The new Tackle Warehouse Invitationals season is underway on Big Sam - Major League Fishing

The new Tackle Warehouse Invitationals season is underway on Big Sam

Image for The new Tackle Warehouse Invitationals season is underway on Big Sam
Things were off to a foggy start after a brief weather delay. Photo by Rob Matsuura.
February 9, 2024 • Jody White • Invitationals

BROOKELAND, Texas – Beginning a new season is always fun. Even if the fishing is tough, there are plenty of good vibes to go around, it’s great to see old friends, and everyone is starting from a clean slate with nothing but opportunity ahead of them. This week, at Stop 1 Presented by Power-Pole MOVE on Sam Rayburn, the rain in the forecast might put a bit of a damper on things, but it sounds like the fishing is going to be very good, which should make for a really fun start to the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals season.

Follow along

You can follow the action at Stop 1 Presented by Power-Pole MOVE on Sam Rayburn Feb. 9-11 on MLFNOW! with live coverage beginning at 7 a.m. CT. Thanks to BUBBA, the unofficial leaderboard should be more accurate than ever, and weigh-in will start live each day at 3 p.m. CT.

Dillon Harrell and others expect the fishing to be pretty diverse. Photo by Rob Matsuura.

Current conditions

With the water coming up a lot over the last few weeks and generally warm conditions lately, it seems like this event won’t be a replica of some more wintry events on Big Sam.

“Rayburn is always a new lake to me,” said superstar Dakota Ebare. “I say this every year, but it’s true. Sometimes we have grass, sometimes the offshore bite is good, and sometimes the brush pile bite is on fire. It’s just always something new, and this year is no different.

“I think the fishing is going to be good. I think I’ll fish this tournament different than I’ve fished any here recently,” he said. “We’ve almost got a new lake effect with the water rising – all of a sudden, there’s bushes in the water, there’s shallow stuff. But I think 80% of the field is out there LiveScoping. It’ll spread out the field, people will be doing everything you can imagine. I think it’s going to be a great event.”

The higher water may not be a good thing for everyone, though. Some fish that might usually be deep seem to be pulling shallow, and there’s a lot of mud in certain sections of the lake.

“Everything above the TX-147 bridge is pretty much blown out,” explained local rookie Dillon Harrell. “The backs of a lot of major creeks, like Harvey or Veach, those are all really clean. But, the main lake up around the bridge is muddy, so a lot of water fell north of here.

“The water is really muddy in certain areas, from the water that has been pushed in here,” Harrell said. “So, it’s really confining people to certain areas of the lake. But, it’s Sam Rayburn – there are enough fish in those areas. People can kind of pick what they want to do, and there’s enough fish in those areas that it is all working.”

So, when it comes to patterns, don’t bank on a Top 10 Baits gallery overflowing with minnows, big crankbaits or Carolina rigs. This could turn out to be one of the most diverse events of the season.

“I wouldn’t normally say that someone could top five an event out here fishing shallow nowadays with ‘Scope and everything,” Harrell said. “But, from what I’ve seen in practice, that is very possible. Most of the fish I’ve caught in practice have been less than 8 foot. I guess it’s the warm weather pushing them up, or the fish just think it is high. I don’t think you’re going to see a lot of people doing the traditional deep crankbait or Carolina rig thing. I don’t think you’re going to see that dominate this event like years past.”

What it takes to win

Pegging the winning weight at somewhere between 65 and 75 pounds, Ebare figures the scales will get a workout this week.

“The fish are in great shape,” he said. “Normally, the average fish you catch is about 2 pounds. It seems like the average fish right now is about 2 3/4. So, I think we’ll see a higher average weight than years past. The kicker is the weather this weekend – it’s supposed to rain a lot. I don’t know how that’s going to affect the bite.”

Harrell went a little lighter and figures the winning weight will be about 67 or 68 pounds.

“Rayburn is fishing pretty good right now,” he said. “I guess the fish kind of think it’s high right now. It’s fishing really good; I think there will be a lot of consistent bags.”

For Harrell, Day 1 will also mark the start of something new for him. Fishing the full slate of Invitationals in 2024, he’s stepping out for a shot at pro fishing.

“I really tried to put the nerves behind me and not think about this as the tournament it is,” he said. “I don’t think it’ll really hit me until we start taking off and I don’t have a co-angler. How can you not be excited? It’s what I’ve always wanted to do, and it’s on my home lake.”

Fishing Clash AOY

Tackle Warehouse Invitationals anglers will compete throughout the 2024 season for the prestigious Fishing Clash Angler of the Year award and its $50,000 payday. Fishing Clash – an interactive 3D fishing simulation game that’s played by more than 80 million people worldwide – is the official AOY sponsor of the Bass Pro Tour, Tackle Warehouse Invitationals, Toyota Series and Phoenix Bass Fishing League. 

You can download Fishing Clash for free in the App Store and on Google Play or log on to for more information.