Bucketmouths On The Border

Bucketmouths On The Border

Have you been bass fishing at Lake Texoma lately? No? Then maybe you'd better give it a try soon! (June 2007)

Photo by Ron Sinfelt.

If you've fished Texoma lately, you'll have to admit that the fishing seems to be getting better and better! While striped bass are the main attraction, sand bass have their own festival. And the fishing for black bass is pretty good as well, and overlooked by far too many anglers these days.

But serious bass anglers who ply Texoma's waters would just as soon keep it that way. Here's a great place in southern Oklahoma where anglers can hit a triple on just about any bass outing.

True, Texoma is home to the whole black-bass trinity, which includes largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass. Angling for this trio of bass is splendid, and it seems primarily that only tournament anglers recognize the value of Texoma's great bass fishing versatility.

The lake's record is noteworthy, having yielded several state smallmouth bass records in the not-too-distant past. According to experts, the old lake still has the potential to yield several more. So whether you are an ardent bass angler looking for a new lake to prowl, or maybe just a novice, read on and consider the merits of this fabulous border fishery.

THE LAKE AT A GLANCE

Texoma is the 10th largest lake in the United States with over 89,000 surface-acres and a maximum depth of 100 feet. This giant border impoundment is one of the most popular fishing destinations for Oklahomans and Texans alike. Though known as the "Striper Capital of the World," Texoma boasts incredible fishing for several species of fish.

Although Texoma lacks the aquatic vegetation found in most lakes, the old reservoir does have adequate rocks, boulders, sunken logs, sandy flats, and stump beds that provide great habitat for fish.

ABOUT LAKE TEXOMA'S BASS TRIO

Second in size only to the striped bass, largemouth bass are found throughout Texoma. There are two recognized subspecies, the Florida strain and the Northern strain. These subspecies do interbreed, and though Texoma has both species, the primary one is the Northern largemouth.

Texoma's largemouths are opportunistic feeders and lie in ambush behind structure awaiting a chance to attack shad, minnows, bluegills, insects, and crawfish. They've also been known to eat lizards, snakes, mice, small birds, and earthworms and are most active in water temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees.

Smallmouth bass are well suited to Texoma, since they prefer large, clear lakes with rocky habitat, sandy flats, or submerged logs. Smallmouths are sometimes called "brown bass," "bronzebacks" or "brownies," but many that you'll find at Texoma are actually green or yellowish in color, depending on the part of the lake they're caught in, water clarity and time of year.

Smallmouths grow to about half the size of largemouths, but are sleeker, faster, and considered more aggressive fighters. Smallmouths are generally green to bronze in coloration with a small mouth and a red eye. Their sides typically are marked with vivid bars.

Smallmouth bass like to work rocky shallows in the early mornings and late evenings where they prowl for food. Their main diet is similar to that of a largemouth with crawfish, insects, and shad making up the bulk of the diet.

The spotted bass is an important fish in the Sooner State, although it is not widely stocked. Common nicknames are "spot" and Kentucky bass.

The bulk of a spotted bass' diet consists of crawfish, small bluegills, and immature insects. Spotted bass usually inhabit deeper water than largemouths, and congregate around rocky points.

Spotted bass resemble largemouth bass except they have a smaller mouth and a rough patch on the tongue. They have distinct rows of dark spots along their backs, hence their name, and are excellent fighters.

A BIOLOGIST'S INSIGHTS

The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Paul Mauck has the daunting task of overseeing Lake Texoma, as well as several other fisheries in the region he manages. Mauck does a tremendous job scientifically bettering the lake's ecosystem by tirelessly monitoring several environmental factors, which contribute to the lake's success.

"For being over 60 years old, Lake Texoma is remarkably well structured in largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass populations," Mauck surmised. "With the addition of stripers and sand bass, Texoma is a highly competitive lake for shad."

Lacking the high percentage of Florida-strain bass genetics, the lake's largemouths still do remarkably well, although their habitat is not as good as what can be found at other lakes in Oklahoma.

"Texoma doesn't have the weedbeds that other lakes have," said Mauck. "But with the cover that is available, and with the 14-inch minimum length imposed, we see some pretty nice bass caught there. A legal bass normally will weigh around 2 pounds.

"In June most of the lake's bass have spawned," Mauck continued. "They will be lean and mean and ready to feed, moving from the shallows to water that is a little deeper than the water they spawned in."

"Traditionally, according to reports I hear from other anglers, the best spots for catching post-spawn largemouths are Catfish Bay, Johnson Creek, Buncombe Creek, Newberry Creek, Alberta Creek, Soldier Creek, Caney Creek, and Little Mineral Creek. Most of the bass in those areas are going to be in the coves and near the boathouses, where they can find some cover."

Mauck was most excited about the lake's smallmouth bass population, and reminded me that the lake has produced at least five previous state records. "Texoma's smallmouth bass continue to be good, and we have successful reproduction each year. We have a lot of 5- to 6-pound smallmouths in the lake, and some a lot larger. Texoma is a tremendous smallmouth fishery."

He further said that anglers targeting smallmouths should concentrate on the riprap areas around the bridges and dam, and many of the rocky points on the Texas side of the lake. Remember a Texas fishing license is required when fishing on that side of the huge impoundment. Mauck also named Willow Springs as a good spot for smallies.

The biologist said that smallmouth bass like to move into the shallows early and late to feed, and that nighttime anglers should do as well. Some anglers like to use live shad hooked weightless and let them swim in areas smallmouths frequent. Though this is an e

ffective tactic, Mauck cautioned that, much of the time, a smallmouth will swallow the bait so deeply that it can't be released.

According to Mauck, the lake has a great population of spotted bass that are generally around the same areas where smallmouth are found except in deeper water. He said the lake's "Kentuckies" will average 1 to 2 pounds, as they're generally slow-growing, adding that a 3-pounder is a real nice spot.

Mauck said the future looks bright for Texoma's bass anglers, due to some unique management plans. "We have been working on a water level manipulation plan for the past 15 years," Mauck explained. "We are able to raise and lower the lake level at strategic times to make the fishing better."

EXPERT ADVICE FOR BIG LARGEMOUTHS

Ardmore professional angler Jeff Kriet, who cut his teeth on Texoma's largemouth bass fishing, rates the lake as an excellent fishery. Though the soft-spoken pro owns a hunting and fishing store -- Outdoor Headquarters, (580) 226-2196, in downtown Ardmore -- he's been making his living through bass fishing for the past eight years. He reported that though Texoma has a lot of black bass, the average size of fish caught there will be smaller than that of those in most lakes.

"I believe due to the salinity content in the lake there is not much grass, which is detrimental to the black bass," he said. "As a result, the bass normally caught in the lake will average 3 pounds."

Kriet has logged untold hours on this big border impoundment, and his expertise has garnered several tournament victories, the most prestigious being the last B.A.S.S. event held there. His experiences have taught him that certain baits are better in June and that particular spots are more productive than are others.

"My favorite spots to fish in June are around many of the lake's boat docks, and tire reefs," advised Kriet. "My preferred method is pitching both solid white and white-and-chartreuse jigs, or throwing spinnerbaits in the same patterns. I also catch a fair amount of bass on Pop-Rs in bone and chrome colors."

Kriet said the lake's largemouths like to suspend beneath the white foam of many of the boat docks. He said when he finds the right boat dock he can catch a tournament limit (five fish) in five casts.

Another professional angler that grew up on the lake is Platter native Jeff Reynolds. Reynolds has fished the lake for more than 25 years, and lives a rock's throw from its banks. Although he doesn't log as many days on Texoma as usual, due to a heavy tournament schedule, his experience still is valuable.

"On Texoma, wind is the key to catching bass," Reynolds said. "It's very hard to catch fish without it." Biologists explain that wind causes shad to move to an area where they can school and be sheltered from the wind.

Yet another professional angler that has spent an extensive time on Texoma is Mannsville's Edwin Evers. Evers represents a new breed of aggressive anglers that embody a never-say-die attitude. Evers believes Texoma to be a good bass lake, and offers an 8-pound lunker he caught there as proof.

Evers also is a fan of using crankbaits, but he sometimes likes to pitch a jig toward likely bass cover. Evers prefers to use a black-and-blue jig, and, like a lot of other pros, likes to cover a lot of water.

SUPER SPOTS FOR SMALLMOUTHS

"Lake Texoma is one of the best lakes around to catch a big smallmouth in," Kriet claims. "My best Texoma smallmouth weighed 6 pounds, 12 ounces, and I rarely catch any less than 3 pounds."

In fact, the smallmouth fishing is so good at Texoma that most tournaments are won with catches of smallmouths.

"Smallmouths can be finicky at times," Kriet said, "but when they bite, they really bite. I like to fish for them in the areas between the Roosevelt Bridge and the Willis Bridge, and around the dam. Owing to the lake being silted in badly, the midlake area is also a good spot to find schools of smallmouths."

Kriet's favorite baits for using in the early morning hours are Pop-Rs, Slug-Gos, and flukes, in darker colors and baitfish colors.

Reynolds likes to concentrate on rocky points and chooses his bait based on the weather conditions. "If the weather is cloudy, I like to use crawdad-colored crankbaits," he said. "However, if the weather is clear, I have found that chartreuse with a blue back or shad colors work well too.

"Usually I don't catch a lot of smallmouths, but when I do they are normally 2 1/2 pounds or better. My best smallmouths there weighed 6 pounds, 3 ounces, and 6 pounds, 4 ounces."

SPOTTED BASS STRATEGIES

To complete the bass trifecta, you'll need to add a spotted or Kentucky bass to your bag. Texoma has incredible numbers of chunky spots according to Kriet. "The spots are doing really well," he said. "They're all over the midlake area as well as around the boat docks and tire reefs."

Kriet's favorite baits for spotted bass are Yo-Zuri jerkbaits, mouse-colored War Eagle spinnerbaits, and white jigs. "I also catch a fair number of Kentuckies by throwing a Pop-R around the clay bank areas of the lake," Kriet said. "If it's windy, I throw a spinnerbait toward the clay banks, and have good success."

Spotted bass are known to be tenacious fighters when hooked, and the average catch will weigh 2 pounds. Kriet's best Texoma spot weighed 4 1/2.

Kriet says that when you find the shad you will find bass nearby; a good sonar device is invaluable. Another tip from Kriet is to be prepared to move around often.

"If I've learned one thing about Texoma that's different from other lakes, it's that you have to move often to catch fish," he said. "Some lakes you can stay put in one area and catch lots of fish, but on Texoma you have to be willing to move."

Reynolds agrees. "I call it running and gunning," he said. "When I'm successful on Texoma, I've covered a lot of water. I sometimes fish 50 different locations in a day. The bass definitely move around."

Reynolds recommends that anglers use fluorocarbon line when the lake is clear, and because of the line's amazing properties of being very strong and invisible. "Smallmouths can be very wary, and will not bite if they see the line," he said.

Evers said that one of the things that helps him the most on Texoma, as well as other lakes, is to never fish an area without a purpose. "Before I cast into an area, I expect a bass to be there, or I don't waste my time there. I also listen to what the fish are telling me, like what baits they like, and I have learned to change baits often when they aren't working for me."

Evers is a big fan of using high-speed reels, which enable him to make more casts, more often. Evers believes one of the biggest mistakes most bass anglers make is they stay

in one spot way too long, and just because an area was good once doesn't mean it will always be good.

* * *

Texoma is a huge lake with enough bass in it for everyone to get some action. Remember, it is no sin to release a big bass. Today's taxidermists have some incredible authentic-looking replicas that can give you the mount you desire. Allowing that big bass to return to the water allows it grow to be caught again another day. So be patient, and try some of these expert tips. You too may catch yourself a bucketmouth on the border.

Find more about Oklahoma fishing and hunting at: OklahomaGameandFish.com

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