When you're looking for solid angling action with the Sooner State's favorite bass, why not give one of these hotspots a try? (March 2006)
When you talk to anglers from other parts of the country, they're often surprised to hear about the excellent bass fishing in Oklahoma. We're supposed to be a prairie state covered with sand, sagebrush and tall grass, right? What do we know about bass fishing?
We know plenty, and more than a lot of people might think. Some of the nation's best bass lakes are in the Sooner State, offering anglers outstanding opportunities to catch largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass.
Notice that I didn't say we have some of the best bass lakes in the region, but in the nation. Lakes like Tenkiller, Grand, Eufaula, Arbuckle and Broken Bow are hallowed names in the pantheon of legendary bass lakes. We're rightfully proud of this resource, and we appreciate the great job the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation does of managing it.
This year, Oklahoma bass anglers can expect a humdinger of a year for catching all three species. Our lakes are in great shape, as are our bass populations. If you can't catch them this year, it isn't the lake's fault! Here's a closer look at this year's bass-fishing prospects on our most popular waters.
Some of the data for this article came from tournament reports submitted to the ODWC. These reports revealed some interesting tidbits. For example, of the nine biggest bass caught in tournaments, five were caught in March. More specifically, two were caught on March 20, at lakes Arbuckle and Sardis.
Also, an upward trend continued for the third consecutive year in both the numbers and sizes of bass that anglers caught in tournaments.
Up for the third year in a row was the number of bass weighed in during tournaments, as was the average total weight per tournament. It was about 110 pounds, compared to about 95 pounds the previous year. The average size of bass weighed in during a tournament increased for the fourth consecutive year, and the average winning weight increased for the third straight year.
The number of bass weighing more than 8 pounds increased by 50 percent. In fact, tournament anglers caught three bass that exceeded 10 pounds.
McGEE CREEK LAKE
Combining the 2005 spring electro-fishing results with the previous year's bass tournament report, McGee Creek stands out as one of our best destinations for 2006.
During the 2005 electro-fishing survey, biologists netted 88.2 bass per hour. Of those, 29.1 bass were larger than 14 inches. The largest bass sampled weighed 8.2 pounds.
Bass tournament organizations submitted 18 reports from a total of 24 tournaments held at McGee Creek. A total of 503 anglers caught 1,478 bass, or 1.91 per day. The average bass weighed 1.26 pounds, and the average winning weight was 9.78 pounds. Anglers weighed in 11 bass larger than 5 pounds, and one bass larger than 8 pounds. The biggest bass weighed in during a tournament went 8.1 pounds. That fish was caught Sept. 11 during a tournament held by the Little Dixie Bass Club.
The overall success rate for tournament anglers at McGee Creek was 89 percent. That's better than at any other lake except Wister, which doesn't count since only one tournament there submitted a report.
Obviously, McGee Creek is a very productive bass fishery that continues to represent a standard of excellence for Oklahoma bass fishing. There is some concern that McGee Creek doesn't churn out as many giant largemouths as it once did, but that's not surprising. The lake is getting older, and anglers have removed quite a few of those huge fish.
Perhaps McGee Creek has peaked in terms of trophy potential, but its habitat is in excellent condition and still supports a healthy bass population in terms of both size and numbers.
This south-central honeyhole has long been regarded as Oklahoma's best bass lake, and judging by the data, it still is.
During the 2005 spring electro-fishing surveys, Konawa produced a whopping 150.6 bass per hour, of which 33.4 per hour were longer than 14 inches. That's about 22 percent. The biggest bass in the sample weighed 8.9 pounds.
Tournament anglers also found Konawa to be very generous. A total of five bass tournaments were held there, representing a total of 229 entries. Those anglers caught 381 bass and averaged three bass per day. The average weight per bass was 1.46 pounds, but only seven bass exceeded 5 pounds. None were caught exceeding 8 pounds. The average winning weight was 11.25 pounds, and the biggest bass caught in a tournament at Konawa weighed 6.12 pounds.
Our lakes are in great shape, as are our bass populations. If you can't catch them this year, it isn't the lake's fault!
At only 1,350 acres, Konawa is a relatively small lake, but it fishes "big." It has a diversity of woody cover and vegetation, as well as a good mix of structure. It has some prominent points, a few long coves, and a long stretch of riprap.
Of course, the hotwater discharge from the power plant is always a popular spot to fish in cold weather, but Konawa is a fun lake to fish year 'round. Look for fishing in 2006 to be excellent.
Although the shock crew didn't visit Lake Arbuckle in 2005, it was one of Oklahoma's best tournament lakes. Recent reports from Arbuckle devotees, such as Mark Jeffries of Moore, indicate that 2005 was an awesome year for recreational bass fishing, and that 2006 should be too.
In 2004, Arbuckle hosted 51 tournaments, which generated 13 reports. A total of 606 anglers entered these tournaments and caught a total of 671 bass. The average weight per bass was 1.33 pounds, and the average winning weight was 9 pounds. Anglers weighed in nine bass heavier than 5 pounds, and two that weighed more than 8 pounds. The biggest bass caught in a tournament at Arbuckle weighed 10.25 pounds. That fish was caught on March 20 during a tournament held by the All-American Bass Club and was one of only three 10-pounders caught during a tournament anywhere in the state.
The other giant weighed 9.28 pounds. It was caught March 14 during a tournament held by the Chisholm Trail Bass Club. The success rate for anglers at Arbuckle was 70 percent.
Although Arbuckle is fast beco
ming a favorite destination for smallmouth anglers in Oklahoma, tournament data shows that this gorgeous mountain gem still supports a formidable largemouth population. It doesn't support or produce the numbers seen at some other lakes, but it does have some giants. March is prime time to visit if you want to catch a trophy, but you can catch big smallmouths year 'round.
As with Arbuckle, the shock boat bypassed Lake Hugo in 2005, but it was Oklahoma's top tournament lake in 2004. That year, Hugo hosted 20 tournaments that produced 13 reports. A total of 610 anglers entered those events and weighed in 975 bass. The average bass caught in a tournament weighed 2.12 pounds, and the average winning weight was an impressive 15.38 pounds. That was tops in the state, and to get an average that high, some of those tournaments produced incredible stringers of bass.
As far as big bass are concerned, anglers caught only three that weighed more than 5 pounds, the biggest weighing 5.45 pounds.
Hugo ranked third in the state in terms of the percentage of anglers who were successful in tournaments (79).
Covering 13,250 acres, Lake Hugo has a spacious feel. It's fairly shallow, and the timber remains in about half of the lake. The southern part of Lake Hugo is open, but the northern section is heavily timbered. Even so, this area contains an abundance of coves and cuts.
Because of its southern location, Hugo is one of the first lakes in Oklahoma to wake up in late winter. March, April and May are its best months. The backwater areas on the northwest side of the lake are most productive early in the year. An abundance of topographical features -- including humps, cuts, depressions, dropoffs and other irregularities -- attract and concentrate fish.
LAKE BROKEN BOW
Broken Bow was another fine lake that avoided attention from the shock boat in 2005, but the tournament guys found it very hospitable.
Broken Bow hosted 32 tournaments that generated 11 reports. A total of 976 anglers entered those events and caught 1,143 bass. The average bass caught in a Broken Bow tournament weighed 1.89 pounds, and the average winning weight was 15.07 pounds. Broken Bow ranked second in that category, but also ranked fifth in the percentage of anglers (75) who were successful in tournaments
For size, anglers weighed in 10 bass larger than 5 pounds, but none larger than 8 pounds. The biggest bass caught during a tournament weighed 7.4 pounds.
Located in the heart of the Ouachita Mountains, Broken Bow is renowned for its excellent water quality. Like many lakes of its size, it can be broken into three separate fisheries. The lower lake has the deepest, clearest water. It is noted for deep, rocky structure, long, tapering points, deep coves, humps, islands, ledges and ridges. Smallmouths and spotted bass dominate this area, but a surprising number of largemouths live there, too.
The middle section, up to about Bee Creek, is narrower, but has long tributary arms. It also has long points and steep dropoffs, as well as a good mix of shallow rock and wood structure. Largemouths and spotted bass dominate this area.
The upper section is essentially the Mountain Fork River. It is deep and narrow, with an abundance of coves and timbered flats, points and bluffs. You can catch all three species of bass there, but largemouths are most common.
Springtime arrives early in this part of the state, so Broken Bow comes to life sooner than lakes farther north. March is famous for producing huge bass, as are April and May. Excellent fishing continues through early June, and then picks back up again in October. During summer, the best bass fishing is at night.
Although Tenkiller fell on hard times a few years ago due to the combined effects of poor reproduction and largemouth bass virus, it has reclaimed its place as one of Oklahoma's top bass lakes.
During the spring 2005 electro-fishing surveys, Tenkiller produced 112.3 bass per hour, of which 39.3 (35 percent) were longer than 14 inches. The biggest bass sampled weighed 5.9 pounds.
From a consumer's point of view, Tenkiller was also one of our top tournament lakes. It hosted 125 tournaments that produced 112 reports, a more extensive body of data than that produced at many other lakes. A total of 4,407 anglers entered these events and weighed in a total of 3,775 bass. The average weight of bass caught in a Tenkiller tournament was 2.24 pounds, and the average winning weight was 11.08 pounds.
In terms of fish size, anglers in tournaments caught 53 bass that weighed more than 5 pounds, but none that exceeded 8 pounds. The biggest bass caught in a tournament weighed 7.32 pounds.
As far as success rates go, Tenkiller wasn't as generous as some other lakes. Only 52 percent of anglers were successful in its tournaments in 2004.
An impoundment of the Illinois River, Tenkiller is both a popular and productive fishery. It boasts a varied assortment of rocky cover, including long, tapering points, rocky banks, islands, humps, deep dropoffs, bluffs, pea gravel beds and riprap. It still has some standing timber on flats, as well as on deep ledges. Marinas and boat docks also provide a limited amount of fish-holding cover.
What can I say about Texoma that hasn't been said many times already? The huge Red River impoundment on the Oklahoma/Texas border has a tremendous shad population that supports a tremendous biomass of game fish, including largemouth and smallmouth bass.
Over the years, Tenkiller has become prominent as a smallmouth fishery, with legitimate state-record potential. However, it still supports a very healthy population of largemouths in terms of both quality and quantity. Its population of spotted bass is underrated and underutilized, but it represents a great opportunity, especially if you like to eat bass.
Because of its mid-range latitudes, Tenkiller comes on line fairly early in the year. The best fishing begins in mid- to late March, and peaks in April, May and June. From late June through August, the best fishing is at night. By mid-October, the lake returns to championship form and remains that way all the way until about Christmas.
Though it wasn't sampled by the electro-fishing crew last spring, Lake Eufaula continues to be a solid performer among tournament anglers. From the 14 reports generated by 34 tournaments, we know there were 3,774 tournament entries at Eufaula, and that anglers in those events caught 2,609 bass. The average weight of a tournament bass at Eufaula was 2.19 pounds, and the average winning weight was 14.85 pounds. Anglers caught 44 bass that weighing more than 5 pounds, but none that weighed 8 pounds or more. The biggest bass caught in a tournament weighed 7.8 pounds. The angler success rate was 59 percent.
While Eufaula's largemouth population is strong and stable, th
e lower portion of the big lake has blossomed into a big-time smallmouth bass fishery, with definite state-record potential. This part of the lake is clear and rocky, with a diversity of topographic structure and depth variations. The forage base is excellent throughout the food chain. Water quality is good, as is the habitat.
Prospects for catching largemouth bass are very good, especially in the upper two-thirds of the lake, and in the major tributaries. Because of the lake's age, natural cover is deteriorating, but the bass adapt by relating to deeper structure.
This granddaddy of Oklahoma's bass lakes, Texoma was not electro-sampled in 2005, but as always, it continues to be a superior tournament lake. From 24 tournament reports, Texoma hosted 1,459 entries. Those anglers caught 1,826 bass for a phenomenal success rate of 71 percent. The average weight of a tournament bass was 2.03 pounds, and the average winning weight was 14.08 pounds. Anglers caught 18 bass exceeding 5 pounds, and one that exceeded 8 pounds. That fish weighed 8.31 pounds and was caught on March 6, during a Fishers of Men tournament.
What can I say about Texoma that hasn't been said many times already? The huge Red River impoundment on the Oklahoma/Texas border has a tremendous shad population that supports a tremendous biomass of game fish, including largemouth and smallmouth bass. I have no doubt the lake will someday reclaim the state-record smallmouth, but the largemouth fishing is excellent.
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This is just a sampling of our best lakes, but the prospects on these waters indicate that bass populations are healthy and strong throughout the state. Oklahoma bass anglers can look forward to their best year ever.
Of course, we've been saying that for a long time now, and we've yet to be wrong!