After the Spawn: Catching Texas Transition Bass
March 15, 2018
After the spawn, here's where to catch transition bass at some top lakes in Texas.
Here we are moving out of the big March spawn and into April when most bass move out of the shallows and back to the creek channels, main-lake points, timber humps, and into new growth hydrilla. It's a time when bass can be found just about anywhere in water that's from 5 to 20 feet deep.
Carlos Fernandez has done a lot of fishing on Choke Canyon Lake in South Texas, and likes the month of April for his fishing because the bass are easy to locate and to catch.
"Bass on Choke are well off the spawn by April and they can be caught at just about any depth on just about any structure," he says. "I like to fish the coves on the lower end of the lake.
"There is one that's located at Choke Canyon State Park. It's right around the corner from the boat ramps near the swimming area. It's got a rocky shoreline that falls into 5 to 10 feet of water with a lot of hydrilla. It's classic bass fishing with spinnerbaits and worms.
"In that type structure I'll start out early with a 1/4-ounce Stanley spinnerbait with a white/silver skirt and twin silver willow-leaf blades. It looks a lot like a shad that the bass will be feeding on. Another good color combination is something that resembles a bream — a favorite forge fish of big bass."
Choke Canyon is located about 80 miles south of San Antonio. It's a quick-hit bass-fishing destination for anglers from San Antonio, but draws attention from fishermen out of Corpus Christi, Houston and Austin. It covers 25,989-acres and is located on the Frio River in the Nueces River Basin.
The reservoir has a history of substantial water level fluctuations. The main structure is native aquatic vegetation, periodically flooded terrestrial vegetation, standing timber, and seasonally abundant water hyacinth and hydrilla.
Choke has produced some impressive numbers of big bass. Over the years it's given up 13 bass to the TPWD's ShareLunker program. Three were over 15 pounds and two were over 14 pounds. Three of those 13 lunkers were caught during April.
Austin angler Sam Koebcke was fishing on Choke in 10 feet of water on April 26, 2009, when he caught a 13.3-pound bass. That fish ate a Carolina-rigged soft-plastic Grande Bass Rattlesnake in watermelon/chartreuse. At the time the water temperature was a balmy 72 degrees.
The lake record weighed 15.45 pounds. She was caught on Jan 1, 2009, by Brad Bookmyer while fishing a crankbait in 10 feet of water that tested 53 degrees.
"The unique thing about fishing on Choke is there is so much structure," says Fernandez. "The big bass are there, and most will be caught around 10 feet deep in and around hydrilla."
'Well-Managed' Lake Waco
Lake Waco doesn't get a lot of attention but it's definitely worth a shot if you like catching solid bass. I've fished there numerous times and can say from experience that it's a Central Texas fishery that's well-managed and pumps out good numbers of bass in the 5- to 7-pound class.
Lake Waco is located on the Bosque River just off Texas Highway 6 within the Waco city limits. The lake has 10 boat ramps. Most ramps charge a $4 launch fee. A $30 annual day use/boat ramp permit is available from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Lakeside parks contain many excellent campsites with water and electricity, and some with sewage hookups.
Waco covers 8,465 acres and was impounded in 1965. The lake-record largemouth was caught by Ricky Culverhouse on March 9, 2008, in 6 feet of water. She weighed 13.87 pounds and was caught on a black/red-flake Baby Brush Hog.
Bass fishing is at its best on Waco during late March and April. Coves protected from the north wind and the backs of creeks are two excellent places to find bass. White or chartreuse spinnerbaits are very popular.Going deeper, a black/blue or black/chartreuse jig-and-craw worm combo is a good big-bass producer. During April, you can find bass on windy points and the flats next to river channels. Hog and Flatrock creeks are popular areas to fish.
David Underwood has been fishing Waco for decades. One of his go-to lures during April is a 5-inch Yum Money Minnow in white/pearl. It's rigged on a 5/0 hook with a 1/4-ounce belly weight.
"Waco has quite a bit of laydowns and stumps," says Underwood. "I'll use the Money Minnow like a pitching jig or just swim it by a log or stump. The belly weight on the hook keeps this lure upright as I swim it by structure. This is a particularly good lure during April when the water is clear and in the low 60s."
Underwood says he'll also us a spinnerbait a lot during April.
"The idea is to cover a lot of water," he advises. "During the first week or so of April we'll still have some bass on the beds. But others will be out a little deeper after the spawn. A spinnerbait covers lots of water, shallow and deep. I like to use Stanley 1/2- to 3/4-ounce spinnerbaits with double willow-leaf blades in gold and silver. A good color combination is white and chartreuse."
Denny Copeland has been fishing Waco for years. He and Underwood fish a lot of tournaments together on this lake.
"A jig is a good go-to lure just about any time of year on Waco," says Copeland. "Keep in mind this lake has a lot of laydowns, stumps and brush. A jig can be worked in and around that stuff all day long. I like a 3/8- to 1/2-ounce black/blue or black/brown Stanley jig with a craw worm or half of a Brush Hog.
"A Senko is another good lure on Waco. I'll fish it on a Texas rig and a 4/0 hook with a 1/8- or 1/4-ounce weight. The best colors are June bug or green/pumpkin."
Pick Your Bait, Structure
In South Texas you'll find some very fine post-spawn April bass fishing at Coleto Creek Reservoir. This is a lake that offers all sorts of structure to fish that includes flooded timber, aquatic vegetation, creeks, bridge pilings, extended points, and deep-water drops.
Coleto is located in the Guadalupe River basin, 15 miles southwest of Victoria off US 59. It covers 3,100 acres, was impounded in 1980 and has a maximum depth of 46 feet. The lake-record largemouth bass weighed 12.81 pounds and was caught on March 13, 1997, on a jig by Jimmy Johnson.
Prior to that catch, the lake record was right around 10 pounds and was caught by Dennis Lala, who is a regular on the lake. He caught that bass on a 7-inch grape/glitter worm with a firetail along a 20-foot ledge.
"The fishing on Coleto will be really good during April and May," says Lala. "At that time the water temperature will be in the 70s and the fish will be on a shad bite.
"April is a good time to fish the creeks above the bridge. Other good fishing areas include the big island, Big Fish Point, and the points on the west side of the lake above the bridge."
While fishing with Lala last April, he took us to a ledge in about 14 feet of water. We were fishing Carolina-rigged worms. Those worms were 10 inches long and made by Berkley.
"You want to just cast it out there on top of that ledge and drag it along bottom," he instructed. "This is big-fish water. We'll stay here about 10 minutes. If the bite is on we'll know it soon enough."
On my first cast I felt a jolt, set the hook and just about got the rod jerked out of my hands. I had that big bass on for about 15 seconds before it got off. However, within a few minutes Lala set the hook and reeled in a 5-pounder.
"That's what I'm talking about," he said with a big grin.
One of the best lures on Coleto during April is a big square-billed Berkley crankbait. Lala says the best colors are chartreuse/silver and fire tiger. The chartreuse/silver is best in clear water. The fire tiger is better when the water is a little off-color. Lala fishes them on 14-pound-test line.
"I like to fish spinnerbaits early, and then switch over to cranks," he says. "Around midmorning I'll go with a worm. A 7-inch Berkley Power Worm in blue-flake is good. Or, I always keep a 10-inch green/pumpkinseed worm rigged and ready to fish. That's especially good in the timber and on extended points.
"One thing to remember is that the bass will be feeding heavily on shad in April. That's why a white or chartreuse/white willow-leaf spinnerbait is good early and late."
If you like to tone things down a bit, I highly recommend heading to Huntsville State Park. Inside the park is Lake Raven. It covers 203 acres and was opened to fishing back in 1956. Even though this lake is very old, it's been a catch-and-release bass fishery for years. And it has produced some very fine fish.
There is one boat ramp on the lake and two fishing piers. You can fish out of any size boat, but the speed limit is about 5 miles per hour. Many of the boats on Raven are canoes or kayaks. The lake record weighed 13.48 pounds and was caught on March 4, 1998.
Lake Raven has a history of producing trophy largemouth bass. The population has been managed with a catch-and-release regulation since September 1996. The regulation allows the angler to retain bass measuring 24 inches for weighing on a personal scale in the boat with subsequent release or, if weighing 13 pounds or more, donation into the ShareLunker program. Lake Raven has been included in Operation World Record, a program to compare growth of selectively bred ShareLunker largemouth bass fingerlings to resident bass fingerlings.
I've been fishing Raven since 1962. My best bass weighed close to 10 pounds and was caught on a white buzzbait at midnight, under a full moon. This is one of the best topwater lakes in Texas. A Heddon Tiny Torpedo and a Rebel Pop-R are two of my favorites. A spinnerbait is very good along the shoreline vegetation.
The same goes for a buzzbait. There is a lot of aquatic vegetation on the lake that includes hydrilla and lily pads. On either end of the lake you can fish worms in the lily pads. Almost directly across from the boat ramp is a creek that flows into the lake and has a good bit of underwater structure like stumps and laydowns. Just south of that creek is an extended point. That's where you can fish worms and deep-diving cranks.
If you like to fish at night, Raven is perfect. There usually is little to no boat traffic at night, and the bass fishing in the clear water is excellent. Also, if you're into fly-fishing, this lake is for you.