Most of our East Texas lakes have undergone massive changes in the last year, and none have been so severely affected as Sam Rayburn. The temperature is hot, the fishing is not; and, grass was hardly anywhere to be seen! With only one day to prefish before our last Anglers Choice Couples tournament before the championship, it was panic time – Rayburn caught us off guard, so we decided to get a guide and concentrate efforts. Thank goodness for the Internet, I did a quick search and came up with the name of David Scarborough who guides out of Jackson Hill Marina, just north of the 147 bridge. We emailed back and fourth several times and made our final arrangements to meet that Saturday. David agreed to go in our Skeeter so we could mark the areas he showed us on our GPS.
David Scarborough was very knowledgeable of Rayburn (“Big Sam” as locals affectionately call the lake), and he was most helpful in describing the why’s and how to’s of exactly what he was doing to catch his fish. He is a full-time guide and fishes exclusively Sam Rayburn. He is on the lake a minimum of 5 days a week; and, whether he has a guide trip or not, he feels it’s important to stay up with the fish movements and stay in touch with what’s going on. He took us to three of his key areas on the north end of the lake that he had found to be holding fish. Although the fishing was slow, we did catch several good bass (see photo) in the Black Forest area, some in the mouth of Julie Creek and a couple off the 147 bridge area. Since most of the grass is gone, the key was structure and cover on the structure. In all the areas we fished, there was very little grass, but there was some, which was extremely important. The grass is usually highly visible this time of the year and matted on the surface, but this year was different. We were lucky to find an area that had grass 2/3-feet deep. We left the lake feeling confident in our upcoming tournament and very thankful for David’s help and assistance.
The following Saturday morning found us on the lake before daylight. Norman headed off in his Skeeter 202, and I took the other Boots Follmar Marine Pro Staff Skeeter 210 (and the GPS), and headed the opposite direction to check on some of my old haunts. Because we have two boats, were able to cover twice the water in half the time.
I made sure I could find the areas we had been the previous weekend with David plus did some exploration on my own and found an area in the Black Forest that looked to be quite promising. The area I found was surrounded by deep water and had a creek bend running through a little finger (underwater point) on the edge of the forest. Not only was there deep water nearby, but the water depth varied anywhere from 8-22 feet. The next day at weigh-in, a friend of ours said they had seen us on the lake and the spot we were fishing was one that a superteam tournament had been won on several years before. That made my day!
On our practice day, due to the heat (100+ degrees), we were on the lake only until 12:30. By coming off the lake early, we accomplished two major tasks, one allowed us to get back to the camp and get our gear ready for tournament day, and the second was to get a good night’s rest so we could be fresh for the tournament.
Tournament day was unusual in that a cold front had come through, the wind was blowing 30-40 mph (the wind had been calm for months prior to tournament day) and our primary areas were all mainlake spots. Thank goodness for the Yamaha 225, it got us to where we were going with no problems; however, due to the high winds these mainlake areas were shut down and nothing was biting except the wind. Tournament fishing is feast or famine with us and this one was a near disaster. We had to anchor on our spots to hold and had waves coming in over the bow. Norman was sick that day, but did manage to boat one keeper. We went into the tournament in 6th place and finished out the year in 9th place overall and qualified for the championship, which was our primary objective. Even though we didn’t load the boat with fish that day, we were winners in my book because we were versatile enough to make a change and make it work for us.
In spite of the dangerous conditions, the Skeeter/Yamaha was strong enough to get us there and back and made the ride in comfort. Many boaters simply just don’t know how to trim a boat in rough conditions and Norman is absolutely the best that I’ve ever ridden with. Not only does he trim the jack plate and the trim all the way down, he has a knack and instinct on how to handle each wave to get the smoothest ride and least amount of resistance. We’ve all seen boats going across the water pounding the waves, bow up in the air, bouncing across the water . . . that is simply just not necessary, and over the years, an anglers spine is going to pay the price for all that pounding. When it comes to buying boats, you can buy price or you can buy quality, and in the end, as the old saying goes, “. . . you get what you pay for!”
The following weekend we had a club tournament on Rayburn and Norman and his best friend, Bill Ritzell, fished together for the first time all year and won our local tournament with some 28 pounds between them. Bill is also sponsored by Boots Follmar Marine and is one of the best, and most naturally gifted anglers I’ve ever met (aside from Norman). Even though the heat was in excess of 100 degrees, Bill, found most of their fish in less than 2-feet of water and caught them on topwaters and Zoom Trick worms.
Bill also fishes the couples circuit with us; and he and his partner, Robin Johnston, finished 6th in the tournament the week before. They caught all their fish from the same location. They caught them on topwater baits, with high blue-bird skies, temperature soaring well over 100 degrees and the winds a howling, and they fished that shallow water all day long. Bill and Robin also qualified for the championship to be held on the Red River in October.
It just goes to show you that no matter how hot it is, or how rough it is, there are always some fish to be caught in shallow water! Most everyone I know was out looking for the fish in the deeper cooler waters using Carolina rigs, but not Bill, he found him a “sweet spot,” stuck with it and it paid off two weeks in a row! Never second guess as to what the fish are doing. You can always formulate a game plan, but if you can’t make it work, try something radically different and unexpected, the results may surprise you!
Our guide, David Scarborough, showed us some excellent areas on Rayburn, and we have since returned to those areas under conditions other than north winds, and caught lots of fish there! The Black Forest area has always been temperamental in a north wind, but if you can catch the wind and fishing conditions just right, it’s always a place to give serious consideration and attention; as some mighty big giants have traditionally come from these waters. David was an excellent guide. His knowledge of the lake is very good and he is willing to help you any way he can. If any of you would like to talk to him about a guide trip on Rayburn, his email address is: email@example.com or you can phone him at (409) 897-3140.
– Lake Mohave
– Lake Mohave