Bass are fat and sassy in the Sooner State right about this time of year. Let's check out our best lakes for taking advantage of that situation! (March 2007)
Don't forget that farm ponds hold plenty of largemouths eager to attack a lure -- and you can reach most of the fish by walking the shoreline.
Photo by Russell Tinsley
March is a fantastic month to break out the bass tackle and head to one of the many great bass lakes our state is blessed with. As air and water temperatures begin to warm, big female bass prowl the shallows, looking for suitable places in which to lay their eggs. Oklahoma bass waters are about to heat up with an intensity that you have to experience to believe.
Yes, indeed -- March waters will come alive with shad-busting bass in a feeding frenzy so wild that you'll find it hard to wrap your mind around it. Most taxidermists stay close to their telephones, knowing that many of the state's biggest bass will be coming through their shops' doors soon.
So grab your fishing tackle and head to one of the state's big-bass lakes to catch a fish that'll be the envy of all your angling buddies. But before you go, read the paragraphs below to glean some timely tips from our experts.
"McGee Creek is one of the best big-bass lakes in Oklahoma," says Chuck Justice, who guides on the lake. In fact, this true big-bass expert has caught numerous largemouths weighing 10 pounds or better there. This savvy angler's familiarity with the venue's bass enables him to know just where to find and catch them at this time of year.
"March is one of my favorite months for catching big bass," Justice says. "The big bass will generally move into the shallows and actively feed. I catch most of my big fish on a 6-inch soft-plastic jerkbait, or on one of my recently designed jigs I named the Justice Jig."
This innovative new jig is designed with a 1/4-ounce floating worm added to the hook's shank, causing the bait to fall flat and slower than most, instead of head first with a rapid decent. Hart Tackle Company located in Miami, OK, is marketing these innovative jigs.
Anglers new to McGee Creek will find green-stained river water teeming with good forage bases of both threadfin shad and perch. The lake has three main creeks that are good spots to catch big bass.
Justice recommends that anglers use heavier tackle when fishing the brushy areas that abound in McGee Creek. "I use 50-pound braided line on my reel with the drag tightened down," Justice explained. "When you hook a fish in deep cover you have to get him out before he wraps you up and you lose him. I also use a 6 1/2-foot heavy-action rod."
Anglers will have their best success by pitching jigs into the brushy areas, and by Texas-rigging plastic worms. Top colors include pumpkinseed, motor oil, black/blue, and June bug. Anglers preferring to use crankbaits should be prepared to hang up often in brushy areas. However, another option is to use a shallow- to medium-running crankbait that will run 3 to 5 feet deep and cast it parallel to cover.
At 102,000 surface-acres, this lake is the state's largest. It features a significant amount of the long, wooded creeks that are a bass angler's dream.
This vibrant fishery in the southeast is home to all three species of black bass: spotted, smallmouth, and largemouth. I fished the lake recently and caught each species of bass. Chris Strickland, one of my fishing partners, even caught a relatively unknown "meanmouth" -- a hybrid of a smallmouth and a spotted bass.
If you fish Eufaula on a windy day (and, to be honest, Oklahoma has very few days without a breeze), concentrate on the long rocky points that line the lake. These rocky spots are ideal pre-spawn habitat where bass suspend and feed on baitfish. If you watch your fish locator, you'll find balls of shad congregated near the windy points, and you can bet bass are nearby.
One of the finest professional anglers I've ever fished with, Todd Huckabee possesses a knowledge of Eufaula that amazes me. He says that there are clearly specific spots on the lake for whatever variety of bass you're after in March.
"If I wanted to catch a trophy largemouth, I would fish the shallow areas of Longtown, Hospital Cove, Brooken Cove, Belle Starr, or Porum," he offered. "I would definitely use a Booyah Glow Blade spinnerbait in chartreuse color. And if I wanted to catch spotted bass I would fish the clearest water I could find, like Longtown, and fish near brushpiles or boat docks using a 4-inch Yum Dinger in pumpkin/chartreuse colors. For a trophy smallmouth I would fish a Smithwick Rogue from Standing Rock to the dam."
Edwin Evers is turning heads on the professional bass tour, in which he finished eighth in the standings last year. The Mannsville native makes a good living working out of his bass boat, and is known as one of the top anglers anywhere he fishes.
The soft-spoken Evers' fondness for Lake Texoma has led him to spend a substantial amount of time fishing this sprawling lake on the border between Oklahoma and Texas. Like most of the state's lakes, Texoma has been plagued by low water levels as a result of the recent drought.
"Some of the bass in Texoma will be caught in 8 feet of water, though I catch most in 2- to 7-foot depths," he said.
Evers prefers to fish areas with white rock formations that he calls "chunk rock." He noted that bass gang up on points, but just because an area is good on one day doesn't necessarily mean it'll be good the next. "The bass on Texoma move around a lot," he said.
He named Catfish Bay, Soldier Creek, Caney Creek, Bridgeview, and the area up the Washita arm as his favorite spring spots, and reported that anglers stand a good chance at catching a nice bass at Texoma. He also believes that the lake is outstanding for smallmouths. Evers' best largemouths from Texoma weighed 7 1/2 pounds apiece, and his best smallmouth nearly 6 pounds.
Evers says that bass anglers at Texoma in March should meet with the most success on by using specific baits like red Rat-L-Traps, shad-colored crankbaits, spinnerbaits in chartreuse and white colors with double willow-leaf blades, and jerkbaits in fire tiger patterns.
For anglers who are in the way of wanting to catch smallmouth bass, March is a prime time to catch a wallhanger. Striper guide Shane Clutter has found he also has a knack for catching sma
llmouth bass. Each March, in fact, Clutter books several clients who want to target trophy smallmouths.
Clutter observed that certain areas of the huge lake are known for lunker-sized smallmouths. "The best areas on Texoma for smallmouths are the Willow Springs area, the South Bank area, the area between the dam and Lowe's Highport, the riprap areas around the bridges, and the rocky points like Washita Point. I generally have my best luck in those areas when the weather is rainy and cloudy."
In addition to yielding up many lunker bass over the years, Texoma also has surrendered several state-record smallmouths.
Jeff Kriet grew up on Lake Murray, previously worked as a guide there, and now spends a significant amount of time plying its waters. He regards it as an excellent lake in March, during which he's caught some of his largest bass.
"Murray is infested with smallmouth bass," he said. "I have caught several there over 6 pounds, and you can catch some nice largemouths there as well."
Kriet's favorite tactic in March involves fishing a jerkbait near the middle of the lake. He also fishes rocky points, using crawdad-colored crankbaits that run 6 to 8 feet deep. Some days he has his best success by throwing a 1/4-ounce double-tailed skirted grub by Kinami around secondary points; he's found that the fish are generally in 3 to 10 feet of water. His favorite colors are watermelon or green pumpkin.
"The lake is absolutely full of 1- to 2-pound smallmouth bass," Kriet asserted. "You can literally catch and release 50 or more a day."
Bob Myers, another lake expert, fishes Murray often. According to him, the average-sized Murray smallmouth will weigh 1 1/2 pounds; like Kriet, he noted the lake has some huge smallmouths. He advised anglers to try the Three Fingers area, Marietta Landing, and the Quarter Mile Dock area.
Myers prefers to use light line in the 10- to 12-pound-test range, and to cast brown jig-and-pig combinations in waters 15 feet deep and shallower. "Although I catch a lot of smallmouths on a jig, I caught my best one on a root beer and chartreuse Bandit crankbait," he said.
Arbuckle Lake is a beautiful clear-water lake nestled in the Arbuckle Mountains just north of Ardmore. Arbuckle Lake is another lake that Jeff Kriet spends a fair amount of time fishing. The avid angler, who's quite fond of this bass factory, regards Arbuckle as one of the best springtime spots for catching a 10-pound black bass.
"Arbuckle is a great place to catch a giant bass in March," he opined. "It's the best winter lake around. And it's nothing to catch a 6- to 7-pound bass there, and I know of several 10-pounders that have been caught there as well."
Kriet exudes enthusiasm when he talks about the lake's newly grown hydrilla, an aquatic plant known to be a favorite spot for big bass to hide in while they wait to ambush prey. "This vegetation is not coontail moss or another kind of underwater plant," he exclaimed. "It is hydrilla!" This savvy bass angler knows from fishing the top lakes in the nation that when you find hydrilla, you have the right habitat to catch a heavy stringer.
Arbuckle anglers will also catch a fair share of spotted bass and some fat smallmouths. Yes that's correct: Like several of the state's top lakes, Arbuckle also boasts a great population of trophy smallmouths.
"McGee Creek is one of the best big-bass lakes in Oklahoma," said Chuck Justice, who guides on the lake. In fact, this true big-bass expert has caught numerous largemouths weighing 10 pounds or better there.
Mark Jefferys, operator of the fishing Web site The Bass Zone -- www.basszone.com -- can attest to the phenomenal smallmouth fishing on Arbuckle: On one spring outing, Jefferys caught five smallmouths that weighed a total of 24 pounds!
Grand Lake is dear to many people who avail themselves of the recreational opportunities offered there. It's certainly a special place for professional angler Mike McClelland, as it was there that he won the Bassmasters Elite Series Tournament lat season, besting 104 competitors with a winning stringer weighing over 79 pounds!
"The lake is really in good shape," he said. "After getting the largemouth bass virus several years ago, the lake has rebounded nicely, and is a great place to catch a big bass."
And Timmy Horton, another professional angler, told me recently that Grand Lake is one of the best lakes he has ever fished on the tournament trail.
So what makes Grand so special in March? Most experts agree that it's the diversity of structures available, along with varying clarities of water. "You have a lot of options at Grand," McClelland said. "You are able to fish creek channels, points, secondary points, and different kinds of rock formations."
Though an Arkansas resident, McClelland has spent a considerable amount of time fishing this northeastern Oklahoma lake. "March is a great time to catch a big bass at Grand," he said. He spends 90 percent of his time fishing his favorite areas, which lie between Sailboat Bridge and the dam. More specifically, he recommended Honey Creek, Duck Creek, Drowning Creek, and Horse Creek.
"The biggest thing I would key on in March is the channel bends that come out of a creek or pocket," McClelland said. "I look for south-facing areas with dark rocks because I know those areas will have warmer water. The water temperatures will fluctuate from the mid-40s to the low 50s." He believes the fishing is best when there is a light wind blowing, and relies on a variety of baits after allowing the fish to tell him where they are.
McClelland suggested that spring anglers should use a crankbait like a Storm Wiggle Wart in either a crawfish, red and brown pattern or a chartreuse one. "Crankbaits are literally foolproof," he quipped. "You just cast them out and retrieve them. You don't have to make any special jerks or twitches; you just cast and reel them in -- they're a great bait!"
Most of the casts he makes are with the boat in 12 to 15 feet of water, casting toward and parallel to the bank. He also fishes banks that have steep ledges, and when water temperatures are below 50 degrees, he uses jigs in a variety of weights. The shallower the fish are, the smaller the jigs he uses. Most range from 5/16 to 7/16 ounce, and he uses 1/2-ounce jigs when fishing deep water or brushy areas. He believes that his Jewel Akins jigs are the best, and likes peanut butter and jelly and crawfish colors. He tips his jigs with a Zoom Super Chunk.
When the water warms over 50 degrees, McClelland uses a 3/8- to 1/2-ounce spinnerbait in a fire tiger pattern, with willow-leaf or Colorado blades. When fishing over suspended structure or around boat docks, he uses jerkbaits in shad colors or with a pur
ple back and chartreuse sides. These long baits are twitched or jerked to make them appear erratic in the water. They can be deadly baits for spring.
McClelland reported that the best bass he's caught at Grand weighed 7 pounds, 7 ounces, adding that while pre-fishing tournaments there, he's caught several that he estimated would weigh over 8 pounds. He believes that March is a great time to catch a big bass at Grand, and that anglers should catch plenty of fish once they find their pattern.
McClelland advises spring anglers to give themselves multiple options and not to be afraid to move in order to try another area. He recommends that anglers go as far back into a creek where they believe the bass are, and then work their way out toward the main body of the lake. He suggested that anglers fish their baits slower due to the bass being in a transitional stage before spawning.
"My best advice I would offer is to fish points and secondary points that are directly affected by wind, and then don't be afraid to try different baits," the angler noted.