Great bass fishing abounds all across our state, but these hotspots are sure to be ones you'll want to hit this year. (March 2010)
Telling Texans where to go bass fishing this season is like giving them a pass to a buffet that features all their favorite foods. There simply isn't a bad choice to make. As usual, anglers in the Lone Star State can head in any direction and find great fishing.
Lake Fork is a favorite destination for Texas bass anglers. Billy Sweeten of Yantis caught this 14.43-pound largemouth there while working a red Rat-L-Trap in 6 feet of water.
Photo by TPWD.
What follows is a regional look at the best of the best. Here are the lakes you ought to plan on fishing this season if you don't fish any others.
Biologist Randy Myers, who works out of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department district office in San Antonio, made it easy to start with this region because of his comments about Lake Falcon.
"Everything is lining up to make Lake Falcon the best bass lake in Texas -- or anywhere -- this season," he said. "It's shaping up to be the best season ever on Falcon"
Myers said fishing was off through late 2008 and early 2009 because water levels rose significantly. They're back down now, and he said the lake has been "on fire."
"Falcon simply will be outstanding this season," he predicted.
As might be expected, he also mentioned Lake Amistad and Choke Canyon as having great prospects.
"We had what I would call a little blip in the fishing on Amistad," Myers said, "but things started picking back up through the late summer and into last fall (2009). The fishing should improve this season, and I believe we'll be back to the days when anglers could go out and catch a whole lot of 2-pound bass."
Choke Canyon may not give up quite so many big bass as it has in the past, Myers said, but he believes the action will be good, and consistent.
"In 2009, the water fell all year into late September and early October," he said. "Because of that, the bass stayed shallow all year long. Heading into 2010, I believe the fishing will be excellent there, and anglers should expect to catch a lot of bass. I just don't expect to see as many big fish from the lake as we have recently."
Farther south, biologist John Findeisen talked about a spot that anglers should plan on visiting if they're after big Lone Star largemouths -- Choke Canyon Reservoir, about halfway between San Antonio and Corpus Christi along I-37.
"I know of eight 15-pound-plus bass taken from Choke Canyon in 2009," Findeisen said, "and several of them were released. There were lots of double-digit bass caught there last season, and things are setting up for another good year in 2010."
He said a late-season/late-summer creel survey in 2009 revealed that anglers were catching 30 to 40 bass per eight-hour outing on Choke Canyon, and he said the lake's habitat and forage base are in great shape.
"Heading into last fall, Choke Canyon was down about 9 feet," he said. "Barring a lengthy lack of rain that will keep the lake from coming back up, I believe this season is going to be another outstanding one there."
Another lake Findeisen pointed to -- and one that may not get so much attention -- is Coleto Creek, a power plant reservoir near Victoria. The lake offers about 2,500 surface-acres of water open to public fishing, and Findeisen said about a third of that area has great submerged vegetation.
"Coleto Creek has about 800 to 900 acres of the public fishing area in vegetation," he said. "In addition to native species, it also has hydrilla and Eurasian milfoil. The combination of flooded hardwood and grasses provides outstanding cover for bass and other game fish.
"Because it's a power plant lake with warm-water inflow," he added, "it can also be really good through the winter and into the early season. Anglers should be able to catch some pretty good bass there this season."
Biologist Steve Magnelia said Lake Austin is primed once again to offer great bass fishing in the middle of the Lone Star State in 2010. "The potential for catching a truly big bass in Lake Austin is still there," he said, "and we're coming off a good season. There were seven ShareLunker bass taken from Lake Austin last season, and good numbers of big fish remain.
"The lake has a lot of aquatic vegetation, and will provide great action again this season -- with the chance of a bass large enough to go into ShareLunker."
Early in the year, probably through April 1, Fayette County Lake is another great spot to fish, Magnelia said. "It has a slot limit of 14- to 24-inches, and there are really good numbers of slot fish in the lake. The first three months of the year are the very best to fish it."
He also mentioned Lake Bastrop, east of Austin, as another productive bass fishery. "It's only 900 acres, so it's not one of our large bass fisheries," he noted. "However, it has a 14-inch to 21-inch slot limit in place, and there are good numbers of slot bass.
"One of the really neat fishing opportunities on Bastrop occurs during the late summer and early fall when it's possible to encounter schooling largemouth bass on the feed," he said. "If you can find schools of largemouths, you're going to get into some explosive fishing action on Bastrop."
He also mentioned Lake Travis as a potential hotspot -- depending on how much rain has fallen heading into the new season. "Travis was low through the late summer and into the early fall of 2009," he said. "It was 30 feet below average for that time of year, which is significant.
Late fall rainfall helped, but who knows what things will be like a couple of months from now?
"We know how dynamic lake-level fluctuations can be in Texas, so it's tough to rule out when talking about 2010," he added. If the water levels remain stable, Travis will provide good fishing this season.
Biologists in this region collectively recalled the major rain event in 2007 that brought lake levels up dramatically. As a result, significant high-quality habitat was flooded, and it contributed to very strong year-classes of bass in lakes throughout the region. Heading into 2010, those bass are going to be of catchable size, which means many wa
ters throughout this part of Texas are loaded with good-sized largemouths.
"Grapevine will be a really good bass lake this season," said biologist Rafe Brock. "That strong year-class of largemouths will be good-sized this season, and should fall within the 14-inch to 18-inch slot limit. We also have stocked smallmouth bass in Grapevine, and there will be good numbers that will reach 10 to 12 inches in length this season. The slot limit does not apply to them."
Lake Ray Hubbard is primed to good bass action this season, too, and Brock said it's home to stocked Florida largemouths that will provide great fishing opportunities. He also said Eagle Mountain should see a boom this season, with good catches.
Lewisville will provide good largemouth fishing, along with pretty good action for spotted bass. Brock said that, once again, the 2007 rain event helped produce a very strong year-class of bass that will be good-sized by this season.
"I also like to remind anglers who like to fish from the bank that White Rock Lake, in the Dallas Metroplex, has a lot of bass in the 2- to 3-pound range," he said. "We sampled a lot of bass from White Rock in that range. It's a place that offers anglers who fish from shore the chance to get in on the action for good numbers of fish in that size range."
No story about bass fishing in this part of the state could hit the presses without mention of Lake Fork, where biologist Kevin Storey finds a puzzling situation.
"Throughout much of 2009," he said, "we saw evidence of a decreased number of trophy-sized bass from Lake Fork -- but we can't find any evidence that anything out of the ordinary is going on there.
"Last season, it got incredibly hot in a hurry in that part of the state, and it also was extremely windy," Storey added. "It could be that conditions were such that the big fish just weren't caught. We really believe 2010 will be a good year on Fork because there is nothing in our sampling data that gives us any reason for concern."
Lake Lavon is another great bet heading into 2010, according to biologist Bruce Hysmith. "Our sampling and research data indicate that 31 percent of Lavon's bass population is 14 inches or longer (in other words, 'keeper' size)," Hysmith said. "That is the best in the district (District 1D of Inland Fisheries Management Unit 1) I work in, but there are some others with double-digit percentages of 14-inch-or-larger bass."
He said the others include (with percentages) Davy Crockett (24 percent), Coffee Mill (17 percent), Texoma (14 percent) and Bridgeport (13 percent). Hysmith also provided the top five lakes in his district with overall numbers of bass sampled per hour by state biologists. Those included (with number of bass sampled per hour) Ray Roberts (227), Mineral Wells (162), Hubert H. Moss, (126) Bonham City, (119) and Carter (105).
"You notice there are no repeats on those two lists," said Hysmith. "It proves the longstanding theory that the higher the numbers of bass in a given lake, the smaller their overall size will be. I know of guys who go to Ray Roberts and catch 100 bass in a day. But they're not going to catch many quality fish, if any."
Still, as Hysmith and the others have noted, Texas' statewide bass fishery offers anglers many choices regardless of whether they're looking for big bass or big numbers of bass on a given outing.
Biologist Charles Munger said Alan Henry Reservoir has provided the most consistent bass fishing in his part of the state recently. "I believe it will continue to offer good fishing again this season," he said. "Everything we've seen suggests it's lining up for another good year."
If White River Reservoir gets some water in time for the new fishing season, Munger said, it should be an outstanding bass fishery. "We sampled lots of nice bass essentially anywhere we went on the lake," he said. "But that area is still (at the time this was written) technically in a drought. If the water level comes up, White River will be really good."
If you're out just to catch a lot of bass in the Panhandle, Munger suggested Greenbelt Reservoir as the place to go. "It's also been consistent, and has good numbers of bass in the 2- to 4-pound range. It's not the place to go if you want a really big bass, but you can catch a lot of fish."
As sometimes is the case when reviewing data from sampling or other research, Munger found a Panhandle surprise in the form of J.B. Thomas Reservoir, on the Colorado River near Snyder.
"Every species of sportfish in the lake is doing well, and you sure wouldn't expect that to look at the lake," Munger said. "It's very low and turbid, but it's been stable for the past six or eight years.
"There is a really good forage base in the lake, so the bass and other species have plenty to eat. It's a real challenge to fish, too, because there's just not a lot of structure. You pretty much have to pay attention and fish around any little stickup or other structure you can find, but there are some good bass in there."
"You can write it down and know it's going to be true," said biologist Todd Driscoll. "Lake Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend Reservoir are very stable, and they produce consistently good fishing. This season is going to be no different."
Driscoll attributed the longtime status of Rayburn and Toledo Bend as ranking among the best bass fisheries in the U.S. to ample water levels and consistently strong habitat. "Year after year after year," he said, "these two lakes are going to provide good trophy bass production; 2010 is going to be more of the same."
If Rayburn and Toledo Bend are the shining stars of bass fishing in East Texas, Driscoll was quick to note, there are some other heavenly bodies of water in the area.
"We have several small reservoirs in the area with very restrictive harvest regulations, and they have really come on as trophy bass producers," he said. Put Lake Nacogdoches at the top of the list.
"Nacogdoches has become an exception lake for the ShareLunker program," he said. "The lake has a 16-inch maximum harvest limit (only bass 16 inches or less kept), and that has improved the trophy catches. Folks are catching a lot of quality fish in the 5- to 8-pound range, and the year-classes are always strong."
He also mentioned Lake Pinkston has another quality fishery. "It's characteristics are virtually identical to Nacogdoches," he said, "but there is a 14- to 21-inch slot limit on the lake."
Lake Kurth is another East Texas option to check out this season. "Kurth has the regular 14-inch minimum-size limit in place. It's really a great lake to fish in the spring.
"Overall, I believe the combination of stable water levels, ample habitat and consistently strong year-classes is the reason our fisheries in this part of the st
ate are such great fishing options year after year. We don't see the kind of dynamic level fluctuations, for example, that some of the lakes in South Texas experience."
In West Texas, biologist Mukhtar Farooqi responded immediately to a question about the best bass fishery around. "O.H. Ivie is our jewel," he said. "Basically, it's one of the best lakes in the entire state. It has performed well over the years.
"I know of a 13-pounder caught in a tournament toward the end of last summer, and there were a couple other 13-pound bass taken outside of the ShareLunker season," Farooqi said. "These fish don't get quite so much notice because they do not become part of the program."
He said that reviewing tournament data from events on Lake Ivie reveals what you might expect -- some fluctuation in the success rate, but a rate that was overall very strong. "Our recent years have been especially good," he said.
Farooqi also pointed to Oak Creek Reservoir as a lake primed to offer great bass action this season. "Oak Creek is stocked with Florida largemouths," he said, "and there have been some strong year-classes there."
Twin Buttes also is a prospective hotspot -- depending on the rain. "We've stocked Florida largemouths in Twin Buttes, too," Farooqi said, "and it should fish very well this season -- if it has water. The water level is very dynamic, and a lot will depend on how much rain there has been over the winter and into the first of the year."