Pro-staff Contributor: Jeff Gustafson
Heading into the third event of the FLW Tour season at Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Texas I was excited to turn my season around. After a couple of tough events at Lake Okeechobee and Lake Hartwell, I was eager to get back out there.
I fished a tournament at Rayburn back in October of 2012 so I had a good idea of the layout of the lake and areas where I wanted to spend my time fishing.
My practice for this event went really good, maybe the best I’ve ever had for a Tour event. The first day I caught several fish but no big ones. The second day I fished a different area and by lunch time had caught a few big fish between four and six pounds. By day’s end my best five would have weighed over 25 pounds so I was excited to get the tournament started. The last day of practice I looked for more areas like the ones I had found the day before. My best spots were near the backs of small pockets where there was healthy, green weed growing. If I could find the green weeds (hydrilla mostly), the water would be slightly clearer and there would be a lot of bait (shad) around. My last day was not nearly as successful but late in the day I found one small bay that was loaded with fish. I caught a few, shook a few off and left, eager to get the tournament started.
I was finding my fish throwing two different baits and once you found them you could catch them on nearly anything you wanted, at least that’s how it was in practice. Rayburn is known as a good “trap” lake, and these lipless style lures are great for covering water. I was throwing a Jackall TN70 lipless jerkbait in the red Crawfish color. If the grass got a little bit thicker or shallower I would switch things up to a Chatterbait, which would sneak through the grass a little better. Once we found them we could use a variety of Texas-rigged soft plastics or soft jerkbaits to pluck a few more fish. This was how practice went. I was throwing the rattle bait on a G. Loomis 7’11” GLX (GLX957CBR) heavy action crankbait rod. It had enough power to rip the rattlebait out of the grass if I hung up on it. This would trigger strikes as well. I was using 30 lb. Power Pro braid on a Shimano Chronarch CI4 baitcast reel. (CH150CI4HG).
The day before the tournament, a day off the water for all the tournament anglers, the wind started to blow heavily from the south. I knew this was not good for me because my best spots were exposed to this wind. I knew the water temperature would drop off and the water would get dirty. I tried to find some other places during practice that the wind might not hit me as bad but I just didn’t find anything like the good spots that I had.
As I suspected the big wind hurt my key areas so I knew I was just going to have to grind it out in the places I found and hopefully I would be able to put some decent fish in the boat. The first day was a struggle and I was only able to get four keepers in the boat. My weight of 8-7 put me in 108th position out a field of 175 anglers.
On day two the wind finally laid down so I knew I had to figure out how to get a few good fish to bite in my areas. I was still confident they were there I just had to get some bites! About my fifth cast of the morning I hooked a big fish on my Jackall rattle bait. After a strong battle my co-angler netted a 7-7 monster that was huge for me! I felt like this fish was going to change my whole season around! I had to grind it out the rest of the day and was able to get a limit together, weighing 13-7. This weight moved me up to 69th place and into the money, so I cashed my first check of the year and felt like a new man!
We get a week off then it’s on to Beaver Lake, Arkansas next week for stop number four. I had a good tournament last year at Beaver so I’m looking forward to it. Of all the lakes on the schedule this year, Beaver probably fishes more like our lakes up north than any other. Last year I caught all the fish I weighed on a Jackall Squad Minnow 115 jerkbait and I’m sure throwing a jerkbait will be a good pattern again this year with the cold weather that has lingered around in that part of the country.
Jeff Gustafson is a professional angler living in Kenora, Ontario on the shores of Lake of the Woods. Outdoor writer, fishing promoter and host of “Fishing with Gussy.” You’ll see him fishing the FLW Tour representing krugerfarms.com and Lund boats among others. You can follow him on Twitter (@GussyOutdoors) and like him on Facebook (facebook.com/gussyoutdoors).