After slow starts in January and February the past two years on the FLW Tour, Kyle Weisenburger hopes to turn that around this year.
“The last two years have been difficult starts for me so I am looking to avoid that and hopefully come out of the gates strong,” he said while making last-minute preparations for the season opener next Thursday through Sunday on Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Brookeland, Texas.
According to a FLW press release, high water levels and wintertime temperatures likely will keep the 170 pros participating in the event guessing. Sam Rayburn is the top rated lake in the country, according to Bassmaster Magazine. The total purse for the FLW Tour opener presented by Polaris is more than $860,000, including $9,000 through 65th place in the pro division.
“After a lot of hours in the shop over the past couple weeks, the boat is rigged, ready, and shined up for the first FLW event. Preparation and organization are crucial parts of the game before you even put the boat on the water. I can’t wait to get the season started and hoping for a spectacular year,” Weisenburger said.
The Limaland pro, who finished 85th in 2017 and 68th in 2018 on the tour, was not able to get down to Rayburn before the participants off limits time frame. He left Friday and will be able to practice during the official three-day practice beginning Sunday.
“I have done a lot of research and studied contour maps and Google maps to get a feel of the layout of the lake. It is a very big body of water. There are some trophy bass in this lake and it is very well populated,” he said.
“As far as a plan, I am figuring these fish are in a winter/prespawn pattern and the quality fish aren’t going to be right up on the bank. I feel midrange depths with grass, ditches and drops will be where the quality will come from. I also think weights will be strong and simply a limit won’t get it done. I feel 15 to 20 pounds a day will put a guy in the mix but wouldn’t be surprised to see a 30-pound bag on a day.”
Texas FLW pro Jason Reyes told told FLW media relations personnel, “Sam Rayburn can be a bit intimidating if you haven’t fished it before – 100,000 acres of lake that is full of grass and hydrilla and everything looks good. But, it is a lake of opportunity and the potential is there for 10+ pound bass and 30+ pound limits. You can really separate yourself if you can catch a bag like that.”
According to Reyes, the region has seen an influx of rain lately and the water levels are higher than normal for this time of year. The water temperature is currently steady between 53 to 55 degrees and with the fish still in their wintertime mode Reyes expects quite a few different patterns to be in play.
“The lake is fishing fairly well,” Reyes said in the FLW release. “Depending on the weather, this tournament will be all about what happens the week before the tournament. We might see everyone out fishing in cold weather gear or we might see everyone in shorts and sweatshirts. The big question will be if the fish move up shallow.
“I don’t think a guy will be able to win it from one spot – they’re going to have to have multiple areas,” Reyes continued. “Lipless crankbaits are always a big player on Rayburn this time of year. Carolina rigs, spinnerbaits, crankbaits and flipping a jig or soft-plastics will all produce as well. Both ends of the lake will be in play, and we’ll be able to catch them fishing whatever our strengths are.”
Reyes estimated that it would take a two-day total of 30 to 31 pounds for an angler to make the top 30 cut and fish the weekend. He predicted the winner would have a four-day total right around 72 pounds.
Weisenburger feels more confident as he begins his third season on the tour.
“I know what to expect and what it takes to make the championship. I feel my skills are very much more rounded than when I first came out on tour and feel comfortable on most styles of lakes. My goals for this year are to make the championship and to make it to the final day of at least 2 of the events to have a true shot at grabbing my first win on tour,” he said.
In FLW Tour competition, the full field of 170 pro anglers compete in the two-day opening round on Thursday and Friday. The top 30 pros based on their two-day accumulated weight advance to Saturday. Only the top 10 pros continue competition Sunday, with the winner determined by the heaviest accumulated weight from the four days of competition.
In addition to the tour kicking off on top-rated Sam Rayburn Reservoir, it makes a stop at second-ranked Lake Chickamauga in Dayton, Tennessee on May 2-5.
Other tour stops are at Lake Toho in Kissimmee, Florida, on Feb. 7-10; Lake Seminole in Bainbridge, Georgia, on March 7-10; Grand Lake in Grove, Okla., on March 28-31; Cherokee Lake in Jefferson City, Tenn., on April 11-14 and Lake Champlain in Plattsburgh, New York on June 27-30.
Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL