Northeast Bass Hotspots

So you think you know where the best bass action is happening this month. Tried any of these lakes lately? (August 2006)

Photo by Ron Sinfelt

Many Oklahoma bass anglers like to take the summer off, spending time under the air conditioner remembering the bruisers they landed during the spring spawn and fantasizing about big-bellied fall bass they'll catch when the water temperatures start to drop back into the fish's comfort range.

What a mistake these folks are making!

The fact of the matter is that Oklahoma's summertime bass can be among the easiest to catch all year. The key lies in knowing where to look and how to fish for them.

Read on for a run-down of some great summer hotspots for northeast Oklahoma bass this summer -- and for summers to come.

LAKE BIXHOMA

Lake Bixhoma, a Bixby water supply reservoir, was created way back in 1965 with the impoundment of Mountain Creek, just south of the Tulsa-Wagner county line. The small reservoir (only 110 acres of surface area) is about eight miles southeast of the town of Bixby and boasts three miles of shoreline, much of it composed of prime bass habitat.

A relative sleeper not widely known in many bass fishing circles, Bixhoma regularly ranks near the top of the list of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's electrofishing bass surveys of small lakes. And for good reason: Not only does the lake hold lots of bass, but it also produces some real whoppers, year after year.

"If you want to catch big bass in the Tulsa area, you've got to go there," said Lawrence Taylor, former editor of BASSIN' magazine and now public relations manager for PRADCO Outdoor Brands' hunting products. "That's where they're at. I tell you, there's a state record swimming in there, and summer is one of the best times to fish that lake."

Taylor, a Bixhoma regular, has caught more than his fair share of lunkers from the lake, including an 11-pound, 8-ounce whopper that's one of the biggest bass he's ever taken anywhere. He caught that monster on a Yumdinger -- a soft-plastic jerk-style bait. The magic color scheme that day was watermelon with red flake.

"I like to fish the Yumdinger in the weedbeds the first and last hour of daylight," Taylor offered. "That's when the fish are up in the weeds the best. I also like to flip the weeds with a jig-and-craw. If the bass aren't up in the weeds, I'll back off and fish a Texas-rigged 10-inch plastic worm a little deeper."

Taylor's other favorite pattern is flipping a jig-and-craw in the standing timber along the lake's creekbed. But he advises Bixhoma anglers during the summer months not to be too hasty to go home when the sun sets.

"Right after dark, use a Zara Spook until they lock the gate," he said. "Fish the Spook up the timber-lined creek -- and hold on tight!"

DRIPPING SPRINGS AND OKMULGEE CITY LAKE

These twin lakes west of the city of Okmulgee are darn good bass producers, even during the heat of the summer.

Summer bass at Dripping Springs and Okmulgee City Lake are best found in areas where a meandering creek channel winds its way through timbered flats. Typically, an area with about 4 to 8 feet of water on the flat and 10 to 12 feet in the creek channel will be best. Shad move into these areas, and bass will move from deep to shallow in pursuit of them, often dropping back into the creek channel during daytime when the sun is high and temperatures rise to uncomfortable levels.

My best Dripping Springs bass ever, a solid 8-pounder, came the last day of July in sweltering heat on one such 6-foot flat. That big fish engulfed a jig-and-pig combination.

Bends in the creek channels often produce best. There's one creek channel at Dripping Springs, not far from where I caught the 8-pounder, that's particularly productive for me. The channel swings near the bank with a steep drop, and at the top of the drop is a triangle of three old rotting trees. I've seldom failed to pull a bass from that spot, which has been known to produce fish up to 6 pounds.

Among the best baits to use in these types of areas are spinnerbaits, crankbaits, soft-plastic worms and craws, and jig-and-pig combos. Fish the slow baits (soft plastics and jig-and-pig) along bottom, worming them through the timber and up and down the creek channel drops. Hold on tight, because hungry summer bass aren't generally soft hitters.

LAKE TENKILLER

This beautiful lake has really come on as an excellent bass impoundment over the past few years. Now it's a top bass fishing destination, and centrally located for nearly everyone in northeast Oklahoma.

Anglers heading to Tenkiller in summer should note that many of the bass still can be found in the same haunts in which they hung out in the spring. Consequently, anglers should work some fairly shallow waters before moving out to mid-depths and applying more summer-like techniques.

Shallow shoreline brush is another hotspot to try. I like a white spinnerbait with a single gold or copper blade to see if fish are in the area. Depending on water temperature and clarity, the fish might prefer it moved at a pretty fast pace just below the surface, slow-rolled along the bottom or somewhere in between.

As a general rule, if the weather's been stable and the water warming, a quicker retrieve will work. If you happen to be fishing behind a cold front, a little slower retrieve generally will yield more results. Give the bass plenty of different speeds and depths before giving up on this bait.

Rocky points are among the best bass-holding habitat at this time of year. Look for both slow-tapering points that gradually work out toward deeper water and quickly falling points that reach deep water over very little distance. Both are productive at times; anglers just have to discover which will produce on any given day. Find points that extend to a submerged creek channel or river channel and you'll almost certainly find bass at some depth along the point.

My favorite tactic for working these points, whether they're deep or shallow, is to throw a jig-and-pig combination onto the point and crawl it down the ledge, whether it's on the edge or tip of the point. Once I find bass with the jig, I'll try a speedier bait like a spinnerbait or suspending jerkbait to try to put fish in the boat a little faster. But if the bite stops, I'll go back to the jig in a heartbeat. It's a time-tested producer that really works on summer bass -- and big ones, too!

OOLOGAH RESERVOIR

Oologah, lying northeast of the Tulsa metropolitan area, doesn't get a lot of accolades in the state's bass-fishing arena. But local anglers who regularly fish the lake know it provides a lot better action than out-of-towners might think. The lake has a good population of spotted bass, and summer is a good time to catch these hard-fighting fish.

Look for Oologah spots in the lower half of the lake, especially on mid-depth structure that's in proximity to deep water. A rocky point that goes out to about 20 feet in depth before dropping off into a river channel is a fine example of an excellent spotted bass structure.

Start fishing the point and along its edges in about 10 feet of water, gradually moving deeper and then right down the dropoff. If there are spotted bass in the area, you'll most likely catch them somewhere between 10 and 25 feet. Once you catch a few, look for other areas with the same structure and depth characteristics.

A jig-and-pig combination is one of the best baits for working these types of area. I prefer black and blue, but any dark color works pretty well in the summertime. Work the bait along the top, down the sides and around the very tip of the point. Since you'll be fishing relatively deep at least part of the time, it's important to keep good contact with your lure and use a high-quality, sensitive graphite rod so you can feel soft strikes.

Crankbaits, especially crawdad and shad patterns, also perform well when fishing these points. You'll need a couple of different types on hand: one to fish the shallower water and another one or two that will stay near bottom when you're working deeper water out near the end of the point.

SKIATOOK LAKE

Another good bass lake that's getting better all the time is Skiatook. Impounded in 1984, this venue's bass fishing has gotten better just about every year since then.

This lake, about five miles west of Skiatook in Osage County, encompasses 10,540 acres of prime bass water, and while it's not known for producing lunker largemouths, it has one of the highest-density bass populations in the state. Boasting fairly clear, fertile water, Skiatook has acres of standing timber in coves throughout the lake, and in coves and creek channels in the upper reaches. Many large fish-attractor brushrows were constructed in the cleared area of the lake prior to impoundment, yielding even more bass-holding cover.

Anglers who catch Skiatook largemouths mostly agree that fishing near plenty of cover is the key. And while timber provides much of the available cover, simply fishing large stands of timber isn't always the answer. Look for irregularities in the timber such as creek channels running through, points extending from shallow to deep water, and timbered humps. These are the places where you'll catch the most fish.

At Skiatook, as at other lakes abounding in timber, bass fishermen prefer salt craws, plastic worms and jig-and-pig combos for much of their fishing. Spinnerbaits worked in shallow timber are also good, as are crankbaits worked along timber edges and timbered creek channels. Rocky points and chunk-rock banks along the lake's shore also provide excellent angling spots. Any crawfish-imitating lure will draw strikes in these areas, as will crankbaits that imitate shad.

Skiatook also has a good and growing smallmouth population, although that's not commonly known. Tactics that work for smallmouths in other Oklahoma reservoirs might hook you up with a nice bronzeback at Skiatook soon.

GRAND LAKE O' THE CHEROKEES

Bass anglers certainly don't want to overlook this excellent northeast Oklahoma lake during the summer months.

Relatively flat, rocky banks whose rocks range in size from pieces of gravel up to chunks as big as a fist are among the best spots to try. Find such a spot with standing timber or submerged stumps and you're in an even better location. Baits that will work in these areas can vary. Working a plastic worm or jig-and-pig combination parallel to the bank can be productive once you discover at what depth the fish are holding. Spinnerbaits and crankbaits also catch fish in these areas.

Rocky points, of which Grand Lake has a vast abundance, are great, too. My favorite lure for working these is a shad- or shiner-colored crankbait. For shallow points, I prefer a No. 7 Shad Rap; for deep points, I'll go to a larger, deep-diving version, also in a shad pattern. Be sure to begin slowly and then work up in speed. If you move on too quickly, you may be passing up fish that are ready and willing to hit a bait.

A boathouse pattern also can be very effective on Grand Lake in summer, as the fish use the docks for both shade and ambush cover. Flip a jig-and-pig combination or a Texas-rigged soft-plastic crawfish to every dock piling until you find the ones where the fish are holding. On subsequent docks, you can concentrate more on pilings and walkways in that targeted depth.

FARM PONDS

Most Oklahoma bass anglers know that summer is about the best time to catch farm pond bass. And as these small waters are found throughout the state, there's probably a good bass pond somewhere within a few miles of your house.

For summer pond bass, it's hard to beat a soft-plastic crawdad lure. They come in many sizes and colors from several manufacturers. If you try a variety of them, you'll soon discover which brands, sizes and colors you and the fish prefer.

To fish this lure, rig it weedless, peg the weight, and then cast it into cover, along banks or where channels drop off into deep water. Slowly work it back in a pumping stop-and-go motion; when you feel a tick, set the hook hard. This tactic is among the best producers of all during the summer months.

Another excellent lure for this time of year, especially in clear-water ponds, is a spinnerbait worked along shorelines, over mossbeds and around standing or fallen timber. At this time of year I prefer a white bait with a single gold Colorado blade for fishing clear-water ponds, opting for a chartreuse bait with double willow-leaf blades in chrome or silver for more colored water.

Start out by fishing the bait quickly just under the surface, leaving a small wake as the bait progresses. If that doesn't draw strikes, you'll have to slow down and try probing cover and existing structure more thoroughly.

Another summer pond favorite is a soft-plastic jerkbait fished over the thick vegetation that's so common in Oklahoma ponds late in the summer. This works especially well in waters where the vegetation has grown up to within a foot or two of the surface. Just cast the jerkbait out over the vegetation and slowly pump it back to the boat. When you see a giant wake streaking toward your lure, hold on tight. Be sure to wait until you see the fish before setting the hook, or you'll jerk the lure away from the fish.

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

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