Even when the bite is tough, Sam Rayburn is a power-fishing lake through and through.
Sure, a spinning rod showed up here and there throughout the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit opener, but it was Carolina rigs, lipless crankbaits and vibrating jigs that dominated in the hands of the top 10 pros.
Here’s a look at the lures that helped them pull top-10 bags from Sam Rayburn.
1. John Cox shocked everyone by leading the first two days by making the same cast over and over again with a No. 5 Berkley Frittside crankbait in the lone ranger color in the morning and ghost morning dawn when the sun came up. He threw both on a 7-foot, 6-inch Abu Garcia Veritas Winch rod, Abu Garcia Revo EXD reel and 15-pound-test Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon line. However, when that bite died, he went back to what he’s best known for: junk-fishing up shallow with a black-and-blue Tackle Warehouse-exclusive Z-Man ChattterBait Custom with a Berkley PowerBait Grass Pig trailer. He threw it on a 7-foot, 3-inch Abu Garcia Fantasista Premier rod, Abu Garcia Revo Premier reel and 20-pound-test Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon line.
2. Fishing the dirty water in Devil’s Ford Creek, Tommy Dickerson tossed a black Picasso Shock Blade with an orange Lake Fork Live Magic Shad Swimbait trailer (the orange was to give the fish a brighter target) around shallow cypress trees. He also mixed in a black-and-blue jig with a Reaction Innovations Twerk trailer.
3. Local rookie Darold Gleason made a great first impression thanks to a shallow-deep game plan. He started every morning deep, catching fish at will rotating between a tail spinner, a 1-ounce Carolina rig with a V&M Pork Shad 2.0 (Gleason’s candy color) and a drop-shot with either a V&M Pork Pin (watermelon bluegill) or a V&M Straight Shooter (morning dawn). Then, he’d move shallow to try to get bigger bites around grass with a 1/2-ounce Z-Man ChatterBait (green pumpkin chartreuse) with either a Yamamoto Zako or a V&M J-Bug trailer, both in green pumpkin.
4. Corey Neece kept things simple, focusing on one spot with one lure. The spot was a little depression on top of a hump with a couple stumps in amongst a massive grass flat in Veach Basin, and the lure was a BOOYAH Hard Knocker (Rayburn red), which he yo-yoed in the grass.
5. Ron Nelson found the motherlode of 2-pounders offshore just south of Cassels-Boykin, catching hundreds of bass on a Carolina-rigged Zoom Brush Hog or Zoom Double Ringer. He also had a starting spot where he threw a shad-colored Keitech Swing Impact FAT on a 1/4-ounce head, and he spent every afternoon punching hyacinth matts in the back of pockets with a Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver (hematoma).
6. Scott Dobson turned four bites in practice into a pattern, focusing in on “crunchy clay” at the mouth of three deep drains in Buck Bay. There, he threw a Carolina-rigged Zoom Brush Hog or a Zoom Super Fluke in green pumpkin candy.
7. Doing circles around a “stupid” offshore flat with brush piles, Kerry Milner picked up a 3/4-ounce Carolina rig with a green pumpkin Zoom Lizard and never put it down.
8. Sam George made it back-to-back top 10s on Rayburn. Last year, he did it deep cranking, but this time around he keyed on spawning bass he couldn’t see around cypress trees in Stanley Creek. His tools for the job were a 1/2-ounce black-and-blue Strike King flipping jig with either a Zoom Big Salty Chunk or Strike King Rage Twin Tail Menace Grub trailer, a Strike King KVD Perfect Plastic Ocho, or a Salmo square-bill in demon craw.
9. Taking a page from Bryan Thrift’s playbook, Alex Davis scrapped his practice plans and switched to a Jackall Break Blade with a Jackall Rhythm Wave swimbait trailer tossed around grass clumps out off main grass edges. He also threw a 5-inch Scottsboro Tackle swimbait (natural light) offshore each morning.
10. One of the few other pros to do well running-and-gunning outside of John Cox, Jon Canada keyed on isolated cypress trees all along the west bank between the two bridges. A white-and-chartreuse Z-Man ChatterBait with a Reaction Innovations Skinny Dipper trailer was his main lure, and he’d mix in pitching a Reaction Innovations Man Bear Pig or Spicy Beaver, or a Reaction Innovations Flirt in watermelon red.