Pay special attention to these expert anglers as they give you the lowdown on May bass fishing at their favorite Oklahoma City and Tulsa-area lakes. (May 2010)
Of all Green Country lakes, Mitch Looper probably spends more time on Lake Tenkiller. He caught this May largemouth there by working a soft-plastic bait along a rocky point near Sizemore Creek.
Photo courtesy of www.lurenet.com.
I've always looked forward to May, usually in hopes of getting in on some of Oklahoma's excellent bass-fishing action. Turkey season usually has ended in most of the states I hunt, so I find myself yearning to tangle with a feisty post-spawned bass. The weather is generally much milder in the mornings then, with the afternoons warming slightly and making it a choice time to be outdoors.
Our state has some outstanding bass waters that are prime for angling this month. It's true: Whether you live near Tulsa or Oklahoma City, there is an outstanding bass lake near you. So read on about some of the state's top waters, and local experts will share their lure choices and advice for catching big bass.
FORT GIBSON LAKE
Nestled between Lake Hudson and the Arkansas River lies Fort Gibson Lake, a river lake prone to fluctuations in flow and depth. According to lake expert Gary Dollahon, a public relations expert from Tulsa, the fish definitely bite better when the water's running.
"Flowing water causes baitfish to be more active," he explained, "which in turn causes game fish to pursue the active forage and more receptive to bite a hook."
Gibson, a shallow lake, usually has green-stained water. The lake is home to healthy numbers of largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass. As with other river lakes, depths vary there, but anglers equipped with electronics can find ample structure. Dollahon approaches the fishing at Gibson by dividing the lake into four parts -- Jackson Bay, Topper's Area, Jane Dennis Creek, and Flat Rock Creek. "These four spots cover most of the lake and can all be productive," he observed. "I look for the rocky flats in each area, usually half to two-thirds of the way back in the creeks where bass like to congregate."
Dollahon's choice of lures is a Sebile Crankster MR65 in either blood red, white or ghost violet colors. This square-billed crankbait has a big profile, floats until retrieved, makes a lot of noise, digs, and bangs off the rocks nicely, he says. Best of all, when fished with lighter lines it will run from 2 to 6 feet deep.
Unlike a lot of big-bass anglers, Dollahon uses 10-pound line.
By way of closing, Dollahon said, "If the Corp of Engineers is running water through the lake like in previous springs, I fish the rocks around the Highway 51 riprap with the Crankster."
When in Green Country, Grand Lake is tops on the list of local bass lakes. That's according to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Gene Gilliland. An accomplished tournament fisherman himself, Gilliland says that Grand is a favorite of most tournament anglers thanks to its size, its available structure, and its quality of largemouths.
"The bass-fishing potential at Grand can be attributed to several specific factors," Gilliland said. "The lake is a healthy fishery that is full of shad. The ODWC's annual electro-shocking results always place Grand at the top, or near the top, in the categories 'number of fish per acre,' and 'number of fish over 14 inches.' It's really hard to beat."
The lake level normally is up in May, thanks to spring rains. And while a variety of baits can be used, flipping soft plastics in the willows can be a very productive technique. Post-spawn bass will moving to deeper water this month and can be found off any of the main-lake points.
George Toalson of Gene Larew Bait Company is fond of Grand and has enjoyed success there many times. The bait maker likes Grand due to the variety of rock formations found throughout the lake. He offered this insightful advice: "I target the gravel and chunk-rock points in May using a Carolina-rigged Biffle Bug. It's a versatile bait, and though a lot of people use a rattle in the hollow tube, my preference is to use a Carolina rig omitting the rattle."
He says the colors blackberry sapphire, watermelon pepper, and green pumpkin will work best there.
Toalson says recently spawned bass will move out on the mid-lake points in 6 to 10 feet of water, and congregate there in big numbers. He suggests trying Shangri-La, Horse Creek, Drowning Creek and Duck Creek as great spots in May.
Mitch Looper is another dedicated bass angler afforded the privileges of fishing some of the finest bass waters in the country. Nevertheless, one of his favorite choices is Lake Tenkiller, about an hour's drive from his home. Looper fishes the lake often and considers May a great month to catch a big bass there.
"Tenkiller is one of those lakes where you can always have a good day bass fishing," Looper said. "I always catch largemouths there, plus I have a good chance of catching spotted bass and smallmouth bass, too."
Looper considers May an excellent month for catching a big smallmouth. "Smallmouths spawn after largemouths so incredible numbers will be in the rocky shallow areas spawning all throughout May," he explained. "The fish that have already spawned will move out to deeper water to chase shad, while the active spawners will be eating bluegills and crawfish in the shallows."
Looper's bait of choice is a YUM 4-inch Muy Grande Grub in Ozark smoke color, which he fishes with a 1/4-ounce weight. He said the grub is a versatile choice because it is effective in shallow water to incite spawning smallies to bite, and is an excellent bait for deeper water. It also triggers strikes from largemouths and spotted bass as well. Looper says the grub can be Texas-rigged with a pegged weight, or used with a weedless hook.
Looper targets the areas from Sizemore Creek to the dam and says anglers should be prepared to lose as many smallmouth as they land, due to the rocky surroundings.
Tenkiller has 13- to 16-inch slot limits on largemouths and smallmouths.
The state's largest lake at 102,000 surface-acres, Eufaula features a significant amount of the long, wooded creeks that are a bass angler's dream.
Easily accessible to both Tulsa and Oklahoma City anglers, this vibrant fishery in the southeast is home to all three species of black bass. I've caught each spec
ies there, and one of my fishing partners even caught a relatively unknown "meanmouth" -- a hybrid of a smallmouth and a spotted bass. The unique fish lived up to its reputation, while exhibiting amazing coloration.
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 the boat that bass are nearby.
Todd Huckabee guides on the lake and possesses knowledge of Eufaula that serves him well. Huckabee plies his trade on the huge impoundment many days each year and enjoys success on both bass and crappie there.
"May is a great month to catch a big bass on Eufaula," Huckabee declared. "Most of the fish have spawned and moved out into deeper water where they will be feeding aggressively."
The fishing expert said his single favorite bait for May is a soft-plastic bait. "If I could only use one bait, I would pick a YUM Gonzo Grub in green pumpkin with orange flake color," he said. "All three species of bass will crush the bait -- they love it. They aggressively attack it!"
Huckabee suggested that anglers target the long rocky points from Eufaula Cove to the dam, and concentrate on depths of 8 to 12 feet. By paying attention to the rocky areas like Standing Rock and the riprap at the dam, anglers can seriously expect to latch onto a trophy smallmouth.
Lake Arcadia is north of Oklahoma City near the town of Edmond. Fed by the Deep Fork River and several small creeks, this lake spanning 1,820 acres serves as a water supply for several area towns. Although the number of bass per hour revealed in surveys isn't huge at Arcadia, the average-sized bass is larger than at most Oklahoma lakes.
"The bass are big," Gilliland said. "There have been some double-digit lunkers caught there."
When the lake was impounded Gilliland said it incorporated some existing ponds that already held big bass. The results were evident when anglers started catching big largemouths shortly after the lake opened.
Gilliland considers certain areas on the lake to be better for spring bass fishing. Like the other experts, he advises Arcadia anglers to target rocky areas like the riprap near the 15th Street boat ramp, and the rocky areas near the dam. Another good spot is the submerged treerows clearly marked with ODWC buoys.
"I like to use a Terminator Pro's Top Secret weedless jig in white with a white/chartreuse Gene Larew Salt Craw trailer," he offered. "I like flipping laydowns in the Deep Fork River. Normally the lake is muddied up from the spring rains, but the water is clearer there, and the fish hold tighter to cover."
According to Gilliland, anglers willing to navigate south, up the river channel, will be rewarded with large numbers of fish, due to the water warming sooner there. He warned that boaters should exercise extreme caution in the shallow channel.
Arbuckle Lake is a beautiful clear-water lake nestled in the Arbuckle Mountains just north of Ardmore. It's also a lake that fishing pro Jeff Kriet spends a fair amount of time on. The avid angler, who's overly fond of this bass factory, regards Arbuckle as one of the best springtime spots for catching a big bass.
"Arbuckle is a great place to catch a giant," he confirmed. "It's not that big of a lake but 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.
Kriet's choice for May is to fish any of the main-lake points, looking for rocky banks and long tapering points with small rock. "Normally the fish have just spawned" Kriet said, "and they move out to 3- to 6-foot depths where they congregate.
"I like to use a spinning rig with 8-pound test and use one of the new Jewel Bait Company's 1/8-ounce jigheads that I designed called The Squirrel." Kriet says this unique jighead is perfectly designed for use with a shaky-head worm. The Ardmore pro uses green pumpkin-colored worms and dips the tails in chartreuse for added attraction.
Arbuckle anglers likely will 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.
I would be remiss if I didn't use Kriet as an expert on Lake Murray -- a hot fishery near Ardmore. The successful bass pro grew up on Lake Murray, previously worked as a guide there; he now spends a significant amount of time plying its waters. He regards it as an excellent lake in May, 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; you can catch some nice largemouths there as well."
Kriet's favorite tactic in May involves fishing Jewel Bait Company's 5/16-ounce Eakins jig in green pumpkin color, to which he attaches a plastic trailer. "This bait is deadly on Murray," Kriet asserted. "The lake is absolutely full of 1- to 2-pound smallmouth bass. You can literally catch-and-release 50 or more a day."
Kriet noted that the lake has some huge smallmouths and advised anglers to try the Three Fingers area, Marietta Landing, and the Quarter Mile Dock area.
Kriet prefers to use relatively light line in the 10- to 12-pound-test range, and to cast 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 crankbait," he commented.
Anglers wanting to target spotted bass should concentrate on the deep-water areas around boat docks and long rocky points.
As previously stated, although the lake experts narrowed their choices in lures, a variety of baits will catch May bass. It's always best to take a variety because what is hot one day may not work the next day.
The state boasts some tremendous bass fishing from border to border. So much so that about the only way to get skunked in May is to stay home and not go fishing at all!