Catchfest in Store at Sam Rayburn - Major League Fishing

Catchfest in Store at Sam Rayburn

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May 4, 2022 • Sean Ostruszka • Toyota Series

BROOKELAND, Texas – For the third year running, Sam Rayburn hosts the finale of the Toyota Series Presented by A.R.E. Southwestern Division, which is presented by Outlaw Ordnance. So, there should be no surprises this week when it comes to what’s in store on the massive Texas impoundment.

It’s loaded with fish, any cast could be a 10-pound difference-maker, and reports are that despite a late spring, the fish are postspawn and gorging. Sounds like a prime place to decide Angler of the Year and finalize the Toyota Series Championship qualifiers.

About the Fishery

There’s no need to play coy. Sam Rayburn is one of the nation’s best big-fish factories in the country. And unlike other Texas juggernauts like O.H. Ivey, Fork and Falcon, “Big Sam” is still able to pump out a 30-pound bag at any moment despite high pressure from a constant stream of tournaments on every level of bass fishing.

How does it do it? Florida-strain largemouth, which were first introduced to its waters in the 1990s. The sunshine gals tend to change everything, as even one 10-pounder can completely alter a day. It also features ample hydrilla, timber and offshore habitat that makes it a prime place for them to grow extra-large.

In the season-opener in February, there were multiple bags over 25 pounds and Cole Moore got big fish for the event with an 11-15 kicker.

Current Conditions

Thus far, 2022 has been the year of the wind, and the Southwestern Division anglers may not be done with it yet.

Regardless, Jason Bonds is looking forward to the fishing.

“Right now, the fishing is really good. You can fish any way you want to and catch fish.”

While the calendar just turned to May, Bonds says the winds and weather this spring have most everything about a month behind in terms of water temperatures and the spawn. So, while this year’s event is held at near the same time as last year’s finale, Bonds doesn’t expect the offshore guys to run away with it like Keith Combs did in 2021.

Instead, he could see the shallow grass anglers really showing out, and there’s definitely a strong shad spawn happening that could get an angler right fast in the mornings.

In fact, the only issue Bonds sees is not how to catch fish, but how to select for larger ones.

“Guys are going to catch so many fish this week, but getting those 3 ½ pounders will be key,” Bonds said. “I really feel we missed a whole year class, because catching fish in the 4- to 6-pound range is tough. There are so many fish below that mark, and then those ones over 6 pounds, you’ll need at least one of them a day.”

Tactics in Play

Pick an area of the lake and go, because everything is open.

Normally this time of year you can fish the grass and go for a check, with the offshore anglers getting the trophies.  That won’t be the case this time.

With such a late spring, there may even be a few stragglers still on beds, and the shad spawn is in full force. So, while some anglers will try to target that first wave of offshore fish, plenty will stay shallow in the grass with swim jigs and do well. And of course, it’s Rayburn. Carolina rigs on points outside spawning areas will always be huge.

Critical Factors

  • Big bites – Numbers won’t be an issue, but getting one of those 8-, 9- or 10-plus-pound bites every day can carry an angler to the Top 10.
  • Finding a place to fish – Sam Rayburn is a massive fishery, and with so many tactics in play, you’d think anglers would have plenty of room to move around. Unfortunately, the lake notoriously fishes small. Luckily, 152 boats mid-week is not really that many for Rayburn.
  • Avoiding the Day 3 slump – Rayburn gets a lot of fishing pressure, and that often means guys do great for two days, only to crash on the third. So, getting a massive lead like Combs did last year and Glen Webb did this spring is always key.

Dock Talk

While anglers love to gripe and sandbag about practice, there’s been none of that this week. Everyone is catching fish.

“A lot of the guys I’ve talked to are saying the same thing – they’re catching a ton of fish,” Bonds said. “They’re just not catching many big ones.”

That means any angler who flukes into a giant bite is going to rocket up the leaderboard, according to Bonds, and if someone can find a pattern that produces two or three of those bigger bites a day, that will get them over the 20-pound mark each day to contend for a win.

Kris Wilson looks primed to pull down his second Southwestern Division AOY.

The Angler of the Year Race Concludes

The final event of the Southwestern Division season, this one will decide Angler of the year, and qualify the Top 5 for the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit and the Top 25 for the Toyota Series Championship. At the top, Kris Wilson looks primed to pull down his second Southwestern Division AOY. A great offshore angler and Rayburn local, Wilson has won two Toyota Series events on Big Sam already and should be a lock to do well in this one.  Behind him, Pro Circuit pro Evan Barnes is ready to pounce. Hot as a pistol lately, Barnes has a bunch of experience on Rayburn and there’s no reason to think he won’t excel in this event as well.

Behind the top two, Russell Cecil leads a contingent of pros more than 20 pounds back of Wilson. Incredibly successful in his own right and a longtime running mate of four-time AOY Todd Castledine, Cecil ought to win one of his own eventually. If the leaders stumble, this could be his year.

Top 10 Pros

1. Kris Wilson – 510 points

2. Evan Barnes – 502    

3. Russell Cecil – 486   

4. Jim Moynagh – 482  

5. Jeff Reynolds – 480  

6. Jack York – 479       

7. Chris Diberardino – 477        

8. Todd Castledine – 465          

9. Derick Maschmeier – 465     

10. Ty Faber – 463

Complete Standings