Top 10 baits from Sam Rayburn - Major League Fishing

Top 10 baits from Sam Rayburn

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Umbrella rigs got a lot of play on Rayburn, but some 'Scoping and traditional stuff worked as well. Photo by Rob Matsuura.
February 26, 2024 • Jody White, Rob Matsuura • Toyota Series

BROOKELAND, Texas – If the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals event on Sam Rayburn set the script for modern winter fishing on the big lake, the Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats Southwestern Division event followed it. Pros got it done a variety of ways – many with spinning rods and forward-facing sonar, some with full decks and a combination of tactics and some with East Texas staples.

Here’s what worked best for the top pros.

1. Miller mixes things up

Turning in a dominating performance, Colby Miller mixed grass fishing, ‘Scoping and some classic staging areas to average more than 25 pounds per day for the win.

In the grass, he used a wacky rig, a Strike King Hybrid Hunter or a vibrating jig. Elsewhere, he used an umbrella rig and a 6th Sense Crush 300DD.

2. Another runner-up for Frankens

Finishing second in last winter’s Toyota on Rayburn as well, Wyatt Frankens seems to have locked in getting paid on Big Sam.

“Isn’t that crazy? This one didn’t feel near as bad. Colby deserves it, he works really hard, and it’s been a long time coming for him,” Frankens said. “It would have taken a lot to go right on Day 2 to keep up with him in that event.”

Frankens mixed things up, ‘Scoping, fishing hard spots and fishing grass. In the grass, he rolled with a 3/8-ounce vibrating jig. Elsewhere, he used a 3.5-inch 6th Sense Whale on a 1/4-ounce head, a 6th Sense Juggle Minnow on a Damiki rig and a 6th Sense Provoke  106DD.

“I was really targeting hard bottom, first thing in the morning on my bigger bags,” Frankens said. “Then, my other big bites came ‘Scopin’ drains with standing timber. I would get up in the dirt in some of them, in like 5 feet, and ‘Scope all the way out to the mouth in 20 feet.”

3. Mrazek hits pay dirt on hard spots

The reigning Toyota Series Championship winner, Chad Mrazek cranked and ‘Scoped for his bags.

His crankbait of choice was a Berkley Dredger 17.5, and his jighead minnow was a NetBait The Drifter Minnow (white) on a 1/4-ounce YUM FF Sonar Jig Head.

“It was relatively shallow, offshore hard spots at the mouth of a major spawning creek,” he said. “I had two of them that I rotated; one of them had a really defined creek channel in the middle of it, and I could pick fish off in the creek channel. Giant ones were stopping on the hard spots, or grouping up on them, a few times a day.”

The event was also pretty educational for Mrazek, who has fished elsewhere in Texas a lot in the winter, but isn’t really a Rayburn local.

“I never really had a good understanding of how to win on Rayburn in the wintertime,” he said. “But after last week, I’m looking at things so much differently.”

4. Umbrella rig does it again for Moore

Cole Moore may be trying for some sort of “umbrella rig in Top 10 Baits gallery” record, and given a few more winter events in Texas, he’ll likely do it. As usual, the lanky Louisianan did work with a chandelier.

“If I catch ‘em it’s gonna be on that,” he said. “I really wasn’t on much, as far as the areas I like to fish. I just fished an area where the water was a little clearer, and it was full of bait. Some of them were eating on the bait, and some of them were sitting on stumps.”

His umbrella of choice was a Shane’s Baits The 5th Element Umbrella Rig, which he tipped with Keitech Swing Impact FAT swimbaits and 1/8-ounce V&M Locked Down Swimbait Jig Heads.  

5. Faber does work with a minnow

A rookie on the Invitationals, Ty Faber has had a productive couple of weeks on Sam Rayburn.

“I caught most of them on LiveScope. I did go fish the grass every day, and I would catch fish, but I couldn’t catch any quality,” he said. “Most of them came on the Damiki rig.”

For his jighead minnow, Faber used a Rapala CrushCity Freeloader on a Berkley Half Head. He also used a Shane’s Baits The 5th Element Umbrella Rig with Keitech Swing Impact FAT swimmers and a 1/2-ounce  Z-Man Evergreen ChatterBait JackHammer with a 5.5-inch, Tennessee shad Hog Farmer Baits Spunk Shad.

6. Another Top 10 for Ebare

Dakota Ebare seems to get out of bed with a Top 10, and this go-round on Rayburn was no different.

Doing a lot with his LiveScope, Ebare used a Strike King Baby Z Too (blue glimmer pearl belly) on a 1/4-ounce jighead, a jerkbait and an umbrella rig with 3.5-inch Strike King Rage Swimmers and 1/16-ounce heads.

“I didn’t rely as much on the open water fish,” Ebare said. “I did when I wasn’t catching them, but the bigger bags came from more traditional staging areas. The fishing was pretty tough at times, to fish for quality.”

7. Thibodaux knocks out a Top 10 at 19-years-old

Young Levi Thibodaux stuck to his strengths this week and earned his first Top 10 as a boater with MLF.

A switch to a SPRO KGB Chad Shad on the final day helped roll Thibodaux up the leaderboard.

“The whole week I was been catching them on jerkbaits and a Damiki, and the last day there were a lot of bigger fish in the area,” he said. “I switched up and started throwing that Chad Shad, and I think it made a difference.”

His jerkbait of choice was a Megabass Vision 110+1 Jr. in either mat shad or French pearl, and he went with a white YUM FF Sonar Minnow on a 1/2-ounce head for his jighead minnow.

8. Clark wins the grass tournament

Beating out a lot of ‘Scopers, Brett Clark stuck with a 3/4-ounce Strike King Red Eye Shad Tungsten 2-Tap in the grass.

He thinks the bigger size was a big key.

“I threw it pretty much all day,” he said. “I think the water was so dirty, the bigger profile was the key. A lot of people throw the 1/2-ounce lipless, but I think the 3/4 set me apart.”

Clark used a 7-foot, 4-inch medium heavy Pride Rods stick, and 16-pound Sunline Sniper.

9. Schroeder puts some miles on a crankbait

Sticking offshore, Blake Schroeder caught a pile of fish on the way to a Top 10 finish. The first two days, he caught over 20 pounds, but the north wind changed things up on him on the final day.

“On the first day I caught everything on a Strike King 6XD; I probably caught 70 fish, it was crazy,” he said. “There was a 2-hour window where I probably caught one every cast.”

His cranking stick of choice was a 7-foot, 6-inch Falcon Lowrider Composite Cranker, and he used a Shimano Tranx reel and 16-pound Sunline Shooter. Swapping hooks at least three times a day, he re-equipped his cranks with No. 2 Owner ST-36 trebles.

10. ‘Scoping shallow plays for Hall

A premier LiveScope angler, Kyle Hall followed the Drew Gill game plan to an extent, but it was not the original plan.

“I was fishing in the back of some drains, pretty much the inside grass line,” Hall said. “The third day I caught them in the middle of the drain, schooling – they were going nuts on some bait. They would eat it before it got to the bottom. It was not what I was expecting to do at all, I just needed to get out of the wind. I expected to be in the Forest the whole time scoping with an umbrella rig.”

His primary setup was a Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Hit Worm Magnum on a Neko rig, with a prototype Full Send spinning rod and an Abu Garcia Revo Rocket.