Super Spots For Sand Bass
October 05, 2010
If you're the type to swoon over catching Oklahoma sand bass, here are some great places for finding the kind of action that you crave. (May 2007)
Photo by Ron Sinfelt
Sand bass fishing in Oklahoma brings to mind some of my most memorable angling experiences. As a teenager, I spent a fair amount of time sand bass fishing on Lake Texoma. My summertime adventures there were captured on film, as well as stored forever in my mind. Those memories serve as motivation for me to head to the lake each May to catch a mess of sandies!
Ah, yes! Now's the most opportune time to fish for sand bass, as most of the state's waters are coming alive with schools of sandies boiling the surface in feeding frenzies that have to be seen to be believed. If your boat's within casting distance when the voracious sandies erupt at the surface, you can sometimes catch these binge feeders as fast as you can cast. A bonus: After you've sacked up some of the best-tasting fish that swim in our waters, your belly will thank you!
On one of my most memorable fishing trips we caught 20 schooling sandies in five minutes. We would have caught more, but other boats approaching too close spooked the fish. But no matter: We soon saw another large school of the scrappy "little linesides" surface. Unbelievably, we had three limits flopping in the bottom of the boat in almost record time.
Oklahoma anglers are blessed with an abundance of waters that hold prolific numbers of hard-fighting white bass. In fact, almost every lake has stocked populations of white bass waiting to bite a hook.
One great thing about sand bass fishing is that bait selection is not as critical as are color and size. Sandies will bite almost any reasonable sized jig, the exception being the 1- to 2-ounce striper-sized jigs.
Here I'll highlight some of the state's best sand bass spots, give you the lowdown on where to fish on these waters, and offer some experts' advice on what works best.
Though native to Oklahoma waters, white bass were not abundant until construction of the state's large reservoirs. Today, these prolific fish are found statewide in virtually every lake, river and tributary.
White bass, or "sand bass," as they're commonly called, usually travel in large schools, with the adults showing a preference for open-water areas over sandy shoals during the daytime, and shallow water at night. Their diet consists of shad, minnows, crustaceans and insects. Anglers generally have their best success using a variety of artificial lures in shad colors, brightly colored jigs, and small spoons.
Very prolific fish, sand bass spawn when water temperatures reach 50 to 55 degrees. Female sand bass can produce up to a million eggs and will randomly deposit them over rocks, debris and weeds. Many of the state's sand bass will swim upstream to spawn when tributaries are accessible. The eggs are left to hatch, and the hatchlings to manage, without parental care.
Although the white bass is Oklahoma's official state fish, it's estimated that anglers annually take 1.5 million pounds of whites from our waters. White bass have a short lifespan and high reproductive capability, so some lakes impose no limits on their catch. Always consult state fishing regulations regarding limits where you're fishing.
LAKE TEXOMA'S SAND BASS CENTRAL
On the Texas border nearly two hours south of Oklahoma City, Lake Texoma boasts a fantastic white bass fishery. To honor the scrappy game fish, Madill, a small lake town, actually started the Sand Bass Festival in 1963, the gala event's highlights being a fishing tournament, a huge fish fry and a parade. The hoopla still transforms this tiny community each year in late spring, but the event (held June 4-9 this year in conjunction with Madill's 105th anniversary) no longer holds a sand bass tournament.
Texoma is home to phenomenal numbers of sand bass, reported lake biologist Paul Mauck. "Our recent gill net surveys showed the upper reaches of the lake have nice populations of sand bass that average 12 inches in length and weight 1 pound, with some weighing nearly 2 pounds," he said. "With striper numbers being high, it helps keep the sand bass numbers in check."
According to Mauck, anglers will have the best luck during the daytime hours by taking their cues from the seagulls found flying around the vast lake. "Wherever you see seagulls circling and diving, they are feeding on shad that has been forced to the surface," he said. "You can bet there are sand bass nearby. Anglers are also apt to catch a striped bass in the same areas where they find white bass."
Some of the best areas in which to catch sand bass on the lake are the upper Washita area, the upper Red River area, Fobb Bottom, Caney Creek, Soldier Creek, Alberta Creek, Roosevelt Bridge, Willow Springs, Rock Creek, Alberta Creek and McLaughlin Creek.
I've had the most success by fishing early in the morning and late in the evening. My favorite morning tactic involves finding schools of baitfish surfacing and then casting small weighted spoons or casting a productive twin-jig setup called a "golly-whopper," which consists of a cork suspending a pair of colorful jigs behind it. The cork is heavy enough to make long casts easy when fish are surfacing.
During the evening hours, I like to fish in a more relaxing manner, so I either retreat to the canopy of one of the lake's bridges or, if the weather's rainy, go to one of the lake's covered indoor marinas. At either I use a twin-rigged minnow setup with a colorful 1/4-ounce jig to weight down the enticement. When the sand bass are active, it's not uncommon to catch two at a time with this rigging.
Lake Texoma has a limit of 25 white bass; no length restrictions are in force.
Two hours east of Oklahoma City off Interstate 40 is the state's largest impoundment: Lake Eufaula. Spanning 102,200 surface-acres, it teems with many species of sportfish. Among my favorites to catch there are the sand bass abounding at this picturesque venue.
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Garland Wright, who oversees the fishery, rates it as tops. "Without a doubt, Eufaula is one of the best lakes in the state to catch sand bass," he said. "Anglers there should find plenty of surfacing activity, with sandies busting into schools of threadfin shad."
Wright noted that though the average sand bass weighs 1 pound, plenty are larger. In fact, the state record, weighing 5 pounds, 4 ounces, was pull
ed from the lake in 1984.
I've logged many hours fishing for sand bass on Eufaula and have never been shut out. Catching a limit can be fairly easy if you follow a few expert tips.
A local guide who's a fixture on the lake, Todd Huckabee -- (405) 520-8980 -- logs many days at Eufaula each year, and his knowledge of sites at which to fill his clients' creels is vast. His expertise has taught him that certain areas historically produce well each May.
"To start with," Huckabee said, "the sand bass are returning to the main lake from the creeks where they've spawned. They'll feed aggressively, so bait selection is easy as long as the baits are small and shad-colored.
"Anybody can catch sand bass at Eufaula. The lake is home to huge schools of sand bass everywhere."
Huckabee suggested that anglers target the area between Gaines Creek and Brushy Creek, and at Coal Creek. He said that it's common to catch white bass weighing 3 pounds in the area around Standing Rock, which, he believes, has some of the largest sand bass in the lake.
Huckabee's favorite baits are Crappie Pro jigs, which he rigs in tandem with Yum Wooly Curl Tails in white and chartreuse colors, and Excalibur twitch baits in shad colors.
Watch for surfacing sand bass, Huckabee advised. "Sand bass will surface often on bright, sunny days with little or no wind," he said. "The biggest mistake that most anglers make is getting too close to surfacing sand bass and spooking them in the process. I have my best success using a longer rod and making long casts."
Huckabee actually endorses a rod made specifically for him by Quantum: Huckabee's Xtra-Lite Dipping Rod, a 9-foot rod that will easily propel light baits a great distance.
Situated an hour northeast of Tulsa in the northeast quadrant of the state, clear, rocky Grand Lake Of The Cherokees is a superb sand bass fishery that boasts incredible schools of surfacing sand bass nearly year 'round. I've experienced this unbelievable fishing many times, and my trips were nothing short of spectacular.
A few years back, at the invitation of Mike and Cokis Chain, my wife Donna and I jumped at the chance for some rest and relaxation on this superb fishing lake. We launched the Chains' bass boat and traveled a short distance before the lake erupted with nearly an acre of churning water.
The ensuing action was amazing: Shad jumped out of the water to avoid the schools of menacing white bass feeding ravenously just beneath the surface. We quickly tied on spoons and began launching our lures as far as our arms could propel them. Instantly, all four of our rods bent as 2-pound sand bass rolled on the surface, and soon we were dropping four flopping fish into the bottom of the boat.
We cast again toward the boiling water, and repeated the feat, with four more lively sandies hooked. Each cast resulted in our offerings being devoured by chunky sand bass. We continued to reap the rewards of this schooling bonanza until the fish, gorged on shad, retreated to the cooler depths of the clear reservoir. That had truly been an incredible five minutes of fishing! And soon after, just a short boat ride away, we ran into yet another surfacing school of whites.
According to Chain, any place on the lake is good for sand bass, but he prefers Duck Creek, Governor's Island and the area near Monkey Island.
The current lake limit is 20 sand bass.
LOWER ILLINOIS RIVER
The Lower Illinois River is celebrated for huge stripers, but during the early spring this Eastern Oklahoma river system also sees incredible white-bass runs. When the white bass prepare to spawn, they congregate at the confluence of the Arkansas and the Lower Illinois rivers. After staging, the sandies venture up the Illinois as far as the Tenkiller Dam.
A legend on the Lower Illinois, Delmer Shoults -- (918) 773-5213 -- possesses a level of fishing expertise that guarantees year-round bookings from clients happy to pay for his services. He noted that the sand bass runs there are the nation's best -- and after riffling through dozens of his photos last spring, I think that he may well have a point.
"When the sand bass are in the river, before and after they spawn, the fishing is amazing," Shoults said. "You can catch them as fast as you can cast a grub at times."
Shoults recommends the use of white and yellow grubs, noting that anglers are liable to catch a sauger or a walleye in the process, but cautioning that saugers have to measure at least 16 inches to be kept, while walleyes must be 18 inches or better.
In Shoults' view, there are no bad areas to fish, and he said that catching a limit is common in May. The river has no creel limit on white bass.
Foss Lake is two hours west of Oklahoma City just off I-40. At 6,800 acres, this lake is small by most standards, but don't let its size fool you. Beneath its surface, huge schools of sportfish wait to ambush a hook. Lake expert Dale Eagon -- (580) 729-1009 -- annually guides many trips focusing on hybrids.
"Though I don't do guided trips for sand bass, I can attest the fishing for them in May is great," Eagon said. "Around the second or third week of May, the sandies congregate near Lakeview, Cheyenne Point, Twin Lakes, and up the Washita River, and gorge themselves on baitfish. The fishing can be tremendous!"
Though not as large as the creel samplings in other reservoirs, the average-sized white bass pulled from Foss will range from 1/2 pound to 1 1/2 pounds. "For a two- to three-week span the fishing is amazing," said Eagon. "Actually, the sand bass fishing is good always. It is not too tough to catch a limit, and in the process, you are apt to catch a nice walleye or hybrid."
The best baits are live shad and white grubs drifted across humps. Some anglers troll crankbaits rigged with a jig trailing behind them. The sand bass are generally found in depths ranging from 2 to 12 feet.
The lake limit is 20 white bass.
Last, but not least, is what's possibly the best white-bass spot of all: Fort Gibson, a true river lake and home to some of the biggest sand bass in the state. Todd Huckabee, who guides on Gibson, rates it as one of the best lakes in the nation.
"Gibson has an unreal sand bass fishery," he said. "It is not uncommon to catch white bass that will weigh nearly 4 pounds. We actually caught several last year. The river is full of big white bass!"
Huckabee's familiarity with the lake has taught him that the stretch between Mission Bend and the low-water dam below Hudson is tops for filling a stringer. "Anglers ne
ed to look for areas where the creek channel runs close to the bank," he opined. "The sand bass will stack there and be really active at depths of 18 to 20 feet."
If the sand bass are surfacing, Huckabee likes to cast a citrus shad-colored Bomber Fat-Free Guppy; otherwise he jigs a Yum Wooly Beavertail a foot off the bottom. His preferred jig colors are white, yellow, chartreuse and pink.
These lakes and river systems are just a sampling of the state's waters. A plethora of lakes and streams can be found that offer great sand bass action, but space doesn't permit us to cover them all. We are blessed as Okie anglers to have some of the finest fisheries in the nation. Whether you're a seasoned veteran or a newcomer to this great pastime, now's the time to head to your favorite waters and sack up the sandies!