Before heavy fog canceled day three of the Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division event on Sam Rayburn presented by YETI, pros got in two days of fishing. As usual, the lake’s ditches, drains, gullies and guts were the centerpieces of the primary patterns. The nature of these underwater valleys cultivates grass growth in such a way that thick grass grows down the sides of the drains in 2 to 8 feet of water, but the deeper parts of the ditch, 10 to 15 feet down the middle, has less grass, creating a perfect grassy avenue for pre-spawn bass to migrate and stage in.
This drain phenomenon figured into all of the top 10 patterns at Rayburn, including that of tournament winner Kevin Lasyone, who found several drains that had been overlooked by the masses.
Farther down through the top 10, the drain game was the dominant play for Rayburn patterns.
TJ Goodwyn of Center, Texas posted weights of 25-3 and 17-6 to finish second with a two-day total of 42-9 for $22,600.
Goodwyn played the drains, fishing about 10 ditches per day. He targeted the grass edges down the sides of the drains, looking for any scattered grass that crept out just a little farther in the drain than the rest of the grass line.
When conditions became calm and still and the bite toughened up, he resorted to a ¾-ounce Carolina rig tipped with a variety of soft plastics, from lizards to brush hogs.
Scotty Villines of Ponca, Ark., believes finding something “overlooked” on the tournament-ridden Rayburn was the key to his third-place finish with a two-day total of 41-3 worth $15,700.
Villines started practice on the preceding weekend to the Costa when the lake was covered with peak-time weekend tournaments.
“Every place I wanted to fish was covered up with boats,” Villines recalls. “So I just had to keep riding until I found somewhere where there weren’t any boats.”
Villines finally found sanctuary in the Ayish area of the lake.
“I found one nothing-looking bank that didn’t have a boat on it,” he says. “My GPS mapping showed it was pretty featureless, which is probably why no one was on it. But once I got over there, I discovered a small ditch running through a flat. The flats were 4-to 5- feet and covered with grass while the ditch bottomed out to about 8 to 9 feet with very scattered grass down the middle of it – a classic Texas drain.”
Villines had the area mostly to himself and seined it with a trap, ChatterBait and spinnerbait.
His ½-ounce Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap was the old Rayburn Red color, the ½-ounce ChatterBait was green pumpkin with a watermelon Zoom Fluke trailer and the ½-ounce spinnerbait was white and blue glimmer with double willow blades. He fished all lures on 17-pound test monofilament.
“The banks in the area had cypress trees,” Villines adds. “I fished the trap and ChatterBait along the grass lines in the ditch and then I would make a pass along the trees with the spinnerbait.”
Kris Wilson of Montgomery, Texas checked in the second biggest limit of the tournament on day one. His 27-7 bag laid the foundation for his two-day total of 39-5 worth $13,600.
While most of the top 10 tapped Rayburn’s drains for grass lines, Wilson favored hard spots, wood and steeper drops in the drains that were out away from the grass.
“I stayed out a little deeper, in that 12- to 15-foot range looking for hard bottom made of clay, contour changes and wood on the deeper sides of the drains,” Wilson says.
His preferred lures for dragging the drains included a ¾-ounce 6th Sense Divine Hybrid Jig teamed with hand-poured chunk as well as a Carolina-rigged Big Bite Baits Pro Lizard on a 1-ounce weight. He used 20-pound fluorocarbon for both dragging lures.
Add Darold Gleason of Many, La., to the list of top-10 anglers who successfully dissected drains at Rayburn. He specifically liked the 4- to 6-foot zones in the drain bottoms where he could find scattered grass.
“Anywhere the little creek channel in the bottom of the drains made a turn or bend were the key places for me,” Gleason says.
Gleason attacked the creek bends with a ½-ounce V&M Pacemaker Lightning Blade teamed with a V&M J-Bug for a trailer, as well as a 5/8-ounce 6th Sense Quake Thud lipless rattler. Both lures were fished on 15-pound test Hi-Seas fluorocarbon.
“That 6th Sense Quake Thud is a single knocker lipless,” Gleason details. “It has a lower pitch tone and has a more aggressive vibration, which is why it’s such an excellent grass bait.”
Jon Englund of Farwell, Minn., was a long way from home at Sam Rayburn, but it didn’t stop him from posting a top 10 at the Texas fishery.
Englund targeted drains as well, but instead of using Rayburn’s regular arsenal of traps, squarebills and jigs, he put his own spin on Rayburn with a swimbait.
Using a Keitech Swing Impact Fat 3.8 on a ¼-ounce Dirty Jigs Matt Allen Swimbait Head, Englund sacked up a 23-pound, 6-ounce limit on day two to vault him into sixth place with a two-day total of 36-9 worth $9,750.
“I was rolling that swimbait down the sides of the hydrilla lines in the drains,” Englund details. “If I could hit a deeper, isolated clump in about 10 feet, a big one would get it. I used an Enigma 7’-2” inch rod and 17-pound test Seaguar InvisX to keep the bait down to hit those deeper clumps.”
Billy Billeaud of Lafayette, La., landed in the seventh-place spot with a two-day total of 35-14.
Billeaud fished shallower drains with grass in 2 to 6 feet of water, alternating his lure arsenal based on wind.
If the drains were catching some wind, he opted for a ½-ounce Chatterbait trailed with a 4-inch Yamamoto Swim Senko in green pumpkin.
Amid all the drain fishing at Rayburn, Garrett Hilton of Beaumont, Texas found a schooling sidebar to script his path to 8th place with a two-day total of 35-12.
“I actually found some good fish that were schooling,” Hilton says. “The bass had shad pushed up against the bank, birds were diving in on them and the bass were blowing up on the shad.”
Jason Bonds of Lufkin, Texas played the drain game on Rayburn as well for a ninth-place finish with a two-day total of 35 pounds, 9 ounces.
Bonds scoured the defined grass lines in the drains for any irregularities.
“Anywhere the grass line made a small point with a few taller strands of grass sticking out into the drain were good,” he says. “Also, anywhere there was an indention or notch in the grass line was good, too.”
When things slick off, he resorted to a Strike King Ocho, either Texas-rigged weightless or threaded on a Carolina rig to drag the bottom of the drains.
“Those drain fish will bite moving baits when there is some breeze,” he adds. “But once it slicks off and gets real still, I have to go to something with very little action, like that Ocho.”
Chris Jones of Bokoshe, Okla., rounded out the top 10 with a two-day total of 35-6.
On day one, Jones used a YUM Yumbrella Flash Mob Jr. umbrella rig to catch a 9-pound, 5-ounce lunker that anchored his day one catch of 23-12.
“The Flash Mob was rigged with YUM Pulse swimbaits in a 3.5 size that are coming out soon,” Jones says. “I had a couple of places that had tall stalks of coon tail growing in middle of the drains – some of the stalks were as tall as 8 or 10 feet. I was trying to target those taller, isolated stalks with the Flash Mob Jr.”
Other drain baits for Jones included a BOOYAH prototype bladed jig called a Melee, as well as an BOOYAH Hard Knocker in Rayburn red.