Lone Star Bass Outlook

While there's no such thing as a "bad" option when it comes to Texas bass fishing, these lakes should rank a cut above the rest for producing largemouths this year. (March 2008).

Photo by Will Leschper.

That's because anglers in the Lone Star State are already lucky enough to be able to catch the nation's most sought-after freshwater game fish -- the largemouth bass. That's true in every corner of the state in a variety of different lakes and reservoirs ranging from steep canyon impoundments to power-plant reservoirs and everything in between.

Thanks to habitat management practices and the stocking of Florida bass in numerous bodies of water, Texas boasts an impressive number of great bass-fishing locales.

What follows is a look at some of the top waters for Texas bass fishing this year.

NORTH TEXAS

When it comes to having plenty of fishing options, the area from the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex north to the Oklahoma border has always been near the top of the list.

Bruce Hysmith, a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department fisheries biologist in Denison, said this year is no different.

"The best lakes for largemouth bass in our district based on surveys for big fish are Lavon, Davy Crockett, Texoma, Coffee Mill and Nocona," he said. "The top places for numbers are Bonham, Bridgeport and Coffee Mill.

"Those bodies of water were probably least impacted by the drought and least impacted by all the rain we had last spring. Those reservoirs don't seem to suffer a serious drawdown."

Lake Texoma has long been known as the best striped bass fishery in the world, but Hysmith said it also boasts good-sized largemouths and smallmouths.

"The best place for catching smallmouths on Texoma is at the dam," he said. "You can't beat the rocky riprap for smallies. Also, there's fish to be had along the bluffs at Eisenhower State Park to Navigation Point. They lock in on a particular habitat and stay there, but some have migrated up the Washita to the Frisco Railroad Bridge where good rockpiles have kept them there."

Hysmith also said Ray Roberts will be a great place to catch bass.

"We did a survey and there were fish all over there," he said. "We caught fish up to the top of the slot limit and some bigger ones, too. A lot of nutrients washed into the lakes that were flooded last year, including Bridgeport, which boasts largemouths, smallmouths and spotted bass. Anglers have caught 6-pound smallmouths and 8-pound largemouths or better in there."

Rafe Brock, a TPWD fisheries biologist in Fort Worth, echoed Hysmith on the number of good lakes in North Texas.

"We had a great recruiting class this last year on many area lakes," he said. "Grapevine, Joe Pool and Ray Hubbard should all be great this year. We've stocked most of the lakes in this area with Florida largemouths and we should continue to see good results in the coming years. Another good lake is Lewisville, which saw its lake record fish seemingly go up monthly recently. There's also been a lot of tournaments out at Eagle Mountain."

SOUTH TEXAS

Many anglers in South Texas may be more apt to run over to the Gulf Coast in search of redfish and speckled trout, but there remain a number of great bass fisheries in this region.

John Findesien, a TPWD fisheries biologist in Mathis, said Choke Canyon, Coleto Creek and Lake Corpus Christi remain great places for freshwater anglers.

"Choke Canyon and Corpus Christi have both risen and are full," he said. Normally those reservoirs fluctuate in lake levels. Coleto Creek is a power-plant lake, so its level remains stable. Each of those lakes provides good aquatic vegetation like hydrilla and milfoil. That's critical because the vegetation provides a needed amount of juvenile habitat and places to hide and eat. Life's good for them there.

"But there's also deep water habitat for larger fish. They can move up if they need to and then move back out. There are a good number of bass over 7 pounds in Choke over humps that are as far down as 25 feet or more.

"There's also lots of standing timber, and if vegetation becomes an issue, there's still a lot of submerged trees and logs for them to hide in."

Findesien said rains pushed good nutrients into the water in these lakes just like they did in other parts of the state, and shad, plankton and sunfish have done well.

"Coleto gets a lot of pressure and they've seen about every lure out there," he said. "Corpus was down about 12 feet but it's full now and we're seeing good new vegetation. We found a lot of juvenile fish out there in surveys so that means there's also plenty of big fish, too."

Another bass hotspot is massive Lake Falcon on the Texas/Mexico border. After years of drought, the lake has started to fill back up and provides plenty of good structure. Sloping banks with stands of rockpiles and timber provide excellent cover for fish and should be the first places you target. Spring is the best time to fish Falcon because the fish are spawning and the scorching summer temperatures haven't hit yet.

EAST TEXAS

The eastern part of the state has some of the largest and best-known bass waters in the state, as well as the nation, and this region continually produces some of the state's largest fish.

Lake Fork ranks as the most-widely-known bass fishery in the world, but some other East Texas lakes provide excellent bass angling as well.

Todd Driscoll, a TPWD fisheries biologist in Jasper, said his part of the state continues to provide great angling opportunities.

"We're blessed with good lakes and typically good high water levels," he said. "Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend are always real strong bass fisheries. Both of those lakes have high water levels that constantly inundate terrestrial bushes and other areas, and that means high recruitment and survival numbers of fish. When you've got good habitat, that makes it real easy to keep good numbers of fish from year to year."

Driscoll also pointed to a pair of relatively small lakes that always seem to produce good bass.

"Nacogdoches and Pinkston are two of the better lakes in this region though they're not as big as some others," he said. "Nacogdo

ches has got a slot limit on it and because of this, it's got more 3- to 6-pound fish than some of the bigger lakes in the area do. Pinkston also has the same length limit as Nacogdoches and it has maintained a high percentage of Florida bass, so we haven't had to stock the lake like we have had to do each year with larger Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend."

Though Pinkston only has a surface area of 523 acres, the lake record is a whopping 16.9-pound fish!

One East Texas lake well reputed for sprouting big bass is Lake Conroe. "We've been involved with an extensive habitat restoration project introducing native vegetation into the lake," Henson said. "We've gotten good results and the fishery remains good. Consistently over the last three to five years, the weekend tournaments have been seeing heavier winning bags of fish."

Henson also said Lake Raven in Huntsville State Park is a small lake, just over 200 acres, but it has produced a number of double-digit fish and is being stocked with ShareLunker bass.

WEST TEXAS

It doesn't take long for word to spread when it comes to a great bass fishery, and Lake Alan Henry is seeing more and more boat traffic as it gains a reputation as being one of the top five bass lakes in the state.

Lake Alan Henry was planned as a future water source for the city of Lubbock and construction on the lake was completed in 1993. Since then, it has become one of the top bass lakes, producing several ShareLunker entries.

With no shortage of great bass fisheries in our state, this year is shaping up to be one for the books, no matter what area you call home.

The lake also was stocked with Alabama spotted bass as it filled. These fish provide anglers with more options and grow faster than largemouths, often reaching 4 pounds or more at mature ages. The lake consists of large areas of flooded timber and has numerous coves with thick vegetation that will hold great numbers of bass beds. In a normal year, the peak of the spawn on Alan Henry will occur in April or into May, which is different from most other bass hotspots.

The TPWD'S Charlie Munger, the fisheries biologist in Canyon, said that consistency has helped the lake achieve its status. "Alan Henry has maintained its water level, and because it has so many arms and coves, it has a long reach to settle out any silt, making it clear," he said. "We've been watching spotted bass closely and they're expanding as a population. I think the next state-record spotted bass is likely to come out of there."

According to Munger, one western lake often gets overlooked, but is known for producing nice-sized fish. "White River has always been a sleeper," he said. "It consistently produces 4- to 8-pound fish. It's really just been nutrient-driven. There's not a lot of structure, but anglers can find good fish in stickups on the flats."

Craig Bonds, a TPWD fisheries biologist in San Angelo, said three lakes in his neck of the woods have rebounded from low water levels and should be solid this year.

"O.H. Ivie, Oak Creek and Twin Buttes are all lakes that caught a significant amount of water," he said. "Ivie would have been good regardless of water level because we had two good classes of fish in 2004 and 2005. It got a 14-foot rise in 2007 and that flooded a lot of new terrestrial habitat.

"Oak Creek just a few years ago was 34 feet low, but it filled up last year. I've never seen a reservoir with such eye-catching habitat. There's flooded willows, sycamores and other vegetation, and the water clarity looks great. It was stocked also, a couple of years back, and there's also plenty of prey fish like shad and bluegill.

"Twin Buttes also rose about 14 feet last year and there's lot of terrestrial brush and good stands of submerged aquatic vegetation. The fish should be in position in the shallows after being in deeper water last spring, summer and fall."

One of the hottest bass lakes in the nation right now is Lake Amistad, near Del Rio. The lake has hosted numerous bass tournaments, including a Bassmaster Elite Series event last year, and continues to churn out big fish.

Mike Kelley, an Amarillo firefighter and avid tournament angler, has fished Amistad numerous times and said the lake is a spectacular place to fish for bass.

"Amistad is as clear a lake as you can find in Texas," he said. "You can see fish down deep and there's great structure like rocky dropoffs and submerged vegetation that draw in some big fish. It's just a fantastic place to fish. The only drawback is it's a little bit of a drive to get down there. Other than that, it's perfect."

CENTRAL TEXAS

The central portion of the Lone Star State has seen struggles recently in the form of aggressive golden algae outbreaks, but there remain some good bass fisheries in this region.

John Tibbs, our fisheries biologist in Waco, said golden algae outbreaks have affected some historically strong fisheries, but Lake Waco is a fishery on the rise.

"Lake Waco has been turning on since the pool rise of about four years ago," he said. "Surveys show a large abundance of fish, and some good ones, too. We think we're going to get some ShareLunkers out of Waco this season. Whitney is still trucking along and there's good fish to be had, including some smallmouths.

"Lakes like Belton and Stillhouse Hollow had high water levels all year and the access facilities were tough to use. People just couldn't fish them. We don't have the fish densities like we had in some lakes, but that's not to say you can't still catch good numbers of fish and even some good ones at places like Aquilla or others."

Jeff Henson, a TPWD fisheries biologist in Bryan, said there are plenty of other good fisheries in south-central Texas.

"Gibbons Creek had been on a decline in recent years, but it's definitely on the upswing," he said. "There's better habitat emerging in the lake and anglers are beginning to catch better numbers of largemouths as well as bigger fish. The lake should only continue to get better in the next three to five years.

"Lake Somerville is also a good place to look for good numbers of fish. It's got hydrilla in it, but it hasn't become as dense or as much of a problem like it has in some other lakes."

Some other Central Texas lakes that are on the upswing for catching an abundance of fish or for taking bigger ones are Austin, Travis, Inks, Fayette County and McQueeney.

PANHANDLE

Many bass anglers farther south dismiss the Panhandle as being a region void of good bass fishing waters. However, that's simply not true. There are two lakes in the region that are solid bass fisheries for catching good numbers of fish and big ones as well.

Mung

er said lakes Greenbelt and Meredith are both good fisheries that provide anglers with plenty of opportunities.

"Greenbelt has historically maintained a stable water level and also provides a variety of diverse habitat," he said. "It has got good inflows that help keep the forage sources steady."

Greenbelt has good vegetation and flooded timber in some coves and is relatively clear, allowing anglers to see fish in the shallows this time of year. With extensive sand flats and rocky areas in the shallows, Greenbelt can be excellent at times during the spring spawn.

Meredith also can be a good lake for largemouths, but it might also be the top smallmouth bass lake in the state. The state-record smallmouth, a 7.93-pound fish caught in 1998, came from Meredith. The lake is full of rocky structure and some dropoffs, which can be good places to target at this time of year for solid smallies.

The biggest thing working against Meredith is battling low lake levels. Munger said a fall survey revealed some surprising data.

"We shocked it and normally we catch three times more smallmouths than largemouths," he said. "However, that survey was about even. That's not to say the fish are gone, they're just struggling with not having cooler water levels to reproduce."

* * *

With no shortage of great bass fisheries in our state, this year is shaping up to be one for the books, no matter what area you call home. And as far as carrying a lucky rabbit's foot to improve your fishing mojo, well, there's nothing wrong with that. Who knows, it might even look enticing to an aggressive, hungry bass if you find yourself looking for a lure that works!

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