Dog days of summer waiting for Opens anglers on Rayburn

JASPER, Texas — It won’t be an easy time on historic Sam Rayburn Reservoir, but anglers competing in the Bassmaster Central Open on this East Texas powerhouse will not lack for opportunity.

Seasonally speaking, this Angelina River impoundment has long been considered one of the Lone Star State’s most-renowned fisheries; it’s just moody this time of year.

“The water’s low and dropping; it’s like everywhere in the South,” said Bassmaster Elite Series pro Keith Combs, who makes his home in Huntington, Texas, on Rayburn’s northwest side. “September is just a tough month to catch fish, and Rayburn will be no different. It’ll be a grinder.”

A week before the event, this 114,500-acre lake stood about 2.84 feet below normal pool of 164.4. Despite a fairly wet summer, the water volume moving through this system declines this time of year.

“That’s not extremely low and, on Rayburn, that still gives you a lot of shallow cover to fish,” Combs said. “There are plenty of options here."

Combs said he’s noticed that Hurricane Laura ripped up some grass on the south end. But otherwise, the lake’s not showing any significant impacts from the recent tropical weather event.

After several weeks of daytime highs in the mid-90s, local temperatures will slip into the mid-80s. But with overnight lows only reaching into the low to mid-60s, Combs isn’t expecting a significant effect on the water temperatures.

“I don’t think we’re going to see a big uptick (in fish activity),” he said of the early season front. “The big cold fronts of fall are better, but we’re not going to see that in time for (the) event.”

Combs believes Rayburn’s abundant hydrilla, which currently grows out to about 9 feet, will be a big player. Flipping/punching jigs and Texas-rigged plastics will produce a lot of fish, but look for the early morning topwater bite to factor into the grass game.

“There’s also way more pads than we’ve had in the last six to eight years,” Combs said. “We had a resurgence last year; I’m glad to see them back. Frogging is definitely a good way to catch them in the pads. We also have a ton of peppergrass and you can catch them on frogs there, as well.”

Predicting a three-day winning total of 56 pounds, Combs said Rayburn’s famous offshore structure is sure to receive a lot of attention. From dropoffs to brushpiles, anglers fishing big Texas-rigged worms, Carolina rigs and deep-diving crankbaits will fare well.

“There’s also a lot of fish schooling in open water right now,” Combs said. “That’s what makes it so tough — you can’t really chase those fish around because they suspend.

“I think the entire lake will be in play. There will be guys catching them in creeks and rivers, there will be guys catching them out in the middle of the main lake from one end to the other. Who knows where it will be won.”

The tournament is the second of four events scheduled in the Central Division. At the end of the season, the Top 4 anglers from the Central and Eastern Divisions will receive automatic bids into the 2021 Bassmaster Elite Series. The Top 4 from the overall Opens standings will also receive bids, and the overall points winner will receive $10,000 as the Falcon Rods Opens Angler of the Year.

With fan interest at an all-time high and a stacked field of anglers that includes some of the sport’s biggest names, B.A.S.S. officials have expanded live coverage options on Both boaters and co-anglers will be logging their catches using BASSTrakk for real-time updates. Fans can also follow the final-day drama by streaming Nationwide Bassmaster Opens LIVE presented by Grizzly as camera boats provide coverage of the leaders.

The tournament is being hosted by the Jasper-Lake Sam Rayburn Chamber of Commerce.