organizations and participating anglers make untold millions of dollars off this Texas resource and pay the same fees to Texas as recreational anglers. In addition a large number of Bass boats provided to the “PRO’S” are demos meaning there is no sales tax paid on that original $50 - $80 thousand dollar vessel. Then when this boat is sold as used with a reduced price of $35 - $60 thousand a year later, it costs T.P.W.D. another $1,237 - $1,650 in lost sales tax. After reading our T.P.W.D.’s manual on Dealer/Manufacture Boat Demos, this demo application as now used seems to be a misinterpretation of the laws actual intent.
Good Fishing, hopefully for years to come!
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
[ Fishing Report ] [ Fishing Schools ] [ Home ]
21815 FM 705
Broaddus, TX. 75929