Jan 21

We’re replacing high water with high hopes; as a prudent and proactive decision by Texas Team Trail management postpones the season opener on Sam Rayburn from the original February 2 competition date and reschedules it to May 10.

With heavy winter rains swelling this Angelina River impoundment to near record levels — over 10 feet above normal pool of 164.40 feet — the impacts have become increasingly dramatic. Proving this point, a video shot the morning of Jan. 19 shows wind-driven waves breaking onto the 147 Bridge, which crosses the lake’s upper end. At normal lake levels, the bridge has approximately 12-14 feet of clearance, but extreme water conditions have made it impassable.

Moreover, still-rising water has closed the majority of Rayburn boat launches and created significant navigational dangers with floating logs and debris displaced by the high water. Angler safety has always been Priority 1 for the Texas Team Trail, so management carefully considered all relevant details of the current situation and determined that avoiding potentially hazardous conditions was the right decision.

“We know how much our fishermen love to compete and we are firmly committed to giving them top-notch competitive opportunities, but we place a much higher priority on angler safety,” said TXTT Tournament Director Mike Hastings. “Considering the risks anglers could experience during practice, as well as the originally-scheduled event, we realized that the responsible decision was to reschedule the event.”


By comparison, mid-January, 2018 found Rayburn at 161.64, about 13 feet below its early 2019 level. Hemphill, Texas competitor and Rayburn guide Stephen Johnston agrees with the postponement and notes that the volume of water currently bulging in this East Texas lake surpasses anything he ever thought he’d encounter.

“It’s unbelievable; I’ve been here fishing full-time since 1989 and I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said. “There’s (usually) not that much water that runs into Rayburn; it’s just one of those freak years.”

As far as the high water’s impacts on traditional seasonal patterns, Johnston says current conditions have thoroughly shuffled the deck. One of the biggest considerations he points to is the high water’s impact on Rayburn’s grass.

“This past summer and fall, the hydrilla was just unbelievable. Some of the areas were 12-16 feet on the outside edge with big, green hydrilla. The lake’s still clear right now, but once they (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) start releasing the water, that muddy water that will come out of the rivers and the creeks is really going to have a big effect on the hydrilla. You need sunlight for that grass to grow, but there’s so much water on top of it and I’m afraid that in the next couple of weeks to a month, it’s really going to put a hammer on that grass.”


Rescheduling the Feb. 2 event to May 10 enables the Texas Trail to provide two regular- season events on Rayburn. Typically, regular-season events are held on Saturdays, but the rescheduled event takes place on a Friday. The next regular season event immediately follows on Saturday, May 11. Official practice day will be Thursday, May 9. If you choose to only fish the Saturday event, your official practice day will be Friday, May 10. 

These back-to-back tournaments will be conducted as separate events, each with its own entries, weigh-ins and prize purses. Both events will include nationally televised coverage on CBS Sports, Pursuit, FOX Sports Southwest, World Fishing network and others, including several streaming platforms including Outdoor Action. Additionally, extra incentives and schedule updates will be announced shortly.

With postspawn, shad spawn and early summer patterns possibly unfolding in May, the rescheduled event brings great promise for awesome Rayburn Fishing. Water levels should be significantly lower by then and this lake’s big bass bounty will likely be on full display.

"This change allows us to complete our schedule as close as possible to the original plan, without having to hold an event on Mothers Day, but still host our championship on Lake Belton in June,” Hastings said. “There’s no simple solution when rescheduling events on a lake as popular as Sam Rayburn, but we believe we have a plan that will make the most of the challenging circumstances Mother Nature has presented.

“In the end, we felt this was the best solution possible for fulfilling all commitments without moving events all the way into November or December. Blending our profound concern for angler safety with consideration for travel costs and time requirements was not easy, but we’re confident that this was the right call.”