By Steve Graf
Last week we looked at one of America’s best bass lakes by breaking down Lake Fork Texas. This week we’re going to hook up the boat and load the rods and head to Southeast Texas and another legendary bass fishery in Lake Sam Rayburn. I think it’s safe to say that no other body of water gets more pressure than this one. If you’re looking to get your line stretched or catch that fish of a lifetime, Sam Rayburn is the place to go. Anglers can literally lose sleep the night before they launch their boat on this lake. Today I’ll give you a better idea as to what I’m talking about and why this lake continues to rank in the top 5 nationally and has recently been ranked number one by Bassmaster Magazine.
Sam Rayburn is located on the Angelina River just east of Lufkin, Texas. It’s an Army Corp of Engineer lake built in 1965 as part of the development plan for the Neches River Basin. It’s main purpose; flood control and hydroelectric power generation. It had an estimated cost of $66 million which also included recreational facilities all over the lake.
If you looked at the Sam Rayburn calendar of events from January thru September, you’ll see what I mean by fishing pressure. There’s not a single weekend during this entire stretch of time in which there’s not a bass tournament or two. Yet week after week and month after month, Sam Rayburn puts out huge numbers of bass as anglers are known to weigh-in 5 fish limits with as much 40 pounds of bass. It’s commonplace for anglers to weigh-in 5 fish limits over 25 pounds each and every event. This is another popular lake (like Lake Fork) that you could end up waiting in line to launch your boat.
Sam Rayburn is a bass fishing factory in that you can catch both quality and quantity. It’s loaded with hydrilla (grass) and coontail moss especially south of the 147 bridge. This is a fishery in which you can catch bass deep (20 to 30 feet) or go shallow in the 2 to 5 foot range. You have great structure with humps and ridges, you have cypress trees and bushes in shallow water all over the lake that hold bass when the lake is at pool stage (164.4) or higher. If you’re not sure where to start, main lake points are always a good place and can hold good schools of fish. When you get north of the 147 bridge up to the 103 bridge you’ll find standing timber and it’s in this part of the lake you’ll need to be careful as there’s not a marked boat run. Once you get north of the 103 bridge, you’ll find an abundance of cypress trees, bushes and river type of fishing the farther north you run. If you’re going to Rayburn on a weekend, you might want to avoid both Umphrey Family Pavilion and Cassels-Boykin boat ramps as this is where the majority of the bass tournaments go out of and can be extremely crowded Friday thru Sunday.
One good thing about Rayburn is that there’s no shortage of boat ramps and you can find one just about anywhere that’s close to where you want to fish. One word of caution, Sam Rayburn can get extremely rough when winds blow out of the south/southeast at 15 to 20 mph. But again, you can pretty much find a boat ramp that will allow you to launch your boat safely. Some of my scariest moments as a bass fisherman have been on big Sam when the winds start to blow as this lake is not very forgiving. Bottom line, keep an eye on the weather.
Make no bones about it, Sam Rayburn is an awesome body of water that’s full of bass big and small. It’s definitely in my top 3 of the best bass fisheries I’ve ever fished and it continues to amaze me and other anglers just how good it is even with all the fishing pressure day after day and week after week. Next week, we’ll break down another lake that has a great past in Toledo Bend. Till next time, don’t forget to set the hook!
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