For many Americans, the start of the calendar's third month brings visions of the annual NCAA basketball craziness that sees a rash of stunning upsets, powerhouse performances and the eventual coronation of college basketball's champions.
But March’s madness also includes fishing for big bass. This year’s Bassmasters Classic is a March event (March 6) is being held on one of the South's best big-bass fisheries (Lake Guntersville), so expect some craziness there. And, March is when bass anglers in many parts of the country see some of the best bass fishing of the year as largemouths move shallow for the springtime spawn. You'll likely see more articles on trophy bass in this space this spring.
In Oklahoma, March also means a great chance to catch a record largemouth.
Fifteen of the state's top 20 largemouth bass have been caught in March. And two other top-20 bass were caught in the final two days of February.
While on the subject of Oklahoma’s biggest largemouth bass, do keep in mind that the Sooner State's top 20 list kept by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation is such an exclusive fishing club that it takes a 13-pound, 8-ounce giant for an angler to even join.
The top 20 is led by Dale Miller's 14-pound, 13.7-ounce state record largemouth caught on March 13, 2013, at Cedar Lake. Gary Cox's near-record 14-13 lunker last spring at Broken Bow Lake came on March 29.
Keep in mind Miller isn't alone in his March state-record success. A total of five fish caught in March have enjoyed time as Oklahoma's top bass since 1990.
Former Oklahoma state-record largemouths caught by anglers in March include Benny Williams, Jr.'s 14-pound, 12.3-ounce bass (caught at Cedar Lake on March 23, 2012); William Cross' 14-11 bass (March 14, 1999 at Broken Bow Lake); Roger Hockersmith's 14–10 bass (March 25, 1993 at Mountain Lake); and Paul Tasker's 13–8 trophy (March 22, 1990 at Lake Fuqua).
Clearly, if you harbor hopes to catch a state-record-sized largemouth bass in Oklahoma, the next several weeks demand you find time to get on the water.
The two most recent members of the top 20 were also caught in March. Back on March 3, 2018, Kevin Claypool landed a 14-2 giant from southern Oklahoma’s Lake Murray. And just six days later, on March 9, Jeremy Cole landed a 14-pound, 4.8-ounce specimen at a Bryan County farm pond.
Those two fish also illustrate another key point about big-bass fishing in Oklahoma in March – to have a crack at the real giants weighing north of 13 pounds, the state’s southern water bodies seem to offer the best odds of that happening.
In fact, all of the fish mentioned in this article came south of Interstate-40, the serpentine ribbon of concrete that divides the state in half east to west.
A deeper look at the top bass caught in March reveals seven of those 15 bass were caught during the month's first half; eight came the final two weeks.
Breaking the list down even further, four of those March giants were caught in Oklahoma farm ponds, three came from Broken Bow Lake, three were caught at Mountain Lake, two came from Cedar Lake, one came from Lake Murray, another hailed from Lake Fuqua, and one more was produced by an unknown water body.
There are several notable southern Oklahoma lakes missing in action when it comes to a March Madness top 20 bass list.
One of those water bodies is Lake of the Arbuckles, which despite having a top 20 bass (Allen Gifford’s 14-8 bass caught on Feb. 27, 2008), is absent from the March list.
Also missing is Sardis Lake, which despite having its own top 20 fish (Diane Baker’s 13-8 bass caught on Oct. 4, 1994), hasn't produced a March giant either.
And neither has McGee Creek Reservoir, although that seems like a distinct possibility given its big bass history and potential. Because despite having no current top 20 largemouth bass at all, the water body continues to crank out double-digit largemouths, as proven by guide Chuck Justice and his clients catching dozens of 10-plus-pound fish in recent years.
Another southern Oklahoma lake missing from the March Madness top 20 list is Lake Texoma, the border lake lying on the Texas/Oklahoma state line. While the big reservoir is better known for its famous striper-fishing action, Texoma has come fairly close to producing a top 20 largemouth bass in March. That near-miss came on March 3, 2012, when Royce Harlan caught a 12–6 lake-record largemouth during a JC Outdoors bass tournament.
The reasons for this southern Oklahoma big-bass mayhem likely stems from the fact that much of the state’s annual stocking of Florida-strain largemouths—upwards of 1 million fingerlings—comes in southern waters that typically provide the thermal profile necessary for trophy genetics to prosper.
And ditto for the presence—or actually, abundance—of threadfin shad, the cold-hating forage fish that proliferates in southern Oklahoma waters.
Do keep in mind that none of this southern Oklahoma big-bass talk is to say that great largemouths don’t come from other water bodies across the Sooner State, because every year they do.
After all, who can forget Oklahoma angling legend Edwin Evers’ final-day bag limit at Grand Lake in March 2016 as he pulled off a comeback for the ages and won the Bassmaster Classic with a final-day limit of 29-3.
In fact, Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees is arguably the Sooner State’s best overall bass lake, even if it hasn’t produced a top 20 bass in recent years that weighs more than 13 pounds. You won’t get much argument from Evers, who has one of fishing’s most coveted titles on his resume., thanks to the northeastern Oklahoma bass factory.
Other Oklahoma waters that join Grand on that list of quality bass lakes lying outside of the state’s southern counties includes Watonga in the northwestern part of the state, Lawtonka in the southwest, Sooner in the north-central part of the state, Tenkiller in the east-central portion, and Eucha in the northeast.
So, what's the bottom line from all this number-crunching and lake name-dropping when it comes to Oklahoma bass fishing action? Simply this: All across the Sooner State, and especially in the south closer to the Red River, the month of March represents Oklahoma's big-bass potential at its absolute finest.
And that's plenty of reason to ignore the hoops action on TV over the next few weeks, and to hook up the bass rig and head to a favorite Sooner State big-bass water.
Because with a little bit of angling luck, there just might be another giant bass waiting to pounce on a springtime lure as it leisurely wanders by.
And that will bring a whole new meaning to the phrase “Nothing but net!”