While covering the Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division tournament on Sam Rayburn Reservoir, the dominant pattern was light on finesse and heavy on take-it-to-‘em.
Prior to the tournament, torrential rains had raised the lake level to a 15-year high—approximately five feet above normal. This influx of water flooded shorelines and made miles of brush and forest habitat available to bass and the anglers who sought them.
Some of the fish were spawning; others were postspawn. In any case, that flooded cover was the place to be.
Now, such scenarios might seem like an angler’s dream with a fish on every flip, but as the tournament’s competitors demonstrated, this is actually a challenging gauntlet and details matter. Among the key points:
- Weight Matters: This isn’t punching, per se, because you’re not driving a bait through a dense weed mat. Nevertheless, you have to make sure you worm or creature bait falls through a bunch of limbs and weeds, so you’ll want at least a 1/2-ounce weight. On windy days when it’s tough to maintain contact with your bait, you’ll appreciate a 3/4-ounce.
- Proximity: The anglers who consistently catch fish in flooded brush and trees target the thickest, gnarliest, vine-tangled stuff they can find. Putzing around the outside edges of the trees and brush typically delivers only small fish, as the big dominant bass set up shop in the deep centers of bushes or right near the tree trunks.
- Line Up: Spinning rods and light line can be very effective…Oh wait, wrong story. Nah, put the fairy wands away unless you just want to get your feelings hurt. This is bass warfare, so gear up with heavy-action 7 1/2-foot flipping sticks and braided line in the 65-pound range. (Tip, camouflage the lighter braids by passing a broad tip permanent marker over the last six to eight feet.)
- Get ‘Em Out: Suffice it to say, a hooked fish has the initial advantage, as it’s already on the opposite side of the cover from which you must extract it. Simple formula: Brute force, plus brute force, plus more brute force.
Soon as you feel a bite—which may be remarkably subtle—reel down and lean back. Experienced anglers will size up the exit course even before setting a hook, so keep that little nugget of wisdom in the back of your mind.