JASPER, Texas – The Lone Star State’s most lucrative team trail returns to action Jan. 30 as the Cabela’s Texas Team Trail commences its fifth season at the Sam Rayburn Reservoir. The massive Angelina River impoundment normally spans some 111,000 acres. With an influx of winter rain, Rayburn has recently swelled beyond full pool, which sits at 164 feet. Whether that becomes a boon or a bane to the 250-plus teams remains to be seen. The duo that solves the high-water mystery will take home a first-place prize of a fully-rigged 18-foot, 150-horsepower bass boat.
In addition to the unusual rainfall, east Texas has experienced a mild winter. This has the largemouth bass in a state of transition – right on the cusp between winter and prespawn mode.
“Prior to this cold snap around the holidays, we had some water temperatures still in the 60s,” said Mercury pro David Curtis, who lives in nearby Trinity, Texas. “This past week was the first week of consistently cold weather we’ve had.”
Rayburn held high water for much of 2015, peaking in early July at 174 feet. While the high water initially spread the fish out, it subsequently led to an incredible year of fishing.
“The water got up in the trees, in the bushes,” added Curtis. “The fishing was really good – especially for average size. Overall, the lake is healthy. The past six months in particular, there were a lot of fish caught. Guys were catching 50 or 60 fish a day.”
Curtis and his teammate Mark Mueck claimed the prestigious Lucas Oil Team of the Year award in 2013 and nearly became two-time TOY champions last season. Curtis in particular is known for his expertise offshore, but he believes the shallow bite is still a viable option at the end of January.
2013 Team of the Year member and Mercury Pro David Curtis thinks a 6-pound average will be necessary to win on Rayburn when the Cabela’s Texas Team Trail kicks off later this month.
“This time of year the best fishing is supposed to be out deep and on staging areas. But I think there definitely will be some shallow fish caught in the tournament. I think you’ll have some guys fish shallow and some guys fish deep. If we get a warming trend and the water level stays up it could make for a really good shallow bite. If the conditions align, it will just accelerate things and I think a guy could even win shallow.”
For those teams working the bank, flipping will prove popular as will burning spinnerbaits, crankbaits, ChatterBaits and lipless crankbaits. Those that probe deeper water will employ big football-head jigs, Carolina rigs, deep-diving crankbaits and possibly even spoons.
Deep or shallow, Rayburn still possesses trophy potential and heavy stringers will be needed to contend for the tournament title.
“These Texas lakes are always capable of producing huge sacks. A lot of it will depend on the conditions leading up to it, but at least one or a handful of teams are going to catch a big bag of fish. I think you will see some guys struggle too; it can be hit or miss this time of year. If the water continues to rise, that can affect the deeper staging fish, making it tougher on those teams who like to fish deep. With stable conditions, it will be a better tournament.”
While Rayburn is a massive fishery, some of the best staging areas, typically found in water 15 to 25 feet deep, can become crowded.
“That can definitely be a make-or-break scenario. That’s the difference between catching a big bag and not being able to get on it. If you can’t get on your best staging areas, you could be left scratching for a limit.”
Curtis believes at least a 6-pound average will be necessary to win the boat-motor package.
“With the level of competition on this trail, I think it’s going to take a minimum of 30 pounds to win. You can’t feel like you’re even in contention without at least 30 pounds. And even then, there’s a real good chance that might not be enough.”
Registration will be held on Friday evening from 3-6 p.m. and at least one team member is required to attend. Teams will take off at safe light from Umphrey Pavilion, located at 5438 RR 255 West in Jasper, Texas on Saturday morning with weigh-in will also take place at the pavilion, beginning at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
The Texas Team Trail consists of four regular-season events and a year-end championship. Each regular season event is a one-day team tournament and delivers 100 percent payback, including a fully-rigged 18-foot, 150-horsepower bass boat guaranteed as the first-place prize.
Registration is ongoing for the Sam Rayburn event and can be taken over the phone at 210-788-4143 or online by visiting www.texasteamtrail.com/tournaments/register/. For more information on rules and tournament payouts, visit www.texasteamtrail.com
2016 Sam Rayburn Details:
Registration 3-6pm on Friday, Jan 29th – Umphrey Pavilion (5438 RR 255 West)
Take-off: Safe light Saturday, Jan 30th – Umphrey Pavilion
Weigh in: 1st flight comes in at 3pm Saturday, Jan 30th – Umphrey Pavilion
Recommended Accommodations: Rayburn Country has a fishing rate of $79/night