Get prepared for a great year in Texas bass fishing history, and you can credit it much of what is going on this year to an era of absolute fantastic bass angling that began 45 years ago!
How can that be? Only those who were there or who have parents or grandparents who experienced the beginning of Texas’ bass fishing’s extraordinary changes that began in the late 1960s and mid-1970s can fully understand why they should be so excited about what is in store for them today.
Let’s take a short course in bass fishing in Texas history and examine why you should be so excited about the good ol’ days and how they set the stage for great fishing this year.
- First Place: Shimano Stradic CI4+, 27.6%
“Smooth, strong and never has a problem. Great drag,” said Logan W. Seth Mahler also voted for the Stradic. “Smooth retrieve good cast.”
Quantum Energy, 22.2%
Pflueger Patriarch, 14.6%
Prior to 1950, there were few large reservoirs in our state to provide great bass fishing. Most anglers spent their efforts on small city or county-build reservoirs that were built primarily to provide water for local towns and cities.
A series of floods in the 1950s, however, brought about the building of larger reservoirs and levees to contain or route future flood waters away from municipal areas. Among them came the building of lakes in the Fort Worth-Dallas Metroplex such as Benbrook, Whitney, and Lewisville. You can imagine how these new reservoirs spurred the interest in anglers as the bass in these new reservoirs grew into feisty battlers.
Texas’ bass-fishing explosion didn’t stop there, however. Factor in the arrival of even larger reservoirs such as Toledo Bend, Sam Rayburn and Lake Amistad in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Later came the fantastic bass factories of Lake Fork, Monticello, and others of the 1980s. With that boom of water bodies in mind, it should not be difficult to see how the stage has grown even larger for today’s bass anglers.
New waters, however, don’t always spawn great fisheries. Also required for that achievement is innovative and sound fish management. Most veteran anglers agree that Texas’ swing toward better managing of its fisheries resources began in the early 1970s when the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s inland fisheries division was under the direction of Bob Kemp.
Kemp took it upon himself to travel to Florida to obtain a few containers filled with Florida bass fingerlings and bring them back to Texas to stock in five small lakes. Kemp’s idea was that the fingerlings not only would grow faster and larger than the native Texas strain of bass in each of those lakes, but also breed with the native bass and produce larger Florida-native Texas bass hybrids than most Texas anglers had ever caught. Those were the days when a bass weighing more than 8 pounds was considered rare.
By 1975, Kemp proudly told a gathering at a Cowtown 100 Bass Club meeting, “It will not be long before catching a 10-pound bass in Texas will be common.”
The rest is history, and one filled with more restrictive bass limits, stockings of Florida bass throughout the state in lakes both large and small, innovative programs such as ShareLunker, and state-of-the art hatchery facilities including the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens.
Today, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and spotted bass are breaming on numerous Texas lakes just waiting to be caught.
What follows is a lineup of some of the best of the best for Texas bass fishing in 2014.
Caddo Lake is my personal choice at the top of the list, but it is there only with a slight advantage over nearby Lake O’ The Pines.
I like shallow-water fishing, and that’s what you will get at Caddo Lake, whether you want to or not. Caddo is the only “natural” lake in Texas. Its average depth is about 10 feet, and the lake is full of bayous lined with cypress trees covered in Spanish moss, and sloughs choked with coontail moss, hydrilla, potato weed and other aquatic plants.
The historic reservoir is a shallow-water bass angler’s dream. Whether you fish the treelines with Texas-rigged plastic worms or spinnerbaits or the pockets with semi-surface or surface topwater lures, you are in for some great action the year ’round.
If you are an ultralight addict, like I often am on this scenic lake, try casting lures such as “the world’s smallest spinnerbait” as professional angler Lonnie Stanley likes to describe his Wedge Tail Minnow spinnerbait. Use it with either a willow-leaf or Colorado blade by working it through the openings of moss or on the outside edges of the cypress trees.
You are likely to catch a largemouth bass, spotted bass or maybe even a big crappie or chain pickerel.
LAKE O’ THE PINES
Although I ranked The Pines second to Caddo, it was only a choice of ranking. Lake O’ The Pines has some absolutely great bass fishing not only for largemouth bass but also smallmouth bass, especially during the spring and early-summer months.
One of my favorite areas is the flats above the Highway 155 bridge on the upper end of the lake. There, you will find scores of button willow-lined islands surrounded by acres of lotus pads cut often by openings of boat-sized lanes. The shallow water plus the abundance of cover provide excellent spawning grounds for the bass, plus spawning areas for the baitfish. It simply does not get better than that for shallow-water spring and summer anglers.
Work around the islands as close to the semi-flooded button willows as you can, and pitch Texas-rigged plastic worms or jigs with soft-plastic trailers into the middle of the willows. Use a stout line and heavy-action rod because you will need them to wrestle the bass out of their thick hideouts.
For fishing the lotus pads, use plastic floating and semi-floating frogs, weightless Senkos or plastic curlytail grubs on 1/8 to 1/4-ounce jigheads. Cast to the edge of the pads or into any openings and move the lures very slowly. Semi-surface lures such as Red Fins cast into the openings of the pads and around the nearby stumps can provide some great action, too.
Heading north from Caddo and The Pines is Lake Texoma, one of Texas’ four great border reservoirs with incredible bass fishing. But this one has something a little extra the other three lack — great smallmouth bass action.
Although smallmouth bass can be found throughout the Texas-Oklahoma border lake, Texoma’s best smallmouth bass action can be found primarily along the bluffs at Eisenhower State Park, along the Denison Dam and up the Washita River arm to the Willow Springs area.
Small crankbaits, curlytail grubs, Sassy Shad jigs and finesse worms usually work best when fished along the buffs, riprap, and cut banks, but a lot of anglers are turning to live threadfin shad for smallmouth bass. They free-line the shad along the riprap of the Denison Dam and make some great catches during the spring and early-summer months.
Because Lake Texoma does not have the big hydrilla flats, flooded timber, moss-lined shorelines or other great bass cover that many other lakes have, you can expect to make your best catches close to and almost on the rocky banks. Use that strategy throughout the spring, summer and fall months and you will experience Texoma’s great bass action.
One exception is the small group of boat docks found in a few coves and sloughs. The docks and walkways will hold bass seeking shady ambush points and they are great places to fish finesse worms and other small, slow-moving lures.
Another border reservoir that may be a long way from many anglers’ homes but will be well worth the effort and time to fish this spring and summer is Lake Amistad near Del Rio on the Texas-Mexico border.
Thanks to heavy rainfalls last September and October in Texas but especially in Mexico, Amistad’s water level grew by more than 10 feet in just a matter of a few weeks. That 10 feet of water has covered untold acres of cacti, trees, rocky ledges and other fantastic cover in the scores of draws and backs of creeks and other drainages. These huge, deep canyon-like areas are so large that an angler could spend the entire day fishing in just one of them.
Because Amistad’s waters generally are clear and its canyons are so deep, it is best to start fishing shallow during the early-morning hours and then gradually work out to deeper water. When doing that, topwater lures and crankbaits worked close to the bank make a great way to start. Then, as the water warms and the skies become brighter, move out and fish Texas-rigged or Carolina-rigged plastic worms along the first dropoffs from the bank. Later, toward noon, move out a little deeper and fish the secondary dropoffs with Carolina-rigged plastic lures.
If the area has a lot of hydrilla that leads from the bank out to the secondary ledges, fish the tops of the deeper hydrilla with Caroling-rigged soft plastics by slow-hopping the lures to keep them just above the hydrilla.
CEDAR CREEK LAKE
Although it doesn’t appear to be an overall great bass fishery at first glance, Cedar Creek Lake actually has just about all of the best a bass angler could want, especially for spring and summertime angling
Cedar Creek Lake’s location not far from the Fort Worth-Dallas Metroplex is a blessing for many anglers who don’t want to travel long distances to reach great bass fishing. Some of the lake’s best bass action can be found both far and as near as its waterfront properties.
In the spring, I favor going beyond the beyond, which means getting away from any sights of people presence. I have found that on many spring and early-summer trips in the far upper reaches of the lake in the major creek tributaries such as Lacy Creek and upper Cedar Creek.
You will have to do a little work and it’s best in a small shallow-draft boat to stay in the silted in, narrow channels out toward the main part of the lake. But once you have navigated those obstacles you will be able to follow the channels where they are in their banks and be in some great shallow-water bass action.
Fish by flipping and pitching the partially submerged stumps and vegetation along the edges of the creek channels with Texas-rigged plastic worms or roll buzzbaits over the tops of the grassbeds at the mouths of the creeks in 2 to 4 feet of water.
If you prefer not to travel that far up the lake, or don’t mind being around people traffic, work the backs of Clear, Caney and Twin creeks farther down the lake. In addition to some flats of submerged vegetation, your best bets are to fish the boat docks and the areas between them with Texas-rigged plastic worms, spinnerbaits and small crankbaits during the spring months, and with finesse worms, crankbaits and small jigs during the summer months.
Concentrate on the banks of those creeks that are the deepest or at least the closest to deep water, especially the creek channels themselves. The bass will be moving along the channels and occasionally venture off them to feed or rest in ambush under the shaded areas provided by the boat docks or brushpiles often set there by anglers or lake-area property owners. When fishing the brushpiles, respect the rights of the lakeside property owners and keep your boats from touching their docks or other privately owned properties.
When navigating in and out of the various creeks, never pass up the opportunity to target a single stickup, stump, pipe or any other thin, single piece of structure that is far away from the docks or shoreline. Ease your boat close to any single piece of small structure and cast a crankbait or plastic worm around their bases. These small, individual pieces of structure often will yield your largest bass of the day.
LOST CREEK RESERVOIR
Now here’s a name for a reservoir whose name describes several other “lost” reservoirs that have been neglected by far too many anglers, especially anglers with small boats who often struggle to find secluded places where they can fish away from the big traffic on large lakes.
Lost Creek Lake is located only about a mile north of the city of Jacksboro north of Fort Worth. It has a good, lighted launch ramp in a large paved parking area. Best of all, its bass fishery is almost untapped by anglers. Fish the mossbeds around the ramp and in a cove nearby that backs up to another small impoundment that is full of cattails and other good bass habitat — tiny Lake Jacksboro.
You can fish Lost Creek Lake best from any type of craft, as you can Lake Jacksboro, but the latter is best suited for a small, single or two-man boat, kayak, canoe or by fishing from the bank in my opinion. There is plenty of aquatic vegetation to fish on both lakes, plus a narrow, rocky ridge just several yards out from the boat ramp at Lost Creek Reservoir.
Other “lost “ waters you may want to test are lakes Bryson between Jacksboro and Graham, Palo Pinto Lake near Palo Pinto, Hamilton Lake near Hamilton, or the much larger Millers Creek Lake near Munday.
And don’t forget the other “lost” waters many anglers often don’t give a lot of attention to, although they are around them throughout the year: farm ponds and creeks on their hunting leases or near their homes.
Unlike years in the past, many private landowners who lease their properties for deer, turkey and waterfowl hunting have stocked their ponds and small lakes with Florida bass and continue to manage them.
Although the severe droughts of 2011 and 2012 played havoc with many of these small ponds, others that were deeper and that had better bottoms survived. Some have even been restocked, but the main thing is that those deeper ponds that once held good bass populations still have them.
Fishing farm ponds is fun because you can fish them from relatively clean banks or fish and relax in small flat-bottomed or two-man plastic boats on waters where you know you are not going to be disturbed by others.
Farm ponds also are great places where you can spend time with youngsters or other novice anglers. You can easily teach them the basics of fishing such as how to tie various knots, how to fish various lures, the importance of choosing the right type of reel to fit their experience level, how to avoid backlashes and, mainly, how to just have fun with their family and friends on a fishing trip.
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