Monday, June 1, 2009

A Day on Lake Sam Rayburn

Everyone has interests.

Interests that lead to what some may call a hobby or a favorite past time. My wife is bold enough to refer to one of my interests as being a full blown obsession. I am not clear as to how she came to this conclusion but I will allow it for the sake of argument. Besides, it was actually her idea for us (the family) to purchase the boat. A boat that would benefit the family and my obsession.

Bass fishing.

In defense of my obsession, I have to remind my dear little loving wife that this particular boat is the third one for me and that I still have a rod and reel that is older than the number of years we have been married.

After we came to be a happy couple together some 28+ years ago, I put aside my obsession and focused on family and career. Without going into great detail; the decision to purchase our boat involved a family trip to Rayburn a little over 5 years ago. A trip where she was unable to secure an outing in a boat that was available, she made the statement that maybe we should consider possibly getting our own boat.

I wound up with boat #3 in the driveway in four days...well hey, it was HER idea.

Trying to make up for 23 years of lost time on the water, we began looking for deals on fishing gear and boat stuff. It was during one of our excursions to the local Academy sporting outlet in search for new stuff that we stumbled across one of my soon to be newest fishing buds. Enter stage right, Lee Y. Wheeler III.

Lee is a local professional-bass angler that happened to be involved with a fishing expo being held right there in Academy. He was more than helpful with the many different questions we could throw at him. With a few quick queries of his own, Lee enlightened us on some obvious helpful items we would need.

As it turns out, Lake Sam Rayburn is a favorite lake that Lee loves to fish. Needless to say, our friendship quickly developed and lead me to a day of fishing with Lee for some up close and personal schooling on bass fishing. Did you catch the pun there...schooling on bass fishing..?? Boy, this is a tough crowd.

Man oh man, so much has changed since the time of my 14' flat-bottom aluminum boat, 20hp tiller steering outboards, black with yellow tail plastic ring worms from the local Gibson's store, up to today's fully rigged fiberglass bass boats that roam the area lakes and rivers.

I told Lee that I wanted to experience the day as a co-angler that fishes from the back of a professionals rig. The day would hold that and just a bit more than I bargained for.

Lee has 10 years of experience in several different tournament trails. Some of the trails he fishes in include the BFL, TTT, SETX Bass Federation trail, the BASS Open tournaments.

The boat of choice for Lee is a Ranger Z21 powered by a Yamaha 250hp outboard. Did I mention the nifty electronics on the boat? This was way more boat than this old country boy had ever been in, up close to, and seen in color.

Our day began with the required early morning meeting place. Early morning as in before the sun ever thought about making a little crack at dawn...and we head north to Rayburn. Conversation would run from family, faith, military service, and the closer we got to the lake...bass fishing.

Lee pretty much handed it to me that day all day long. I failed to hook up with a single fish, which is what I am used to so please keep your comments to yourself.

It was a day that Lee liked to refer to as a 'fun-fishin' day. No pressure, just out there beating the water to a froth and daring a fish to show an interest in our offerings of lures. I directed Lee to several of my favorite areas that I frequent and wanted to see how he would approach 'my' water.

It was sometime after lunch that our eyes turned towards the darkening clouds to the southwest. Dark clouds and July heat generally bring a different type of excitement to being on an open body of water. Today was not to be forgotten.

The clouds we were eyeing suddenly turned into a very definite 'square' formation which pretty much as soon as the square shape had appeared, a funnel cloud descended below the cloud just long enough to be seen, then disappeared about as quick as it had appeared.

My first question to Lee was simply, "Did you see that?!" and the response he gave still rings with cold chills.

"You better tie down your gear and don't forget to put on your life jacket."

My first experience at the power and speed of a 250hp outboard was more than welcome. The nearest shelter for us was a highway bridge that spanned the lake but was almost a mile north from where we were. We beat the biggest part of the summer storm to the bridge, but the wind and waves that worked us over for at least 40 minutes are etched into my memory bank.

The day ended with Lee teaching me how to fish a type of lure I hardly ever use. The conditions were perfect for us with the passing of the rain leaving the surface of the water slightly rippled. The 'professor' took the opportunity to show me up once more and catch fish in front of me.

All in all, it is time on the water that teaches. I still hear that phrase from Lee today for just about every situation in bass fishing that I quiz him on.

You have to spend time on the water.

I experienced the day as a co-angler. Fishing from the back of a boat, at the mercy of the pro-angler and fishing behind him. It is not as harsh as it sounds. Lee fished my 'water' that day and I learned a little something besides fishing skills. I learned that we are never too old to learn, if you are willing to just listen.

Lee, you can fish from the back of my boat anytime. Just let me know when you want to go. Semper Fi old buddy.



  1. I bet I learned more that day than I ever taught you. A great day for me as well. Thank you. Lee

  2. Good stuff, Jake. What was the lure you all fished that you hardly ever use?


  3. Lee tuned me into a spinnerbait...up until then I just never gave that lure much of a chance, but now, it's one of my top choices of lures to use.