BROOKELAND, Texas – The second year of the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals will launch this week, Friday, Feb. 9, through Sunday, Feb. 11, in Brookeland, Texas at the Stop 1 Presented by Power-Pole at Sam Rayburn Reservoir.
Hosted by the Jasper County Development District, the three-day tournament will feature a field of 150 professional anglers, including the Bass Pro Tour’s Kelly Jordon of Flint, Texas; Keith Carson of DeBary, Florida; Drew Gill of Mount Carmel, Illinois; and Keith Poche of Pike Road, Alabama. They’ll be joined by a stout field of competitors, including Bass Fishing Hall of Famers Paul Elias of Laurel, Mississippi and Shaw Grigsby of Gainesville, Florida, along with former Boston Red Sox player Mike Greenwell, a two-time Major League Baseball All-Star and 1988 American League MVP runner-up, who will be making the jump to compete in the “big leagues” of bass fishing. They’ll be competing for a top award of up to $115,000 and valuable Fishing Clash Angler of the Year (AOY) points – including a $50,000 payout – and to qualify for the 2025 Bass Pro Tour.
“The Jasper County Development District No. 1, along with the City of Jasper and the Jasper/Lake Sam Rayburn Chamber of Commerce, is proud to partner with Major League Fishing to bring the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals to one of the top bass fishing lakes in Texas – Lake Sam Rayburn,” said Randall Daily, Vice President of the Jasper County Development District. “We have worked with Major League Fishing for several years and tournaments. And we are always ready to welcome them and the anglers back to the lake and share some famous Texas hospitality!”
Winter weather in Texas always has the potential to really mess up January and February events on Sam Rayburn, but there’s a chance that is already out of the way this year. A recent cold snap dropped water temperatures into the 40s in surrounding lakes, but they should be on the way up again.
Generally speaking, it sounds like Rayburn looked different in pre-practice, but some of the “normal” winter patterns could still be effective. Marshall Hughes, an Invitationals rookie who lives in nearby Hemphill, Texas, said his pre-practice period taught him a few new things and confirmed some old news.
“There is some good grass left in the water, but a lot of it is straight-walled, really thick and really tall,” Hughes explained. “Right now, you’re fishing the edge of the grass line, and it was 2-inches under the water. Some areas had some good stuff, but there could be more if the water comes up.”
That extremely tall grass is a product of low water. Prior to the water coming down, there was a lot of grass in Rayburn. In pre-practice, a lot of it was literally on the bank – it should look more normal now.
“You’re going to have to mix up the shallow bite and the offshore bite to be able to win it,” mused Hughes. “This is the first time I’ve fished Rayburn this low, but I saw some fish in some areas that they should be. I was surprised almost to see them in certain places where it is shallower that are normally a lot deeper. But, I did find some fish in areas where I’ve never caught them before.”
One thing that Hughes noted is that strictly combing open water with forward-facing sonar is unlikely to be a winning gameplan. For fans that like to see long casts or a little more targeted fishing, that could be good news if he’s right.
“I don’t want to say that it can be won straight ‘Scoping, because I don’t think it can be,” he said. “I ‘Scoped a lot in pre-practice, and I didn’t catch one that was over 3 pounds. But, if you’ve got five 3-pounders and you could catch a kicker every day, that’d be pretty damn good. I think you’re still going to need to do the traditional things – drag a jig, throw a Carolina rig and fish a lipless (crankbait).”
Were the event on nearby Toledo Bend, where Cody Huff helped to start the LiveScope craze in 2020, that answer might be a lot different.
“I’ve never caught a giant one suspended on Rayburn that was just out in the middle of the lake,” detailed Hughes. “On Toledo, they wolfpack out here; catching 4 -or 5-pounders suspended is really not unheard of. But, I don’t ever see that on Rayburn. I’ve always wondered, if you took a fish out of Toledo and put it in Rayburn, would it act like a Toledo fish or a Rayburn fish?”
That doesn’t mean nobody will be looking at screens, but it’s likely that we’ll see forward-facing sonar enhance presentations as much or more than it defines patterns. So, a pro targeting a hard spot or a brush pile might judge the reaction of bass on their screen, but they may not find the fish with it. Or, you might get a scenario like Michael Neal’s 2022 win, when he caught a lot of fish on a jerkbait that he beamed up around main lake drains – simply using an efficient technique and modern sonar to exploit a pattern that has been present since Big Sam was flooded in 1965.
Anglers will launch at 7 a.m. CT each day from the Umphrey Family Pavilion, located at 5438 Sam Rayburn Parkway in Brookeland. Weigh-ins will also be held at the pavilion and will begin at 3 p.m. Fans are welcome to attend all launch and weigh-in events and also encouraged to follow the event online throughout the day on the MLFNOW!® live stream and coverage at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
The 2024 Tackle Warehouse Invitationals feature a field of 150 professional anglers competing across six invitational tournaments around the country, for a total purse of $3.9 million and valuable Fishing Clash Angler of the Year (AOY) points to qualify for a coveted spot on the MLF Bass Pro Tour, the sport’s top level.
In Tackle Warehouse Invitational competition, the full field of 150 anglers compete in the two-day opening round on Friday and Saturday in a five-fish, weigh-in format. Only the top 30 pros, based on their two-day cumulative weight, advance to the final round on Championship Sunday, where they will compete for the grand prize of up to $115,000. The winner of the Tackle Warehouse Invitational Stop 1 Presented by Power-Pole at Sam Rayburn Reservoir will be determined by the heaviest three-day cumulative weight and will receive an invitation to compete at REDCREST 2025 on Lake Guntersville in Huntsville, Alabama.
The MLFNOW! broadcast team of Chad McKee and Rob Newell will break down the extended action live all three days of competition from 7:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. CT. MLFNOW! will be live streamed on MajorLeagueFishing.com and the MyOutdoorTV (MOTV) app.
Television coverage of the MLF Tackle Warehouse Invitationals Stop 1 Presented by Power-Pole at Sam Rayburn Reservoir will air as a two-hour episode, premiering at 9 a.m. ET, on Saturday, Oct. 5 on CBS Sports Network.
Proud sponsors of the 2024 MLF Tackle Warehouse Invitationals include: 7Brew, Abu Garcia, B&W Trailer Hitches, Berkley, BUBBA, E3, Epic Baits, Fishing Clash, General Tire, Lew’s, Mercury, Mossy Oak Fishing, Onyx, Phoenix Boats, Polaris, Power-Pole, Strike King, Suzuki, Tackle Warehouse, T-H Marine, Toyota and YETI.
For complete details and updated information on Major League Fishing and the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com. For regular Tackle Warehouse Invitational updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow the MLF5 social media outlets at Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.