We fished Sam Rayburn last weekend during the Anglers Choice East Texas Amateur Team Tournament on Saturday, January 30, and it was some pretty tough fishing. It rained and stormed Friday night with 8+ inches giving cause to Rayburn’s turbulent waters rising one foot overnight! We started out the tournament with drawing boat number two; and, because we were warned another band of rain was expected around 8:00 a.m., we headed our Skeeter 210 north and went directly to our fishing spot up near the Hwy. 147 bridge. The winds were howling and the Yamaha 225 was handling the 2-6′ swells with no problem. We reached our destination and followed our game plan of fishing secondary points with scattered grass using Carolina rigs the rest of the day. The fish were not very active to say the least, and we were only catching a keeper fish about every 45 minutes and the primary bite was between 9:00 and 10:00 a.m., which made for a very slow day. We ended up catching 30 or more bass all day with only six keepers. We were able to cull one of the keepers to give us a final weight of 9.64. The bite was very soft and it was hard to detect the hits. Norman and I both connected with at least two big fish but never got them to the boat. It was hard to stick with our Carolina rig pattern but that seemed to be what the fish wanted and we just kept chunking and moving. Unfortunately our time ran out before we could get a lunker in the boat and we ended up in 14th place out of 96 teams. We stuck with our secondary points all day and kept moving between four locations that were all very close together. We were only able to get two to three fish per point, but at least we were able to catch a small limit and we were quite proud of that accomplishment. Fishing under adverse conditions is never easy and that judgment call on when to go and when to stay is always very tricky. With perseverance and determination, we stuck it out and landed a small check for our efforts, but we have to share the credit. We were fishing with CastAway Honey Carolina rods with Team Daiwa reels spooled with 12# Trilene Big Game line and using lizards and centipedes. There is no doubt in my mind that had that storm not blown in, we would have done much better. To tell you how tough it really was, there were only 20 teams out of 96 that caught limits of fish. Heavy stringer was just over 15.39 pounds for a five-fish limit. Big bass was just over 6 pounds which is really small for this time of year. It seems the massive fish kill on Rayburn has really affected the fish and the fishing. This same time last year, it was taking 25-30 pounds to win a tournament and it’s really hard to find a big string of fish anymore. Most all the anglers who got checks contributed their success to Carolina rigs, crank baits, and Rat-L-Traps. There were a lot of one and two fish stringers weighed and more than two thirds of the field of 192 anglers that caught three fish or less. Norman and I were very fortunate to do as good as we did. We have to pass along much of the credit to a good friend of ours, Steven Johnson. Steven is a full-time guide on Toledo Bend and Rayburn and is sponsored by the same marine dealer, Boots Follmar Marine out of Houston, Skeeter Boats and Yamaha Outboards. Since neither Norman or I had been on Rayburn for three months prior to this tournament, we thought it would be of great help if Steven took Norman out the weekend before the tournament and showed him some new areas. Believe me, it did make a big difference. No matter who you are how good an angler you are, there are times when it would help if you would consider using the resources available to the guides. A professional guide is on the lake 350+ days a year. They stay in touch with what the fish are doing, the patterns that are working and the migration routes the fish travel. I’ve always said, you can never know it all and you can always learn something new every time you go out. With adverse conditions, rising and muddy waters, inactive fish, etc., you need all the help you can muster when fishing one of these tournaments. When you invest in a good guide, you increase your chances of being able to have a successful day, and if you are familiar with the lake, of being able to go back to the areas and catch fish on your own. That’s where the investment in a guide pays off. Without Steven’s help, Norman and I would have been able to produce some fish, but I’m convinced it would not have been as good a day had we not had help. Utilizing the services of a guide is an investment in future productivity. One must weigh the relevance of the help received and offset the cost in order to justify the expense. But, when you consider you will be returning to those areas over the course of your lifetime, how much really did that guide trip cost? If your wanting to book a trip with Steven Johnson, you can reach him at (409) 579-4213.
– Texas Saltwater Fishing Guide