JANUARY – Hybrids/Stripers: Sooner Lake
This reservoir supplies water to cool an electrical power plant in Noble and Pawnee counties, but in January, it can be red hot for striped bass and hybrid striper fishing. Warmwater discharge from the power plant attracts huge numbers of baitfish, which attract huge numbers of predators.
Hybrids and stripers are aggressive and easy to catch when they’re feeding. You can use lead spoons, inline spinnerbaits, jerkbaits and white, chartreuse or yellow twistertail grubs on 1/4- to 1/2-ounce ballhead jigs. Medium-light-action rods accentuate the fight, but adjust your drag to keep these powerful fish from breaking off.
Other Options: Blue River Rainbows: This stream is stocked with trout every other week from Nov. 1 through March 1. Lake Tenkiller Smallmouths: Spoons and swimbaits under bluffs entice big bronzebacks.
FEBRUARY – Walleyes: Broken Bow Lake
When late-winter rains fill the upper Mountain Fork River, walleyes move upstream from Lake Broken Bow to spawn. It’s an exciting migration that allows anglers to catch the year’s biggest walleyes on light tackle.
In February, start in the deep water below the first set of shoals and slowly troll rainbow-trout-colored stickbaits, preferably Long A Bombers, with 6-pound-test line and a light-action spinning rod. Walleyes often bite the lure several times, but when a fish finally commits, it will hook itself.
In early February you’ll mostly catch small male walleyes. The bigger females show up as the month progresses and they advance upriver.
Other Options: Lake Konawa Hybrids: The warmwater discharge below the power plant produces high-intensity action in cold weather. Jean Neustadt Saugeyes: Crappie-patterned stickbaits and crankbaits mimic primary forage.
MARCH – Largemouth Bass: Lake Texoma
History tells us this is the month to catch monster bass from the sprawling reservoir on our southern border. In March 2012, Royce Harlan of Norman caught a 12-pound, 6-ounce largemouth to set the lake record, but he also caught the lake’s biggest spotted bass (3.8 pounds) in March 2010. Texoma has produced a slew of state-record smallmouth bass in March, which underscores the fact that this is the place and month for giants.
Largemouths will be in the pre-spawn mode. They’ll be staging and are likely to be aggressive, so they’ll respond to aggressive tactics.
Other Options: Lake Hefner Walleyes: Troll past the riprap with a stickbait on a side-planer to catch foraging walleyes. Pine Creek Lake Crappie: Deep brushpiles on secondary flats attract excellent numbers of pre-spawn slabs.
APRIL – Largemouth Bass: Grand Lake
Our most productive and most popular fishery comes into its prime this month, allowing anglers to catch five-bass limits in the high 20-pound range.
The northern side of the lake is most productive. You’ll find largemouths spawning on hard, sandy flats that offer easy access to deep water. Look for protected coves with current that ushers baitfish through spawning flats where bass can get at them.
Bass are more interested in spawning than eating right now, so most bites will be reaction strikes. If you use a spinnerbait or soft plastic, consider adding a stinger hook on the back. The most productive nesting areas are in depths of 8 to 10 feet, regardless of the distance to the bank.
Other Options: Lake Arbuckle Smallmouths: Carolina rigs off the sides of secondary points reap big dividends this month. Lake Greenleaf Largemouths: Superb, uncrowded fishing enhances any visit to this state park.
MAY – Sand Bass: Lake Tenkiller
Throwing topwater lures at schooling sandies is always the fastest and most exciting way to catch them, but I catch bigger ones, in the 3- to 4-pound range, by fishing shad-colored, medium-diving crankbaits off main-lake points.
I learned this pattern by happenstance 20 years ago while fishing with lure designer Al Fisher. We were fishing for largemouths when a school of sandies changed the course of the day.
Modern electronics have removed most of the chance from these encounters. With downscan and sidescan imaging you can identify schools of sand bass in deep water. Or, you can fish for them the old-fashioned way, by stationing over a main-lake flat and waiting for a school to surface.
Other Options: Lower Mountain Fork Browns: The pools between Broken Bow Dam and the re-regulation dam harbor giant brown trout. Lake Holdenville Bluegills: Live crickets on a drop-shot rig will fill your cooler.
JUNE – Striped Bass: Lake Texoma
Lake Texoma is world-renowned for producing huge numbers of 8- to 12-pounders, with an occasional 20-pounder for good measure. Live gizzard shad probably are the most popular and dependable bait. Mornings can be great for catching schooling stripers on the surface with topwater plugs like Zara Spooks or C-10 Red Fins.
If stripers are suspending, you’ll first need to determine the depth they are holding. Then, you can catch them by trolling heavy, yellow or white horsehead jigs on downriggers. It’s important to troll a foot or two over the fish because stripers like to strike upward.
Other Options: Black Fork River Smallmouths: This overlooked LeFlore County hotspot is ideal for a hot-weather float-fishing trip. Kerr Lake Channel Cats: Cranking riprap banks draws vicious strikes from territorial whiskerfish during the post-spawn.
JULY – Smallmouth Bass: Lake Lawtonka
Midsummer days are brutal for anglers on any lake in Oklahoma, and fish don’t like them either, but late evenings and early mornings are different. That’s when bruiser smallmouths go on the prowl looking for groceries, and it’s also when you can catch some of the biggest smallies in the state.
This is one of my favorite places to be at sunset, throwing an old Red River Tackle single-willow spinnerbait along the rock jetties that separate the marina area from the main lake. I throw it as close to the rocks as I can get. It’s even better if I can actually hit the rocks.
A wide, rattling crankbait works very well in that environment too.
Other Options: Lake Spavinaw Largemouths: A 10-inch worm behind a 1/2-ounce tungsten weight is hot-weather magic. Lake Keystone Sand Bass: Sandies offer big excitement just a quick drive from downtown Tulsa.
AUGUST – Blue Catfish: Lake Hudson
Tucked between the fisheries of Grand Lake and Fort Gibson, this is an exceptional catfish fishery. Hudson’s blues aren’t as big as those in the Arkansas River, but it has a lot of fish between 5 and 20 pounds.
It’s not like fishing in a pure river environment where blues relate entirely to current. In the lake they hang close to the main river channel and fan out over mud flats to feed on shad.
In August, there’s not much current flowing through the lake, but wind current certainly influences catfish feeding behavior. Therefore, windy days can be excellent times to fish. The most productive method is to drift live shad over mud flats. The daily limit on blues and channels is 15 combined.
Other Options: Lake Overholser Hybrids: Take advantage of schooling hybrids in the morning with small stickbaits, like an RC Stx. Spaniard Creek Largemouths: Water willow beds call for a swimming jig during mid-afternoon rain showers.
SEPTEMBER – Crappie: Kaw Lake
Another “sleeper,” Kaw Lake is one of Oklahoma’s best crappie lakes. Kaw supports excellent numbers of white crappie, and the age structure seems to be very good. Anglers catch a lot of crappie, but they also catch big ones.
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has established 13 fish structures around the lake, including several in tributaries. There are three near the dam at Osage Cove Fishing Dock, the riprap at Osage Cove, and at the McFadden Marina riprap.
Also, there are countless other brushpiles that anglers have set, and they are all in good places. Find them with your electronic graph and work them over by swimming small tubes or swimbaits on 1/32- to 1/64-ounce jigs.
Other Options: Lake Thunderbird Saugeyes: Saugeyes have grown fat on Thunderbird’s stunted crappie. The minimum length limit is 18 inches. Illinois River Smallmouths: Low water concentrates smallmouths below shoals and at the heads and tails of deep holes.
OCTOBER – Largemouth Bass: Lake Arbuckle
With winter approaching, largemouth bass are fattening up for winter, and you can catch them on just about anything you want to throw.
Lake of the Arbuckles is one of the country’s best largemouth lakes, and one of the few places where a five-bass limit can pass 40 pounds. It has happened at least twice.
Jerkbaits are outstanding in October at the end of main-lake points, but you can load up with an Alabama rig. Let it fall to the bottom and retrieve it slowly. If you want to catch giant bass, it’s hard to beat a big swimbait. At most lakes, anglers throw them in hopes of getting a big bite. At Arbuckle, you might get five big bites between 8 and 9 pounds.
Other Options: Lake Wister Crappie: Deep brushpiles hold good numbers of slabs. Lake Skiatook Hybrids: Gentle weather and cool water keep schools of hybrids feeding on top.
NOVEMBER – Browns: Lower Mountain Fork
In the fall, mature brown trout move upstream to spawn, making this the best time to catch a trophy. In November, the trout concentrate below the re-regulation dam, and also in the shoals at the head of Zone II, between the Beavers Bend State Park Dam and the re-regulation dam. You can use only artificial lures and barbless hooks there, and the minimum length for trout is 20 inches.
Cold weather and water don’t bother trout, but the fish respond favorably to insect hatches, and big fish respond especially well to current and rising water.
Other Options: Cedar Lake Largemouths: Swimbaits summon big bites here. Lower Illinois Rainbows: Powerbait, Woolly Buggers and small gold casting spoons catch stocker rainbows.
DECEMBER – Saugeyes: Jean Neustadt
The saugeye is a highly prized game fish that the ODWC stocks at select lakes to eat stunted crappie. Jean Neustadt Lake, near Ardmore, is one of the great success stories. Saugeyes have done their job, improving the crappie structure while providing another high-quality fishing opportunity.
In December, the best way to fish for saugeyes is to troll medium-diving, crappie-colored stickbaits over main points and beside vegetation. Covering only 462 acres, Jean Neustadt is remote and hard to reach.
Other Options: Sardis Lake Crappie: This old hotspot keeps churning out limits of slabs. Dripping Springs Largemouths: Fishing a swimbait after a snowstorm can produce big bites.