October 05, 2010
These Oklahoma bass anglers are so adept at catching largemouths on their home waters that you'd think they were magicians! Read carefully to learn their tricks.
By Bryan Hendricks
To hear a lot of guys tell it, largemouth bass fishing in Oklahoma goes in the tank the minute you rip the May sheet off your calendar. It's uncanny how, on June 1, temperatures skyrocket into the high 90s, and anything resembling a cloud flees from our sky. Unless you fish at night, these fellows say, you can just forget about catching fish until September.
Fortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. The Oklahoma weather certainly can be brutal in June, but that affects fishermen more than it does the fish. Conditions below the surface are still quite comfy for largemouth and smallmouth bass, and water temps will remain that way until July.
The key to bass-fishing success this month is in finding the right spot and then knowing what to give the bass once you get there. To show you how to do it, we've lined up some topnotch anglers to share their best tips on their favorite waters. Here's what they had to say.
LARGEMOUTHS AND MORE AT LAKE TENKILLER One of the most endearing features about Lake Tenkiller is that it's one of the best places in the state to catch trophy largemouth and smallmouth bass. If you want to score a triple, it has some big spotted bass, too.
For those reasons, Mitch Looper, a trophy bass specialist from Barling, Ark., has a special appreciation for Tenkiller. Looper has caught more than his fair share of trophy largemouths from Sardis and McGee Creek lakes, but the fishing at Tenkiller just keeps getting better and better. Guess what? June is consistently one of his most productive months. Best of all, patterns are usually very consistent, and also very simple.
Don't let anyone tell you that Sooner bigmouths are lazy this month! They're as eager to tear up a worm in June as they are at any other time of the year. Photo by Chuck Larsen
"In June, I'm doing two things, and two things only," Looper said. "I'll be Carolina rigging in 5 to 20 feet of water. If I'm not doing that, I'm trying to find fish schooling up that you can catch with grubs, CC spoons, Little Georges and stuff like that. I'll also throw topwaters at those same fish, and that's pretty well it."
Finding fish this month is simple, Looper added. Just look for points that are adjacent to flats.
"Anywhere you find flats with points close by, then you've found the fish," he explained. "I don't go any farther than Pettit Bay, but that may be a mistake, because I know a lot of people that go above there and catch a lot of schooling fish. There are a lot of coves with flats that go out almost to the end of the point. Once you determine what depth the fish are at, it's just a matter of putting something in front of them that they'll bite."
Although it's tempting to concentrate on the shallower parts of the flats, you need to devote your attention to the rocks off the sides of the points.
"I just key on the rock, about 50 feet from the bank in depths of 7 to 8 feet," Looper said. "There's lots of chunk rock that you can feel with a Carolina rig. The thing about it is if you find fish halfway in the cove in one place, you can go to the next place and they'll be halfway there, too.
"And these are all good fish," he added. "There may be only one or two fish on a spot, but they average about 4 pounds."
June is also a hot time to catch big spotted bass. If you've never caught a big spot, you've missed out on one of life's great thrills.
"To catch big spotted bass, I mostly fish certain bluff points, and I fish with grubs, Little Georges, Carolina rigs and spoons," Looper said. "Basically, those Kentuckys are suspended off those bluff points, so you need to find the range they're suspended at and fish bait horizontally. If the fish are at 14 feet, count down to 14 slowly, and retrieve it with 1-foot pulls. Count it to 3, 4, 5 - and then jig it up fast. That's how you catch those big Kentuckys. If they're real active, you can catch them on crankbaits. But that doesn't happen every day."
BIG LARGEMOUTHS AT GRAND LAKE As far as conditions go, you never know what to expect at Grand Lake in June. One thing you can expect, however, is awesome fishing. Just ask Ivan Martin, a guide who looks forward to catching plenty of big bass this month.
"Around the last of May and the first of June, the last four or five years, have been the best period to catch bass on the Grand," Martin said. "Last year was awesome. I did a TV show on the Outdoor Channel, and we caught 20 keepers in 30 minutes. We did the whole show in an hour. Four pounds was the biggest."
One thing Martin doesn't do is spend a lot of time running and gunning. He concentrates on the midlake area, where he catches bass either in the willows or around boat docks. There's a twist, though. He fishes not under the docks or in front of them, but behind them.
"Last year, 5-inch tube jigs in green pumpkin seemed to be best. The year before that, the water was down a little, and we were throwing a lot of shallow-diving crankbaits in crawdad color. We were just throwing them up on the real shallow banks where we had about 2 feet of water under the boat 30 yards out. We bounce them off rocks. The 2A Bomber is good for that. When you're fishing a foot of water, you don't want something that goes too deep."
If the water stays high, Martin maintains, flooded willows will produce a lot of fish. However, don't neglect the grass behind the willows. You can pick up a lot of fish with buzzbaits and spinnerbaits. The best selection is white/chartreuse in 3/8-ounce."
LAKE KEYSTONE SURPRISE With so many great lakes in northeast Oklahoma, it's easy to see why Lake Keystone gets overlooked, at least until you see what it has to offer. Ray Jennings of Executive Guide Service says bass fishing at Keystone is excellent, especially in June, but only at certain areas. Hit them right, and you've got it made.
"Around the mouth of the Cimarron River, there are a couple of coves off the mouth on the west side," Jennings said. "It's got some deep channels that run in there, and also some deep rock and standing timber. The old roadbed cove is a good place to throw a buzzbait or Pop-R in the morning, and then come back later with a worm and a jig. You've got 60 to 70 feet of water, so it's deep. This cove is a quarter-mile from the mouth, and it's got a 25-foot channel. It's an old roadbed that came through th
ere years ago; it's by Shriners Cove, near Mannford."
Keystone is also an excellent place to catch smallmouth bass. Smallies there aren't as big as those in Tenkiller, but you can still find a fair number up to about 5 pounds.
"For that, you want to go down by the dam," Jennings advised. "Pay special attention to the coves by the dam on the left side. There you've got 40 to 75 feet of water, deep bluffs and big chunk rocks. You catch them by jigging in deep water. The best colors are black/blue and pumpkin/chartreuse.
"In the summer, early, smallmouth bass will be in 4 to 8 feet of water," he added, "but as the sun comes up, they may suspend off secondary points in over about 25 feet."
One good thing about Keystone is that water levels generally remain fairly stable in June, so you don't have to worry about yesterday's hotspot being high and dry tomorrow.
"It can come up pretty quick, but they don't dump it out too quick," Jennings said. "If the water is dropping, I fish main-lake stuff. In the roadbed cove, there's an island by the main-lake point near the mouth. When the water is down, you'll see brush and stumps and rocks that offer good cover. As a safety note, be aware that main-lake points come out a long way. You can be 75 to 100 feet off the bank and only be in 3 feet of water."
FORT GIBSON RODEO Thanks to the largemouth bass virus, Fort Gibson isn't the bass fishery that it used to be, but it's still pretty darned good. In time, it'll return to glory. Until then, June is a great month to enjoy plenty of action, even if the typical fish you catch aren't as big as they once were.
Ray Jennings begins his day at Fort Gibson by visiting Ranger Creek and 14-Mile Creek, which is just above Ranger. Also, the upper reaches of the Grand River offer some outstanding fishing at this time of year.
"If you don't fish the river, you're missing a great experience," Jennings said. "At the first of June, I'd run right up the river to the feeder creeks, like Rock Creek, and work my way upstream. If the current is running pretty good, I'd work the downcurrent side of the islands with crankbaits and spinnerbaits. A good crankbait for that is a shad-colored Risto Rap or a Wiggle Wart. I like it to hit the bottom. You see there's a lot of brush on those points in the river.
"When we get a lot of current, people see that water running hard and get discouraged; you can handle it if you understand boat positioning. That's actually more important than the bait. If it's running a real hard flow, you can take a 3/8-ounce jighead, put a small grub on it and flip it upstream and tightline it into the brush. You'll catch a lot of Kentuckys up to 2 pounds that way. Catch a mess of those, and then you can go hawg hunting."
What if the current isn't running? No problem. Just hit the smaller creeks and have a ball.
"Jane Dennis is a good creek. So is Rock Creek," Jennings said. "There's deep water running all the way through there. A fire tiger crankbait works well. I'm just bouncing it along the rocks and anything I can find along the docks."
At night, you can really rack up along the docks by throwing a worm or a crankbait behind the docks. Throwing a crankbait at night behind a dock might sound like a good way to lighten your wallet, but it's also an awesome way to catch a lot of big fish.
"Don't be afraid to throw it up there," Jennings encouraged. "Just finesse it over the trash. If you've got good equipment, you can do it. No risk, no reward - that's the way I look at it."
Also, you can enjoy some great fishing in the creeks feeding the lower end of the lake. Cypress Cove is a good destination because it has plenty of bass-holding cover and structure.
"In Cypress Cove, there's a 25-foot channel that comes in off the main lake," Jennings explained. "The Grand River swings right at the mouth of Cypress Cove. It's not a half-mile deep from front to back, and it's about a quarter-mile wide. And it's got two fingers in it. The main channel bends right in front of the cove and a big ledge. It's got cypress trees in it, along with some stumps and some good structure."
To catch fish there, Jennings recommends using a deep-diving crankbait or even a Carolina-rigged crankbait. That's right: a Carolina-rigged crankbait! Sometimes, the bigger the better, all the way up to magnum-sized jerkbaits.
"Not many people do that, but it does work," Jennings said. "If fish are holding close to the bottom, I'll use an 18-inch leader. I'm targeting a specific piece of structure, which I see on my graph. If they're holding to the top of a stump, depending on the position of the sun or the moon that puts them in that position, I'll let that determine the length of my leader to get it up there to them."
LAKE HEFNER MAGIC I wonder if Oklahoma City bass anglers know just what a jewel they have in the shadows of the highrises. This water supply reservoir has an ample supply of largemouth and smallmouth bass, including some big ones. One of the nice things about Hefner is that it's fairly small, so bass don't fan out too far when the water gets hot.
David Neaves of Oklahoma City spends a lot of time slow-trolling around Hefner while watching his graph. Specifically, he's looking for any kind of contour change, either subtle or dramatic, in deep water. These form cool, shady pockets that give bass a little relief from direct sunlight as well as a bit of thermal refuge.
"When I find something like that, and I do have several places I visit over and over, the bass will be stacked in there," Neaves said. "It's a predictable pattern. I like to use the small stuff, like a 4-inch worm on a Carolina rig that I can work through there real slow. One reason that's so effective is that the sinker stirs up a lot of gunk off the bottom when you move it, and that gets the attention of the fish. Gets 'em excited! You can catch several real quick that way, and then they'll just shut down, and you'll have to move on to the next spot."
In addition, Neaves likes to fish the various riprap structures along the banks, as well as the jetties. "Again, a Carolina-rigged soft plastic at the bottom of the riprap can be productive when the sun is shining at gentle angles in the morning and evening. If it gets windy, they'll often be there in the middle of the day, too."
* * *
That's just a sampler of Oklahoma's summertime magic bass spots, but they're certainly not the only ones. Lakes Eufaula and Broken Bow, not to mention Thunderbird and even Stanley Draper, all offer good to great bass fishing this month. There are plenty of others, with a treasure trove of secrets just waiting to be unlocked. If you follow the advice of these bass magicians, you'll be pulling fish out of your hat instead of rabbits this month.
FOR YOUR INFORMATION To arrange a bass-fishing trip with Ivan Martin at Grand Lake, call him at (918) 257-4265. For a fishing trip on Lake Keystone, call Ray Jennings at (918) 451-0861.
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