NEW SMYRNA BEACH, FL (June 1, 2020) — The last time the Texas Team Trail presented by Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s visited Lake Sam Rayburn, that late-February event yielded a massive winning limit of 49.31 pounds. Such fireworks typically fall into the once-in-a-decade category, but while expectations for a repeat performance would be less than realistic — if for no other reason than the seasonal differences — the upcoming June 5-6 double-header is sure to showcase this powerhouse lake’s tremendous bass fishery.
First, a summary of adjustments to the 2020 season adjustments. These back-to-back qualifying events on Rayburn replace the Toledo Bend and Lake Amistad events that were postponed due to Covid-19 restrictions. The 2020 Championship has also been rescheduled to October 24-25 (location TBA).
“After intense consideration, which included respectful communication with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, we made what we believe are the most prudent decisions for the remainder of our season,” said TXTT Tournament Director Mike Hastings. “We know how much the competitive season means to our anglers and we did our best to work within the state’s guidelines to provide the best possible solution.”
This 114,500-acre Angelina River impoundment, originally known as “McGee Bend Dam and Reservoir” was created in 1965 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Sam Rayburn Dam. September 1963 saw the name officially changed to “Sam Rayburn Dam and Reservoir”, in honor of the recently deceased Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Sam Rayburn Danny Iles of Hemphill, Texas partnered with Brian Shook to catch that monster bag during the season opener on Rayburn. He’s optimistic that Rayburn is set up for a solid two days of bass fishing.
“As of right now, the lake looks really, really good,” Iles said. “The water’s not gin-clear; it has a good fishing color to it.”
As of June 1, Rayburn’s water level was 164.32, just below full pool of 164.40. With no major rain events forecast between now and the weekend, that level should remain consistent.
This status stands in stark contrast to 2019, when spring flooding brought Rayburn’s water level approximately 10 feet above normal. Those extreme conditions forced the rescheduling of the year’s first qualifier, but anglers will thankfully find a much more stable and predictable lake for the final regular-season events.
Weather looks good, too, as Friday and Saturday show nearly cookie cutter forecasts with daytime highs in the lower 90’s, partly cloudy skies, 20 percent chance of rain and light northeast winds.
TACTICS IN PLAY
Following typical June patterns, Isles said the fish will be postspawn and likely scattered throughout the lake. In his view, anglers will be able to catch fish on a topwater bait to a big, deep diving crankbait and anything in between.
“You can catch that shallow or deep,” Iles said. “There are some fish that live shallow all year, but they’re not always easy to catch. This time of year, they’re easy to catch.”
“I think brush piles are going to play a big role and then, there’s a pretty good shallow bite too, if you don’t have a bluebird, high pressure day. It really is wide-open.”
Offshore anglers will definitely give those crankbaits a good work out, but football heads, big Texas-rigged worms and Carolina rigs could also produces. The shallow flipping game could also be a factor, along with shallow running crankbaits, frogs and Senkos.
By the first week of June, the shad spawn will likely be in the rear view mirror, but bream beds could offer a home run pattern. Finding that honeycomb pattern in a shallow, protected area will put a lot of tempting bass meals in close proximity.
This is wolf-pack time, so teams that find bream beds may also find clusters of bass patrolling the perimeter, waiting for their chance to rush in and grab a plump panfish. Prop baits, spinnerbaits, bladed jigs and swimbaits are common choices for this scenario.
“We’ll have a full moon (June 5), so that will play a role,” Iles said.
Given the time of year and Rayburn’s history cranking out big bags, Iles said he believes it will take mid to upper-20’s to win each day. He expects that nearly the entire lake will be in play, so anglers will lack not for the ability to spread out and find fish.
“I think you’ll be able to fish pretty much anywhere but the far upper reaches of the river arms; I think they’re muddied up,” Iles said. “But 85 percent of the lake is wide open.”
Strategy always matters, of course, but this double header of Rayburn events will require solid game plans with less concern for moderation and more of a step-on-the-gas approach. By comparison, a multi-day event might find anglers wisely measuring their Day 1 effort; but with two separate events, you gotta lean on ‘em.
“I think the way these are set up, if you get on something really good, you pretty much have to burn it up, whichever day you can catch ‘em in,” Iles said. “The whole goal is to win one, so there’s not whole lot to be gained by playing it safe and trying to save fish for the second day. I think you deal with the second day when you get to it.
“More than likely, you can win one (or both) events doing the same thing both days; but probably not in the same places. You might be able to run the same pattern in multiple places. You’ll either end up seeing someone with one school of fish that they catch one day, or both days, or you’ll have people that run and gun, fish 15-20 places, and catch a couple fish off each place. Those guys might be able to really well both days.”
The trailered weigh-in will also factor into time management. With teams allowed to launch at the ramp of their choice, driving distances will vary and allowing sufficient time will be crucial to making your day’s efforts count.