Skip to main content

Lakes Murray, Texoma Offer Surprisingly Hot Smallmouth Bass Fishing

There are few ways better to break a sweat than with a hard-fighting smallie at the end of your line.

Lakes Murray, Texoma Offer Surprisingly Hot Smallmouth Bass Fishing

Lake Texoma, the 89,000-acre two-state lake lying on the Red River an hour north of Dallas is a well-known striped bass fishing hotspot. But the Texas/Oklahoma border lake is also a great place to catch a quality smallmouth bass as Greg Cummings of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's Inland Fisheries division shows off. (Photo courtesy of TPWD)

At first glance, the lakes and streams found in the southern part of Oklahoma look like bona fide largemouth-bass country, which it is. You have plenty of opportunities to catch double-digit bucketmouths at spots like Lake of the Arbuckle’s, Lake Murray, Lake Texoma and McGee Creek Reservoir, the latter a spot where famed bass guide Chuck Justice caught many of his more than 200 career bass weighing more than 10 pounds.

But the southern counties of the Sooner State actually harbor some pretty good smallmouth bass fishing, too. Lake Murray, for example, is a smallmouth-friendly venue that holds a great mixture of black bass, white bass, panfish, catfish and even walleye.

The 5,728-acre impoundment fed by Anadarche Creek is so good that Jeff Kriet, a professional angler on the Bassmaster Elite Series, Major League Fishing and Bass Pro Tour circuits, once called the water body home. Although Kriet now lives in Florida, southern Oklahoma is where he cut his proverbial fishing teeth. He once owned the official lake record at Murray with a 12.1-pound largemouth caught in April 2010.

Steve Hollensed with smallmouth bass
As Greg Lachar (above) and other clients of Lake Texoma fly fishing guide Steve Hollensed have learned over the years, there’s more to the 89,000-acre lake northwest of Denison than its famed striped bass population. The lake has good numbers of smallmouth bass, some of them quite sizable as this fly caught specimen shows. (Photo courtesy of Steve Hollensed / Flywater Angling Adventures)

"Lake Murray is a lake that I've grown up on," Kriet told me a few years back at an MLF derby. "It is a good lake and has [plenty of] smallmouths and largemouths."

Prior to becoming a bass fishing pro, Kriet once guided anglers at Murray. Over time, he found the fishing to be so good that he once told the late B.A.S.S. fishing writer Tim Tucker that "when I used to guide there I would guarantee 50 fish a day or they wouldn't have to pay me." Many of those 50 would be smallmouths.

While Murray may have the market cornered on smallmouth numbers, nearby Lake Texoma, located an hour northwest of Dallas on the Texas-Oklahoma border, has had the market cornered on big smallies. Take the current Texoma lake records, for instance. On the Texas side of the 89,000-acre reservoir, Jay Fuller owns the Lone Star State record with a 7.06-pound bronzeback bass caught on a jig on Jan. 29, 2006.

There's also a Texas fly-rod record smallmouth bass from Texoma, a 5.21-pounder caught with a Clouser Minnow on May 21, 2002 by Michael Ainsworth.

On the Oklahoma side of the border, the smallmouth-record chase has gone on for years, with many big Texoma catches along the way, though the current state record (8 pounds, 7 ounces) was caught from Lawtonka Lake near Lawton in March 2012 by Ryan Wasser.

The record chase dates back to the 1980s at Texoma, where in September 1989, Denison resident Jeff Smart boated a 6-7 smallmouth to break the record by two ounces. Not surprisingly, the previous record was also caught at Texoma.




Denison resident Carl Gayle then took up the record chase at Texoma, catching not one, but two Sooner State records — in 1989 and then in 1996, the latest a 7-8 smallmouth on a lipless crank bait. Then, in 2005 Aaron Fridrich of Prague, Okla., caught a 7-12 smallmouth while scouting for a tournament to set the new mark.

"I only got one bite the whole day, but the fish hit hard and made it all worthwhile," Fridrich said in the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation news release about the fish. "When it came to the boat I couldn't believe how big it was."

smallmouth bass caught at Lake Texoma
Luke Graham (left) shows off a chunky smallmouth bass that fell to a Chatterbait at Lake Texoma. The threadfin shad filled lake supports a good number of smallmouths, including some that reach bragging size. Debbie Graham (right) shows why Texoma is a good place to chase smallmouth bass, no matter what the weather conditions. (Photos courtesy of Brett Graham)

Smallmouth Successes

"Smallmouth bass are native only to the Ozark and Ouachita rivers and streams in eastern Oklahoma," said Kim Erickson, who was the fisheries chief for ODWC at the time of Fridrich's catch. "This [2005] record is a testament to the success of our smallmouth bass stocking program which uses lake-strain smallmouth bass to establish reproducing populations in lakes having no native smallmouth bass.”

Recommended


While the record chase has cooled down at Texoma, the possibility of catching a big smallmouth has not. Two anglers who specialize in Texoma bronzeback bass are Mike Woody of Denison, and Brett Graham of Pottsboro, both bass-tournamrent anglers and smallmouth specialists.

Lake Texoma smallmouth bass
Denison, Texas, angler Mike Woody (left) is a tournament angler and smallmouth guru on Lake Texoma. He's very adept at catching the big two-state lake's bronzeback bass, including a few behemoths like this one. Along with nearby Lake Murray, Texoma is home to some surprisingly good smallmouth bass fishing on both sides of the Red River dividing line. Pottsboro, Texas, angler Brett Graham (right) shows off a good bronzeback bass. (Photos courtesy of Mike Woody and Brett Graham)

Woody has found success during the cooler months of the year, but he also told me one time that one of his favorite patterns is to head back out onto the lake following a lunch break during the warmer months. That’s when he throws a topwater popper in the early afternoon when the heat is on and the lake is slick calm, a combination that will often call up a smallmouth from the depths.

Graham is a globetrotting angler who catches everything from billfish to bass. He and his wife Debbie frequently catch good-sized smallmouths at Texoma as their social media account photos attest.

While the spawn and cooler months rock for Texoma smallies, catching one is very possible during the summer, according to fly guide Steve Hollensed. He told me that when it comes to summertime smallmouths in the Murray and Texoma area, you want to be away from the bank.

"They are going to be close to deep water at this time of the year, so look for rocks, points and sharp drop-offs," said Hollensed, who once was an award-winning high school biology teacher before walking away from the classroom two decades ago to begin a full-time career as a fly-fishing guide on Texoma.

gaf-hollensedsmb1
Steve Hollensed is an award-winning fly-casting instructor and a fly-only guide on Lake Texoma, annually chasing the Texas/Oklahoma border lake’s striped bass. But after fishing all over North America and in parts of South America, he and his clients like Bill Seals (above) have also learned to love Texoma’s big smallmouth bass as much as anything else that swims and chases a fly on the lake an hour north of Dallas. (Photo courtesy of Steve Hollensed / Flywater Angling Adventures)

In addition to the locations noted above, Hollensed—owner of Flywater Angling Adventures guide service and a three-time finalist for the Orvis Freshwater Guide of the Year award—indicates that other good spots are main-lake humps and rocky points that slope into deep water.

The key to catching them now is to pay attention to what the fish are telling you.

"Smallmouths in reservoirs form really good, repeatable patterns," said Hollensed. "If you find a pattern that is working, it often repeats itself all over the lake. Particularly on points and deep-water humps, if you can find them on such spots in the summer and figure out how to catch them, it can really be repetitive."

Conventional and Fly Patterns

That's not to say smallmouths can't be caught in shallow water during the summer months because they can be. This is especially true with shad-imitating white and chartreuse topwater lures for conventional anglers and similarly hued poppers for fly anglers. If the bite on top isn't there, try shad-colored crankbaits or shad-colored streamer patterns. On dark moonlit nights in the summer, black spinnerbaits can work wonders for conventional anglers while black-and-purple poppers and streamers can catch a big bronzeback for fly anglers.

Given the wolf-pack nature of smallmouths in the summer, it isn't unusual to find smallies grouped up. Because where there is one aggressive smallmouth bass, there likely are more nearby.

"I've found them like that on occasions where they will pop up and school on the surface before going down quickly," said Hollensed, the 2015 Mel Krieger Award recipient as the nation’s top fly casting instructor. "When they do so, they feed aggressively and when you throw a white-and-chartreuse popper into the boiling water, it's about as fun as it gets on the fly rod."

Stream-Born Smallies

While Murray and Texoma represent some of the region's best smallmouth waters, more solid fishing also awaits anglers who head over to the Blue River near Tishomingo. These stream-born smallies aren’t as plentiful as their nearby reservoir cousins, nor do they get as big, but they give southern Oklahoma anglers another possibility for smallmouth fishing before school is in session again.

The bottom line here is that Texoma and Murray offer plenty of great smallmouth fishing in the Red River Valley, an area often considered largemouth country. But it’s smallmouth territory too, and while the summertime heat can be disagreeable there’s no better way to break a sweat than with a hard-fighting smallie at the end of your line.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Thomas and Taylor head to the UP of Michigan on their annual traveling turkey hunt, and the first morning was nothing sh...
Videos

What to Know Before Going Off-Road

Thomas and Taylor head to the UP of Michigan on their annual traveling turkey hunt, and the first morning was nothing sh...
Learn

Off-Road Safety Tips and Techniques

Thomas and Taylor head to the UP of Michigan on their annual traveling turkey hunt, and the first morning was nothing sh...
Gear

The Right Tires for Off-Roading

Thomas and Taylor head to the UP of Michigan on their annual traveling turkey hunt, and the first morning was nothing sh...
Learn

Bass Crash Course: Shallow-Water Power Lures

Thomas and Taylor head to the UP of Michigan on their annual traveling turkey hunt, and the first morning was nothing sh...
Destinations

Minnesota Double Down: First Visit to New Farm Goes Perfectly

Thomas and Taylor head to the UP of Michigan on their annual traveling turkey hunt, and the first morning was nothing sh...
Fishing

Bass Crash Course: Bass Fishing in the Wind

Thomas and Taylor head to the UP of Michigan on their annual traveling turkey hunt, and the first morning was nothing sh...
Hunting

She Kills The Biggest Bird of the Year

Thomas and Taylor head to the UP of Michigan on their annual traveling turkey hunt, and the first morning was nothing sh...
Fishing

Bass Crash Course: Unlock the Patterns Squarebill Crankbaits

Thomas and Taylor head to the UP of Michigan on their annual traveling turkey hunt, and the first morning was nothing sh...
Learn

Tips for Cooking Over an Open Fire

Thomas and Taylor head to the UP of Michigan on their annual traveling turkey hunt, and the first morning was nothing sh...
Videos

How to Build the Perfect Campfire

Thomas and Taylor head to the UP of Michigan on their annual traveling turkey hunt, and the first morning was nothing sh...
Hunting

First Morning: Father/Son Iowa Turkey Double

Thomas and Taylor head to the UP of Michigan on their annual traveling turkey hunt, and the first morning was nothing sh...
Destinations

Shot the Same Bird! UP of Michigan Double Down

Game & Fish Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Game & Fish stories delivered right to your inbox every week.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now