March is the best month for catching trophy bass in Oklahoma.
It’s just biology.
Many female bass are laden with eggs in March as they near the spawning season, and so they weigh more in late winter/early spring than at any other time of the year.
As an example, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation keeps an ever-changing list of the “Top 20″ bass caught in Oklahoma waters. On that list, 14 of the 20 were caught during the month of March.
The reigning state-record largemouth, a whopper weighing 14 pounds, 11.52 ounces, was caught in March at Broken Bow Lake. That catch was by angler William Cross in 1999.
The Wildlife Department also keeps “lake record” lists of big fish caught in numerous state lakes. And on those lists also, March is the most bountiful month for big bass. And not just for largemouths. Big spotted bass and smallmouth bass also tend to show up in March.
Last March, for example, the smallmouth record for Lake Hefner in Oklahoma City was set by angler Bryan Suchy who was fishing for walleyes when he landed a 6 1/2-pound smallmouth that stretched nearly 2 feet long — 23.75 inches. That fish was released back into the lake after the catch was documented, so it may be even bigger this year.
The state-record smallmouth, an 8-pound, 3-ounce giant from Lake Eufaula, was also caught in March.
If you catch a lunker, you can learn how to certify state-record or lake-record catches by obtaining a copy of the current Oklahoma Fishing Regulations booklet at license vendors or by logging on to the ODWC Web site: www.wildlifedepartment.com.
Yet another list maintained by state fisheries biologists, a list of “trophy-sized” bass weighed in during bass tournaments, had 24 entries in 1999. Eight of those bass, a third of the total, were caught during a single month. You guessed it; it was March. I should point out, though, that 10 “trophy” bass were also weighed in during April tournaments.
Bass tend to spawn in late April and early May in Oklahoma. That’s when the water temperatures in most of our lakes reach the preferred range for spawning activity. So even if you don’t land that lunker you seek in March, April may still give you more chances for a wallhanger.
Where are the best prospects for catching big bass in Oklahoma?
Well, at this time of year, just about anywhere.
It is true, though, that lakes in the southern portion of the state tend to produce more double-digit bass than those in the northern half. There are exceptions, of course, but Oklahoma kind of straddles the latitudes where Florida-strain largemouths, the strain that accounts for so many big bass in Texas lakes, tend not to grow so rapidly — or so large.
Oklahoma has had more success with Florida-Northern “hybrids,” that seem to thrive better with the slightly shorter warm seasons.
Some of our lakes — especially Sardis and Okmulgee’s Dripping Springs Lake — enjoyed boom periods in their early years when they were producing lots of double-digit lunkers, either from stockings of pure Florida bass or of Florida-Northern mixtures.
I don’t know of any Oklahoma lake right now that is producing the numbers if really big bass that either of those lakes produced when they were new. But several lakes in Southeastern Oklahoma, like Hugo and Broken Bow and McGee Creek, and some of the smaller lakes in South-central Oklahoma near Ardmore and Pauls Valley, still produce the occasional 10-pound or bigger bass.
Last spring angler David Kinard landed a 13 1/4-pound bass on March 14 at R.C. Longmire Lake, Pauls Valley’s 935-acre municipal water supply reservoir. That fish landed in the No. 17 spot on the state’s Top 20 Largemouth Bass list.
And there are many lakes in northeastern Oklahoma that still give up plenty of hefty 7- and 8-pounders.
Before the introduction of Florida and Florida-strain crosses, an 8-pound bass was always considered a giant in Oklahoma waters. But we kind of got spoiled in the 1980s and 1990s when Hugo and Sardis and Dripping Springs and R.C. Longmire and Mountain Lake and a couple of others were popping out 11- and 12-pounders regularly.
There for a while, anglers like professional fishing guide Chuck Justice and his compadres at Sardis Lake were catching so many 10-pound-plus bass that anything weighing less than 10 pounds hardly seemed worth mentioning.
Angler Mark Wiles boated an 11-pound, 12-ounce lunker at Sardis last year on March 30 and said he spent the previous day catching 5- and 6-pounders.