Lamar University students Danny Iles of Hemphill and Justin Royal of Vidor will be fishing in the National Guard FLW College Fishing tournament on Sam Rayburn Reservoir on Feb. 26 for the second of four stops in the Southern Conference. Forty college teams will be competing for a top award of $5,000 and a berth in the Southern Regional Championship tournament.
FLW College Fishing teams compete in four qualifying events in one of five conferences – Central, Northern, Southern, Southeastern and Western. The top five teams from each regular-season tournament will qualify for one of five regional championships. The top five teams from each regional championship will advance to the national championship.
What’s going to be the top tactic?
“I’ll make it real simple for you and give you two words,” said bass pro Jim Tutt of Longview. “A Rat-L-Trap and jig. That’s it. That’s all you need to know.”
Due to a prolonged drought in Texas, Sam Rayburn was extremely low for quite some time. Thanks to recent rains, conditions on the lake have improved and water levels have now risen about 6 feet, making the lake safe to navigate. According to Tutt, the lake had been hard to navigate and even dangerous in some areas. Warming weather will help push the bass shallow, making them easier to target.
“This is going to be a typical pre-spawn tournament,” said Tut. “FLW is hitting the lake at the perfect time of year to catch the big bass. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone caught a 9-pounder, but you will definitely see an 8-pounder caught. I think it is going to take about 25 pounds to win on Sunday. Watch out for Danny Iles of Lamar University, he is going to be tough to beat.
“Anglers should target submerged hydrilla. I would concentrate on drains, ditches and points that lead to spawning areas. There won’t be a lot of spawning bass, but they will be real close.”
Anglers will take off and weigh-in at Cassels-Boykin Park in Lufkin. Takeoff is slated for 7 a.m. on Sunday and weigh-in will begin at 1 p.m. Takeoff and weigh-in are free and open to the public.
College Fishing is free to enter and FLW Outdoors provides boats and drivers for each competing team along with travel allowances. All participants must be registered, full-time undergraduate students at a four-year college or university and members of a fishing club recognized by their college or university.
In the world of bass fishing the hottest big bass ticket in Texas is on Lake Austin. This lake has produced three 13-pound-plus bass this year.
So far five fish have been entered into the Toyota ShareLunker program for the 2011-12 season, and Lake Austin has produced three of them.
Wesley Hayden of Round Rock caught Toyota ShareLunker 527 from Lake Austin on Feb. 11. Landon Glass of Jarrell caught No. 528 from the lake Feb. 14. Brett Ketchum caught No. 526 from Lake Austin on Jan. 29, starting the three-fish streak.
Hayden was fishing in 4 feet of 57-degree water about 2 p.m. using a jig when he hooked the 13.22-pound fish. It was 26 inches long and 21.25 inches in girth.
Glass caught his 13.03-pound Toyota ShareLunker while fishing in 10 feet of 58-degree water with a Sixth Sense football jig. A scan of the fish revealed it is the same fish caught Feb. 27, 2010, by Carl Adkins of Austin. At that time the fish weighed 13.1 pounds. DNA testing at the time revealed the fish to be a pure Florida strain largemouth.The explosion of big fish from Lake Austin has its roots in years past.
“I believe a combination of our Florida bass stocking program and good habitat have led to great production over the years,” said Marcos DeJesus, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s fisheries biologist in charge of managing the lake’s fishery. “There were probably a couple of good year classes several years ago, and some of those individuals are now breaking that ShareLunker barrier.”
Every fish entered into the Toyota ShareLunker program has a passive integrated transponder tag injected into its body cavity for tracking and can be identified if recaught. One fish from Lake Alan Henry was caught and entered into the program three years in a row.
Both Lake Austin fish were picked up by a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Inland Fisheries staff member from the A.E. Wood Fish Hatchery in San Marcos. Since the Glass fish is a pure Florida largemouth, it will be taken to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens for the duration of the spawning period. DNA testing showed ShareLunker 527 to be an intergrade. Intergrades, mixtures of Florida and northern largemouth, are returned to the lake where caught as soon as possible.
Lake Austin will receive a portion of any Toyota ShareLunker fingerlings produced during the current season. Any lake that produces a ShareLunker receives a share of the season’s fingerlings, whether any of the fish from that lake are spawned or not. These fingerlings will be the offspring of pure Florida females paired with pure Florida males that are themselves the offspring of ShareLunkers.