BROOKELAND, Texas – The 2022 Toyota Series Presented by A.R.E. Southwestern Division Presented by Outlaw Ordnance kicks off at Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Brookeland, Texas. Anglers will attempt to chase a Rayburn megabag as 220 pros and Strike King Co-anglers take to the waters of the famed east Texas reservoir.
Drastic weather patterns have plagued the region over the last month, only recently stabilizing in the mid-60s earlier this week. This is after major temperature dips into the low 40s and high 30s just a week ago. Despite the inconsistent weather, fish are starting to move and stage in various early prespawn locations, allowing anglers to target bass in a variety of ways.
Being the largest Impoundment sitting entirely in the borders of Texas, Rayburn offers a vast playing field and is an excellent venue for any big tournament. The impoundment is fed by The Angelina River and is littered with stump fields, ditches and grass beds throughout its 114,000 acres.
While Rayburn has gained notoriety due to the consistent grass fishing over the years, the lowland impoundment still offers a broad variety of options in terms of cover and structure for holding bass. Of course, “drains” and ditches leading in and out of spawning areas are also major targets for prespawn staging bass and anglers alike. This early prespawn phase can lead to some of the monster stringers Rayburn is well known for.
The previous week’s frigid weather here in east Texas has given way to more stability in the forecast. Tempered overnight lows, coupled with a slight warming trend in the daytime, should have more fish beginning to group up according to last year’s champ and overall Rayburn superstar Derek Mundy.
“We are on a warming trend, it actually probably got colder since the [Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit] was here,” said Munday. “But now we have more stable conditions. It’s headed in the right direction.”
Water levels haven’t varied much, if at all, since the opening stop of the Pro Circuit was held here just two weeks ago.
Veteran east Texas Pro Todd Castledine feels the low lake level is exactly what the doctor ordered.
“You actually want it low, if it was higher, it would be a lot tougher than it is,” said Castledine, affirming that the lack of shoreline cover helps with locating already scattered fish.
Mundy said that even though Rayburn isn’t fishing like it has in previous events on the body of water, many of its staple lures will continue to play a major factor in success this week.
“I’ll have a lipless in my hands a whole lot,” said Mundy. “For sure a lipless, bladed jig, definitely a Carolina rig, and there probably is going to be a guy or two throwing a big crankbait. That’s pretty much standard here. You can take a crankbait and a Carolina rig and fish 12 months out of the year on Rayburn.”
While fish are beginning to migrate to skinnier water and take refuge in spawning pockets and drains, Mundy said that the offshore bite will likely continue to be a factor for anglers looking for a larger than average bite.
“I think the winner will be mixing it in, I don’t think it will be won exclusively offshore, but that’s where he will get his big ones, probably,” Mundy said.
Castledine had a similar line of thinking, adding that anglers will likely have to junk fish to succeed this week. But he ensured that typical Rayburn techniques will be at play.
“It won’t be like when the Pro Circuit was here. Most of that stuff was deep fishing, drop-shotting, and looking at forward-facing sonar. These locals won’t go do that,” Castledine said.
Mundy seemed to support the idea that traditionally favored tactics will prevail.
“I think they’re a little harder to figure out right now because they’re kind of hanging out on stuff they don’t usually get on,” said Mundy. “But I still think if I pull up and they’re eating on stuff I can catch them the ways I like to catch ‘em.”
As always, Rayburn has the potential for big stringers at any time of the year, even in January. Bags reaching into the mid to upper 30-pound range are legitimately attainable. Mundy guesstimated that it will almost surely take 60 pounds for three days, to win, even offering up a total weight eclipsing 70 pounds as a realistic possibility. Castledine felt much the same, expressing that it will likely take one big bag in the 25- to 30-pound range matched with a pair of bags around 15 pounds to top the field this week. And while he doesn’t think a 70-pound winning weight is out of the question, Castledine reckons the person who does it will be an outlier.