Everything is bigger in Texas. At least that’s what native Texans like to say. When it comes to the massive Lake Sam Rayburn Reservoir and it’s lunker largemouths, who can argue?
Located just north of Jasper and southeast of Lufkin, Sam Rayburn has earned the nickname of the “Bass Tournament Capital of the World.” The 114,500 acre lake and dozens of other buildings, highways and schools are named after the legendary state and national politician, Sam Rayburn.
While political promises may not always be fulfilled, Sam Rayburn Reservoir delivers as promised. Fed by the Angelina River, the major tributary of the Neches River, the Reservoir is upstream of the Big Thicket National Preserve.
The fertile bass fishing lake is the home to an estimated 300 bass fishing tournaments every year. Yes, that’s about one for every day, not counting holidays! Every weekend there are events from small tournaments to major tournaments circuits like BASS, BASS Champs, Walmart BFL, FLW Outdoors, Cabela’s Texas Team Trail, Angler’s Quest, Bass-n-Bucks, and McDonald’s Big Bass Splash, one of the largest freshwater fishing events in the world.
But there is still plenty of room for everyday anglers as well. The lake has been named the best bass lake in the nation more than once.
Basically, the lake is a maze of fingers and meandering banks that contain all kinds of bass structure. The majority of top fishing waters are shallow, but many big bass come from deeper points up to 20-25 feet deep. The lake is mostly shallow, but does have water up to 80 feet deep at the dam.
Largemouth bass is a year round sport here, as is crappie fishing. The lake has just about every kind of bream including bluegill, redear, warmouth, sunfish. Those provide countless hours of fun for families and kids just learning how to fish.
The topography of Sam Rayburn Reservoir provides a wide variety of structure. That includes submerged aquatic vegetation, standing timber, and flooded vegetation. Hydrilla is the predominant plant species, although native plants such as coontail and pondweed are also present.
Anglers find the upper reaches of the lake are often stained, but the lower area of the lake is relatively clear most of the time. The best places to fish are around edges of vegetation, stumpy flats, humps and ridges, and the bends of submerged channels.
For the most part, there isn’t a lot of vegetation in the upper sections of the reservoir. Standing timber, stump fields, brush, laydowns, and creek channels provide the best fishing opportunity. The lake also has some man-made fish attractors that provide additional structure. These structures are marked and maps showing exact GPS locations are available at the lake.
Over time, the lake has changed due to water fluctuations following huge floods or drastic droughts. This changes vegetation growth, but anglers who stay active on the lake stay up with changes in those patterns. When the water is high, fish move up into brush and grass that are normally not covered by water and fishing can be fantastic.
When it comes to how to catch largemouths on Sam Rayburn, you can break it down pretty simply. Plastic worms, creature baits and swim baits are the top lures most of the time. Colors vary with water conditions, but pumpkinseed, watermelon, black and tequila are good colors almost anytime.
Fishing does change with the seasons. In the fall and winter, fish are active for much of the day. During the fall, winter and spring months, fish are active for longer periods of the day and are typically found in shallower water. This is one time that plastics get over-ruled by shad colored crankbaits and white or chartreuse spinnerbaits.
During the warmer months, fishing is best during early morning, late evening, and at night. Topwater baits are good choices during low light conditions, like cloudy days. As the water heats up, bass often concentrate in or around vegetation edges, brush piles, and deeper ledges and creek channels. During this time, plastic worms, jigs, and Carolina rigs are preferred baits.
In the warmer months, bream fishing offers great family fun. Crickets and worms are the best producers near the edges of grass beds in 3-5 feet of water. When the bream bed in July and August, it’s easy to catch an ice chest full in one or two spots once you locate them.
Crappie fishing draws fishermen to the lake in the winter when the fish gather up in the deeper channels. Fish hit minnows and plastic lures as well, fished very slowly over the top of schools of crappie. In the spring, crappie move shallow and two pounders are common during the spawn.
Numerous marinas and resorts are available for fishermen and there are plenty of restaurants to choose from in nearby towns. There’s also a golf course nearby and the Ebenezer Park is a beautiful and clean equestrian trail, campground and swimming beach on the south shore.