March 05, 2012
If you really want to confuse yourself, just pull out a map of Texas and try to convince yourself which of the numerous lakes on it is the best largemouth bass reservoir to go fishing this spring and summer. Fortunately for the Lone Star State's bass fanatics, there are scores of lakes that could claim that notoriety and they can be found in every region of the state.
The spring and summer months are most anglers' favorite times to go after bass. That's true for several reasons beyond just those times providing more comfortable weather conditions. They also offer ideal conditions for anglers to use a wide range of fishing styles ranging from finesse worms to topwater plastic frogs, spinnerbaits, and drop-shot rigs to conventional Texas and Carolina rigs.
Take a trip with me across that Texas map and you will see what I'm talking about. Although the recent extreme drought took a toll on some reservoirs for a while, heavy rains that fell across much of the central, eastern and northern areas of the state in early to mid-October rejuvenated many of them. While conditions often change, the great bass fishing on the cream of the crop rarely does. Here are the lakes that consistently produce the best of the best and where your top choices are for action this spring and summer:
Caddo Lake located north of Marshall in far northeast Texas provides some of the best bass habitat to be found and in waters that average no deeper than 10 feet. Cypress trees abound, both in large forests and as single trees here and there. Aquatic vegetation including hydrilla, lotus and coontail moss can be found in the main-lake flats, cuts, ditches and along the main river channel.
Among the top bass-producing areas during the summer are Goose Prairie on the west side south of Uncertain, Big Cypress Bayou, and Martha's Crossing just north of the big island at the mouth of Goose Prairie and Alligator Bayou, and at Stumpy Slough on the east side of the lake. Plastic frogs, Flukes and Texas-rigged plastic worms usually produce the best catches in those areas.
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Farther southward lie three of the state's largest and/or best-known reservoirs: 181,000-acre Toledo Bend, 114,000-acre Sam Rayburn and 27,264 Lake Fork. The two giants are loaded with hydrilla beds as well as eelgrass and coontail moss that produce scores of bass from early spring until late summer and early fall. Lake Fork, on the other hand, is loaded with lots of heavy stumps located throughout the reservoir.
Toledo Bend's lake record largemouth bass was caught on July 3 2000 by Eric Weems and weighed 15.32 pounds. Sam Rayburn's lake record was caught on May 31 1997 by Tommy Shelton and weighed 16.80 pounds.
Silvia Bend Point on Toledo Bend's west side between County Road 2793 and Forest Service Road 100 as well as the secondary points in Bayou Seipe are two of my favorite places to start fishing during the early-morning hours. I'll go with a Stanley Wedge Tail spinnerbait or a buzzbait. Scattered button willows on the extreme upper reaches on the Louisiana side also provide great action for flipping and pitching Texas-rigged worms.
At Sam Rayburn, my favorite starting place is Sandy Creek north of Broaddus. As with Caddo Lake and Toledo Bend, most of the bass at Sam Rayburn are caught around vegetation. I have caught scores of bass in the hybrilla, eelgrass and coontail mossbeds close to the small channel in Sandy Creek as well as that in the narrow cuts on stickbaits, plastic frogs and Texas-rigged worms for several years.
Lake Fork is, without a doubt, the premier bass-fishing lake in Texas when it comes to producing trophy-sized fish. Located near Quitman, Fork has produced 65 percent of the bass entered in the ShareLunker Program that uses donated fish weighing 13 pounds and larger for genetic studies and spawning purposes. Those include the current state record weighing 18.18 pounds and caught in January 1992 by Barry St. Clair while he was crappie fishing.
During the spring months, most Fork anglers target the shallows around weedbeds and stumps in the creeks. The action usually swings to the deepwater humps, ridges and points at the mouths of the major creeks, especially those areas near roadbeds and submerged stock tanks.
Although Lake Fork doesn't have the alligator populations that its neighbors farther east — Toledo Bend and Sam Rayburn — have that provide some anglers with interesting encounters, another "alligator" lake" that ranks as one of the best bass fishing reservoirs in the state is Choke Canyon near Tilden. That lake, of course, is deep in the South Texas Brush Country.
Choke Canyon has lots of pondweed, coontail moss, cattails and rushes, but it also has lots of stumps and laydowns that provide habitat for bass. Shallow-running crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and Texas-rigged worms produce several double-digit bass every spring and summer. Using 20-pound or greater test line is highly recommended, especially when fishing tight in the timber.
The largest bass caught to date at Choke Canyon weighed 15.45 pounds and was caught on Jan. 21 2009 by Brad Bookmyer.
Heading farther west you will find the jewels of the Rio Grande: Falcon and Amistad reservoirs.
The two Texas-Mexico border impoundments are loaded with bass and cover. Caution and common sense should be exercised at all times and fishing only on the Texas side of these two lakes is highly recommended. A Mexico fishing license is required while fishing anywhere west of the Rio Grande channel.
At Falcon, the Big Tiger and Little Tiger Creek arms near Falcon Lake State Park, and Beckwith Point just to the north of the Tigers as well as Veleno Creek near the town of Zapata produce lots of bass during spring and summer. I fish plunker-type topwater lures and crankbaits early and then switch to black-and-blue jigs or Red Shad worms on Texas rigs once the sun rises high on the expansive 83,654-acre lake.
Scores of bass weighing from 4 to 8 pounds are caught at Falcon during spring and summer. Fishing brushy areas close to rocky banks often is the key to success. Several double-digit-sized bass are caught there annually. The lake record is a 15.63-pounder caught by Tommy Law.
Amistad's main structure is quite different from its Rio Grande neighbor to the south. Amistad is 64,900 acres of rocky canyons and draws that often are extremely clear. Rock ledges, hydrilla beds and occasional stumps and brush are where the fish will be.
Topwater lures early, followed by Texas-rigged and Carolina-rigged worms and shallow-diving crawdad-pattern crankbaits later often produce the best results. The Box Canyon area just off the lake's upper Rio Grande section is one of my favorites. There is a boat ramp there with plenty of parking space and several narrow, deep water-filled canyons provide good protection on windy days.
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Amistad also has been stocked with smallmouth bass and the Devil's River area has produced more catches of them than any other area. The lake record largemouth weighed 15.68 pounds and was caught by Tom Sutherland in December 2005. John Jones holds the Amistad record for smallmouth bass with a 5.37-pounder he caught in November 2004.
Texas also has some other great lakes that produce great action for largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass. Among them is Lake Whitney in Central Texas, Lake Texoma on the Texas-Oklahoma border, and Lake Meredith in the Panhandle.
At 23,000 surface-acres, Whitney has a myriad of rocky banks, cedar tree-filled creeks and coves, and two great main channels to fish. To date, its biggest largemouth bass taken has been an 11.63-pounder caught by David Polson in January 1999. The lake-record smallmouth bass weighed 7.72 pounds and was caught by Ron Gardner in November 1988. It was Gardner's third huge smallmouth from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood-control lake.
My largest smallmouth from Whitney weighed a little more than 5 pounds and was caught on a white Sassy Shad and leadhead jig in a cove near Harbor Master Marina near the dam. That area, as well as the deep rocky banks along the state park, have consistently produced impressive smallmouth bass catches over the past few decades.
During periods when rains raise the lake's level, the flooded willows at the mouth of Whitney and Towash creeks on the lower end of the lake are ideal places to catch largemouth bass on Texas-rigged worms, jigs and spinnerbaits. Cedron Creek, King Creek and Mesquite Creek also are well known for yielding limits of largemouths.
Lake Texoma's location, or rather the location of a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department district fisheries center on its banks, is one of the main reasons the Texas-Oklahoma border lake produces good catches of both smallmouth and largemouth bass.
Texoma is 74,686 acres in size, has lots of rocky structure that is ideal as smallmouth bass habitat, and has produced smallmouths almost as large as the ones from Whitney. Jay Fuller holds the Texoma smallmouth record at 7.06 pounds with a fish he caught in January 2006, and Kenneth Stone holds the lake's record for largemouths with an 11.82-pounder he caught in January 2000.
Largemouth bass are caught regularly around boat docks, railroad pilings, off points and in the backs of coves and small creeks, while smallmouth bass favor the rocky ledges and points on the lower end of the lake, especially those near the dam.
If you head farther west and northward into the Panhandle, a sleeper lake that doesn't draw much attention, but which often produces lots of largemouth bass, is Lake Stamford near Haskelly. It's a small lake at only 5,125 acres but has produced bass weighing 10 pounds or more on several occasions. Mike Pruitt holds the record there with an 11.12-pounder he caught in May 2000.
Stamford is a flipping and pitching paradise when the lake's level is up. There are lots of bulrushes and cattails to pitch a worm into. During low water levels, rocky points and any other structure near deep water pay off handsomely.
Driving back south or venturing a little westward, there are several other great bass fishing lakes such as Hubbard Creek near Breckenridge, Possum Kingdom and Graham near Graham, O.H. Ivie near San Angelo, and several lakes closer to the Fort Worth-Dallas Metroplex, including lakes Eagle Mountain and Granbury.
Hubbard Creek often suffers from drought conditions, but relieved by rains can become one of the best bass-producers in West Texas. The Hubbard Creek arm as well as Big Sandy Creek should never be overlooked during spring and summer months. A cut between Goat Island and the north bank called The Fort Worth Cut also is a consistent bass-producing area, especially on Texas-rigged worms.
Possum Kingdom is one of those lakes that are good from the top to the bottom. At the "bottom" near the dam are lots of steep rock ledges, points and an occasional cedar-studded flat near deep water where plastic worms, spinnerbaits and crankbaits work well. At the "top" of the Brazos River reservoir is long strings of boat docks near rocky banks, off-color flats and creeks and islands surrounded by bulrushes and, often, salt cedars.
The shallows around the large boat docks as well as around Costello Island, Bird Island and others provide excellent spawning areas and the shade beneath the docks provide good habitat and ambush sites for late-summer bass.
O.H. Ivie Reservoir, located 55 miles east of San Angelo on the Colorado and Concho Rivers is one of the premier trophy bass lakes in West Texas. It's largest so far has been a 16.08-pound largemouth caught by Jerry Bales in late April 2010.
What may be surprising to some anglers is that Ivie also has a good population of smallmouth bass. The lake record is a 5.32-pounder caught by Michael Schooler in April 2009. The lake covers a little more than 19,000 acres and most of its cover is juniper, oak and mesquite stumps, which primarily can be found in the Colorado and Concho River arms, small tributary creeks and mud flats. Top spring and summer lures are spinnerbaits, Carolina- and Texas-rigged worms and jigs with trailers.
Fort Worth-area anglers have two great bass fishing lakes right at their back doors and both have produced catches of smallmouth bass as well as largemouth bass. Eagle Mountain Lake just north of the city is an 8,738-acre Tarrant County Water District reservoir that has produced an 11.65-pound largemouth (Gordon Burrell Jr. caught it in 2003) and a 5.36-pound smallmouth bass (caught by Cody Davis in 2007).
Stands of alligator weed, bull rushes, rows of old boat docks and rock riprap provide the best cover on the 8,738-acre lake.
Lake Granbury south of Fort Worth is an 8,310-acre Brazos River Authority lake where an 11.89 bass (caught by Royce Carnley in 2009) currently is on top of the list along with a 4.10-pound smallmouth bass taken by Alvin Lowrance in 1993.
The best target areas for spring and summer bass on Granbury are the multiple boat docks, especially in Indian Harbor, Stroud Creek, Long Creek, Lambert Branch and on either side of the Highway 51 bridge.
Yes, Texas is a big state with big opportunities for bass anglers this spring and summer. You can't go wrong fishing at any lake in any direction you plan to travel.