Jim Noah   

Want to go south and catch a lot of good bass?  Sam Rayburn is the place for you!

Sure, I know the Large Mouth Bass Virus hit Lake Sam Rayburn in June of 1998.  Sure it was one of the worst fish kills Sam has ever seen and yes mainly the big fished died.  Same as in your live well, only the biggest die, because they are easily stressed.

The big fish kill was two years ago, and the GREAT fishing IS BACK!  I know, I spent 4 great days at Jasper TX at their Outdoors Festival and Tournament in early October.  Jasper is a special small town with a big heart, great food, Ann’s Tackle shop and all the accommodations to make any angler happy.  You and your family will enjoy your vacation time here.  I guarantee it and I’ll be back for the fishing, the friendship, and the food.

Need proof the bass are back?  Jeff Buchanan, full-time Pro Guide on Sam Rayburn, and 2nd place finisher in the 1998 B.A.S.S. Texas Invitational on Rayburn, and his partners finished on top. With 16 lbs. and some change, they also had the "Big Bass" of the tournament, a HAWG that went just shy of 6 lbs.  Folks this was a 4 hour draw tournament with a 5 fish limit.  Not bad for a Pro, an amateur, and a press representative that did not have time to fish much.  Sure Jeff is good, but only one boat out of 25 came to the scales empty handed and with a 14 inch length limit, that says all you need to know about Sam’s bass and their ability to rebound.  Texas has a year around growing season and these bass really take advantage of it! The one blank was only because the Pro got very sick and did not go out!  Even a Pro can’t catch fish when he ain’t on the water.

Need more proof? Sam currently holds the #9 bass taken out of Texas waters at 16.8!  Bass in the 10 to 13 pound range are definitely not rare.  The Texas Lunker Program helps Sam too. The Black Crappie Lake record is 2.01 and was 15.5 inches long.  The White Crappie Lake record is even larger at 2.94 and was 17.0 long.  These crappie are larger than some northern bass and they fight like crazy!

Sam has it all, multitude of creek channels, protected coves, grass beds, brushy shoreline, rock, and standing timber that creates a year round ideal environment for the fish.  We caught fish on worms (rigged Texas and Wacky style), jigs, soft jerkbaits, and crankbaits.  Watermelon Candy was the hot color in soft plastics and firetiger crankbaits (Timber Tiger DC4).  We found bass in the timber and in the grass.  One school was busting shad in the open.  The bass were hungry and aggressive.  Just ask at Ann’s Tackle (409 384-7685) what’s working best and you can not go wrong.

No visit to Sam would be complete with out stopping in at Ann's Tackle.  Ann Thomason-Wilson is an old friend (her term, as I don’t say old and lady in the same phase) and she will only give you the straight scoop on what you need to catch the great bass and magnum crappie.  Ann's Tackle is located right on highway 96 on your way to the lake.  Ann Thomason-Wilson is a two time Bassin Gals world champion.  Ann has a wealth of information to offer about the Jasper area and fishing Big Sam. Ann is a fishing legend and a true pleasure to visit with.  Don’t miss this opportunity and take a minute or two to look at the walls of trophies she has won!  While shopping and visiting with Ann expect several of the local Pros to stop by, as they buy their tackle there too.  We ran into friends and several top bass pros Todd Faircloth, Edwin Evers, John Presley, and Mark Pack all getting what they needed for the Pro/Am tournament on Saturday.  Todd lives close to his Aunt Ann’s shop and Ray Scott calls Todd “the next Kevin VamDam”.  A mighty big honor for the soft spoken, easy goin’ Texan.  Todd is a pleasure to be with on or off the water and is true champion to watch.  He’s a future Bassmaster Classic champion!

Jasper Outboard Sales and Service (409 384-2075) is located right on the way to the lake on 96 Highway in their brand new location and large facility.  Not only can you buy a new boat there, M. J. Clark’s staff will fix anything you tore up on the way or on the water.  I had a good time looking over all the guns and gear they had in the show room.  M.J. had several fine mounts on the wall include Elk, Deer and some Texas Exotics.  This is the place to get ready for hunting season in the south east big pine area of Texas.

All that catching on Big Sam will make you hungry, really hungry!  Plan on being at Texas Charlie's

Bar-B-Q. (409 384-4451) for awhile, as the portions are truly TEXAS SIZED and very good. You won’t leave hungry. Located on the east side of Highway 96. This is a historical place with pictures all over the walls that makes it just as special as the food.  We were really hungry, but I assure you NONE of us left hungry. We all ate a big plate of ribs, potato salad, beans, and followed it up with pecan pie.  The platters were overflowing and the service was perfect with the tea glasses never empty.  Not only do they have a nice set down restaurant, they cater too.  Owner Nancy Nicholson had a wealth of knowledge about Jasper and the local area. Nancy and her husband have lived in Jasper for over 30 years now. "Even after 30 years, I can't think of a better place to live; the people are great, the town is great, it's just a wonderful place to live".  Nancy was typical of the folks we visited with, friendly, helpful, and a delight to be around.  These are the folks that make Jasper a great place to visit, or move too.

We also ate at the Stump Restaurant (409 698-9495) for breakfast on the way to the lake.  You have to keep your strength up in hopes of a 10 pounder.  Mike Taylor (the owner of the Stump) was busy in the kitchen the morning we stopped in preparing breakfast.  Not many restaurant even have an owner around, much less one able to whip up a great meal.  The Stump is located on Highway 255, just before Twin Dikes, right on the lake. 

Sure, I like to try out new restaurants and it prevents you from eating at the wrong place!   Don’t miss Patrick's Steak House (409 384-8861) and Chef Eddie!  The steaks Chef Eddie served us were some of the best I’ve ever eaten and I consider myself a steak eater.   Patrick’s Steak House is easy to find on Highway 96 and as fine a dinner you will find any place!  Don’t miss this great place and have a steak.

We stayed at the Ramada (409-384-9021) in a nice room with boat hook ups.  Each room has a coffee maker and HBO.  They welcome anglers and that is a pleasant switch!  When you plan a fishing trip, or bass club tournament, or family vacation at Big Sam, be sure and stay at the Ramada in Jasper.  When you make your reservations ask about their fishing special. They put together everything including a sack lunch and ice for a minimal fee.  Right at the hotel is a nice café with good food and service.  Not your typical hotel café, but real southern hospitality and food including grits.

Sam Rayburn Facts:

Sam Rayburn is located on the Angelina River, the major tributary of the Neches River, approximately 10 miles northwest of the town of Jasper Texas.  The  impoundment of water beginning in March, 1965, and conservation pool level, (elevation 164.4ft, mean sea level), being initially reached in 1966.  Big Sam is the largest body of water within the boundaries of the State of Texas, with a surface of approximately 114,500 acres in five counties.  At this level the lake is about 60 miles in length, with approximately 750 miles of shoreline.

There are four marina areas leased to private concessions on Sam Rayburn. Each marina offers overnight accommodations, bait and tackle sales, guide service referrals, convenience store, snack bar, boat stall rentals, camping facilities, day use facilities, sanitary facilities, and drinking water. Some marinas offer boat rentals and gas sales. Jackson Hill and Powell Marinas are located within Jackson Hill and Powell Parks, and Twin Dikes Marina is located adjacent to Twin Dikes Park and Shirley Creek Marina is located within Shirley Creek Park. 

For additional information contact the respective marinas at the phone numbers listed.

Jackson Hill Marina --------- (409) 872 - 3551, P.O. Box 148, Broaddus, TX 75929

Powell Marina ---------------- (409) 584 - 2624, Rt. 1, Broaddus, TX 75929 Email: [email protected]

Shirley Creek Marina -------- (409) 854 - 2233, P.O. Box 68, Etoile, TX 75944 [email protected] 

Twin Dikes Marina ---------- (409) 698 - 2696, Rt. 1, Box 750 Brookeland, TX 7593

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