2019 Lake Preview: Sam Rayburn Reservoir

TxLC_Mossy Oak Elements

Bass Pro Shops Collegiate Bass Fishing Series returns to the famed fishery for the first Major event of the 2019 season


In just a few weeks the Association of Collegiate Anglers and Bass Pro Shops Collegiate Bass Fishing Series will host the first event of the 2019 calendar year.  College fishing’s finest anglers from schools all over the nation will be traveling to southeast Texas and Sam Rayburn Reservoir to compete in the Texas Lunker Challenge presented by Mossy Oak Elements.  Widely considered one of the best bass fishing lakes in the nation, Sam Rayburn will pose a new set of challenges when these anglers take to the water at the beginning of February.

Situated along the Angelina River, conservation pool for Sam Rayburn Reservoir is 164.40 ft.  The state of Texas has seen quite a bit of rainfall over the winter months.  As it sits right now, the lake is roughly 10 ft. above normal.  For a lake that measures at 114,500 acres at normal pool, an additional 10 ft. of water makes for an even larger playing field.

Since there has been so much additional water to saturate the surrounding areas, the lake level has yet to drop over the past several weeks.  This makes predicting conditions for a tournament in early February very difficult.  There is a chance that a lot of water is moved out of the system and levels begin to creep closer to normal.  Yet at the same time, there is an equal chance lake levels remain the same or even rise slightly.  In the following lake preview we will attempt to hit on a little bit of each of these scenarios to provide a clearer picture of what awaits these anglers at the Texas Lunker Challenge presented by Mossy Oak Elements.

This will be a nationally televised event with camera teams covering all of the action, including an in-depth look at the Bass Pro Shops School of the Year race.  This will also be a large points earning opportunity for schools the make the trip to Sam Rayburn, and many schools will be looking to move into position for the title using this event to hopefully springboard their chances at a second half run.

Sam Rayburn Reservoir is known for having a healthy supply of underwater and submerged vegetation.  Typically, during this time of year, the grass grows several feet under the surface out to depths of roughly 6-8 ft.  The grass will warm quickly on those sunny days providing fish a comfortable and warm place to hide out and ambush baitfish.

One of the best baits to trigger a strike in this scenario is a lipless crankbait in a crawfish pattern.  Running that bait just along the tops of the grass is a great presentation.  When the bait gets bogged down in the grass, ripping it out quickly and letting it flutter back down can trigger those big fish to bite.  This is how the tournament was won last year, and there is a good chance a lipless crankbait will play a factor in 2019 as well.  The only determining factor will be, ‘At what depth will this grass be located due to the flooding?’

Another prevalent pattern on Sam Rayburn is to target offshore structure.  As these fish stage in a winter pattern preparing to enter the pre-spawn, they will position along humps and ledges in deeper water.  Also, with the possibility of fluctuating water levels, this deeper water offers more stability.  Fish can hang out here and not have to worry about their environment being disturbed.

In this offshore scenario, two baits will play key: a jig, and a deep diving crankbait.  In a big bass format like the Texas Lunker Challenge, these are two lures that could get the job done.  Big bass will key in on these larger profile baits.  If an angler can locate fish offshore, there is a good chance they will be more willing to bite.

Lastly, we will take a look at the flooded brush.  Pictures that have recently emerged from over there are unreal.  Local farm to market roads are underwater.  Telephone poles are camouflaged amongst submerged trees in 8 ft. of water.  The number of shallow targets to flip & pitch to are seemingly infinite.  Given the time of year, shallow wood cover could be the deal at Sam Rayburn during this event.  The larger females will move up shallow and position around this type of cover leading up to the spawn which will occur towards the end of February and the first part of March.

Methodically working a Texas-rigged soft plastic or jig around these areas could be the deal.  When it comes to looking for just one bite, slowly picking apart a high percentage area is a very smart play.  Last year we saw quite a bit of this occur.  Many of today’s college anglers are very comfortable with a big flipping stick and a heavy weight.  Given that this is a one-day event, and many of these anglers have had minimal time to practice…I would expect to see a large majority of the field up in the shallow cover flipping soft plastics.

A lot can change between now and February 3rd.  The lake level will quickly become the main focus as we near the tournament date.  One thing will remain for certain however, the Texas Lunker Challenge presented by Mossy Oak Elements is guaranteed to be an exciting event.  For more information, and to register to participate, follow this link.