Texas is a huge state blessed with some of the very best bass fishing lakes in the universe. It's no wonder that casual and professional anglers alike, from across Texas and beyond, sometimes label the Lone Star State as "Bass Fishing Central." When it comes to quality and quantity, you'd be hard pressed to find another state that compares to Texas in terms of what the state has to offer bass anglers.
Perhaps BASS Elite Series pro Bobby Lane summarized it best last April after spending the better part of the month involved in a series of bass fishing slugfests that sent him packing to his home state of Florida figuratively battered and bruised. The "beating" he took came from battling thick-shouldered largemouths on three of the state's powerhouse lunker lakes -- Falcon, Amistad and Fork
"You'll definitely have it going on in Texas from a fisheries management standpoint," Lane said. "The fishing there is outstanding -- some of the best in the country. I have to tell you, I was pretty glad to get out of Texas and get back to reality!"
Indeed, Texas bass fishing ranks second to none. Having soaked my baits in some of the best lakes in Texas and all across Mexico, I can attest to the fact that this place can ruin a man.
What follows is a rundown of some of the state's top-ranked bass fisheries by region, along with descriptions of what you can expect to find if you decide to make a visit this spring.
EAST TEXASSam Rayburnâ€¢
Lake Record: 16.80 poundsâ€¢
Lake Description: A massive body of water with some 560 miles of shoreline that consumes real estate in five different counties, this lake is fed by countless creeks and two major river systems, the Angelina and the Attoyac, both of which enter at the lake's northern reaches.
Though much of the standing timber has decayed since the lake was impounded in 1965, boaters still need to be cautious of stumps and other underwater obstructions, especially during periods of low water.
Fallen timber and manmade brushpiles provide bass with all sorts of underwater hangouts, but hydrilla beds, lily pads, pepper grass, shoreline willows and buckbrush are the most abundant forms of cover.
â€¢ Springtime Fishing Tips: March and April are considered peak spawning times on Sam Rayburn from the midlake area south to the dam. If you're planning a trip there over the next 60 days or so, think shallow -- 8 feet deep or less.
Lipless crankbaits that are red crawfish in color have a rich springtime history at Sam Rayburn. Rattling baits typically work best when retrieved over submerged grassbeds situated on flats, points, ridges or humps near creek channel breaks. Spinnerbaits, chatterbaits, swimbaits, Senkos and jerkbaits can work equally well in these areas at times. Another good pattern is dragging a Carolina rig along inside grasslines when the water level is right.
Texas-rigged creature baits, lizards and jigs pitched around shoreline bushes will come into play if the water level is near full pool or above. Often, the better bushes are found in about 3 feet of water on isolated points or situated in close to creeks or drains. In periods of extremely high water, the fish can move so far back into the brush that getting to them can be difficult, if not impossible.
â€¢ Guides: Stephen Johnston, (409) 579-4213; Tommy Martin, (409) 625-4792; and Mike Wheatley, (409) 489-1816.
Lake Record: 15.32 poundsâ€¢
â€¢ Lake Description: Toledo Bend is even larger than nearby Sam Rayburn. A Texas-Louisiana border impoundment, the lake is 65 miles long and has more than 1,200 miles of shoreline. T-Bend is nurtured by hundreds of creeks and tributaries, as well as the Sabine River, which draws an imaginary line between Texas and Louisiana.
Boaters unfamiliar with the lake should use good judgment when running, taking care to stay within the marked boat lanes to avoid collisions with stumps and other obstructions. It'd also be wise to watch the weather and the wind, as T-Bend can be a treacherous place when foul weather strikes unexpectedly.
â€¢ Springtime Fishing Tips: T-Bend fishes a lot like Sam Rayburn. The spawn gets under way on the shallower north end during late January and February and then progresses southward in March, April and May. The midlake area south to the dam will be a hotbed for spawning bass during the next three months.
Anglers can catch fish on a variety of lures by targeting water ranging from 1 to 8 feet deep in any number of large bay systems or creeks on the Texas or Louisiana side. Lipless crankbaits, spinnerbaits, square-billed crankbaits, wacky worms, jerkbaits and Senkos are always deadly tools around Toledo Bend's lush hydrilla beds during the spring months. Flipping and pitching plastics, tubes and jigs around flooded willows and buckbrush also can produce good results when the water level is right.
â€¢ Guides: Tommy Martin, (409) 625-4792, and Stephen Johnston, (409) 579-4213.
â€¢ Other Good Picks: Lake O' The Pines, Pinkston, Nacogdoches and Conroe.
PRAIRIES AND LAKES
â€¢ Lake Record: 18.18 pounds
â€¢ Surface-Acres: 27,000
â€¢ Lake Description: About 90 miles east of Dallas, Lake Fork was built in the early 1980s along a major tributary of the Sabine River -- Lake Fork Creek. It has since become the major player in rewriting Texas bass fishing history in that it has produced two state records, 35 of Texas' top 50, and 239 entries for the popular Budweiser ShareLunker program.
The lake is fed by several other major and secondary creeks. Its history as an impoundment known for its constant level could be in jeopardy during dry years because of a new pipeline that will pump water to the city of Dallas. Since most of the timber was left intact during construction, anglers are reminded to adhere strictly to the buoy-marked boat lanes when motoring.
â€¢ Springtime Fishing Tips: March and April are the bewitching months for Lake Fork lunkers. The fish move shallow to spawn, which naturally makes them more accessible to fishermen.
In early March, it'll be a good bet to use jigs, Senkos, big spinnerbaits, swimbaits and suspending jerkbaits and to concentrate on creeks and ditches leading to spawning flats. Ripping red lipless crankbaits across submerged grassbeds in 4 to 8 feet of water also can be productive.
Once the spawn kicks in, the fish will set up camp in warm backwaters around stumps, laydowns, boat docks, weedbeds and other available cover. Pockets along the northwest shoreline will usually warm the quickest because they are protected from brisk north winds. Good baits to have handy are Senkos, Texas-rigged lizards, wacky worms and spinnerbaits.
â€¢ Guides: Gary Paris, (903) 763-2801; Brooks Rogers, (903) 780-0680; Lance Vick, (903) 312-0609; Randy Oldfield, 1-800-894-0385; and Mark Stevenson, (903) 765-3120.
â€¢ Other Good Picks: Joe Pool, Athens, Purtis Creek, Grapevine, Ray Roberts, Pat Mayse and Palestine.
â€¢ Lake Record: 15.12 pounds
â€¢ Surface-Acres: 84,000
â€¢ Lake Description: Constructed in 1954, this is one of the state's oldest impoundments. But you'd never know to look at its recent track record. Last spring, the Rio Grande River impoundment produced a new four-day weight record on the BASS Elite Series tour (20 bass, 132.8 pounds) and nearly a dozen other sacks over 100 pounds in the same tournament. Some pros subsequently proclaimed it the best bass lake in the world.
Lying right on the Texas-Mexico border, Falcon is prone to rapid fluctuations in water level, largely because of water demands for irrigating crops in Mexico. Bass populations flourish during years of high water because of the abundance of brush and other vegetation that sprouts during extended periods of low water. The fishery is currently riding a habitat high, and the lake's kicking out gobs of thick-shouldered bass in excess of 8 pounds because of it. A Mexico fishing license and a boat permit are required.
â€¢ Springtime Fishing Tips: Falcon is far enough south that water temperatures seldom dip below 50 degrees. Most fish will spawn in January and February. Keeping things interesting for shallow-water crowds, plenty of post-spawners should be staging at midrange depths during March and April.
Flipping with creature baits in heavy cover such as mesquites and willows is a great way to get your string stretched this time of year. Spinnerbaits, swimbaits, Texas-rigged 10-inch worms and Senkos also will produce plenty of solid fish.
Anglers should understand that inferior tackle has no place on Falcon -- the use of heavy-action rods and braided line is advised.
â€¢ Guides: Charlie Haralson, (956) 744-6235, and Speedy Collett, (956) 849-5305.
â€¢ Lake Record: 14.66 pounds
â€¢ Surface-Acres: 26,000
â€¢ Lake Description: Built on the Frio River near the town of Three Rivers, Choke Canyon serves as the water supply for Corpus Christi. The lake has been through good times and bad times over the years as a result of fluctuating water levels, but it's currently in the middle of a multiyear hot streak dating back to 2002, when the lake refilled after a decade of low water. Five-fish sacks weighing in excess of 30 pounds are frequently brought to tournament weigh-ins at this time of year.
"Choke" is loaded with gobs of premium habitat composed of hydrilla, mesquite and huisache, and acres of timber left standing when the lake was constructed in the early 1980s.
â€¢ Springtime Fishing Tips: Timing of the spawn can vary from one year to the next, depending on the severity of the winter. In mild winters, bass have been known to go onto beds as early as December and January. The fish will spawn into March and April on the tail of a cold winter.
Regardless, it's hard to go wrong fishing around hydrilla beds and flooded brush on shallow flats ranging between 3 and 8 feet deep. Texas-rigged plastics, crankbaits and spinnerbaits produce lots of big bass annually. If conditions are right, bass will eat a buzz frog or a topwater. Deep-diving crankbaits and Carolina rigs can be killer once the fish begin bunching on main-lake points, pond dams and humps after the spawn.
â€¢ Guides: Jerry Dunn, (361) 449-7647.
â€¢ Lake Record: 15.68 pounds
â€¢ Surface-Acres: 65,000
â€¢ Lake Description: Like Falcon, Amistad is a Texas-Mexico border lake that can fluctuate dramatically depending on water and irrigation demands downstream and the amount of inflow from the Rio Grande, Pecos and Devils rivers. Heavy rains and flooding in West Texas and Mexico last August and September brought the lake to full capacity for the first time in years.
A deep canyon lake with gin-clear water, Amistad is surrounded by rugged foothills and steep cliffs that combine to make it one of the most scenic impoundments in the South. The rocky shallows and shorelines are cluttered with mesquite, huisache and other terrestrial vegetation, while hydrilla beds have been found as deep as 30 feet. A Mexico fishing license and a boat permit are required.
â€¢ Springtime Fishing Tips: Substantial numbers of bass should be occupying spawning beds in skinny water during March and April, but all the newly flooded greenery could make them difficult to get to in some areas. Texas-rigged Senkos and lizards worked on flats and rocky points are hard to beat for numbers of fish, but the better-quality bass usually come off submerged bushes, rock bluffs, underwater points and humps using plastics, swimbaits, drop-shots, football jigs and jerkbaits that dive deep and suspend.
â€¢ Guides: Ray Hanselman, (830) 774-1857, and Travis Darley, (830) 703-0414.
â€¢ Lake Record: 14.35 pounds
â€¢ Surface-Acres: 1,600
â€¢ Lake Description: Impounded in 1939, Lake Austin is an oldie but goodie. Long and narrow, the lake is fed by the Colorado River and lies within the city limits of Austin. The reservoir is heavily developed, with all sorts of private homes, parks and businesses at lakeside.
The lake contains an abundance of aquatic vegetation that has allowed Florida bass populations to flourish during the last decade. Five-fish bags topping the 20-pound mark have become fairly common, especially during the spring months.
â€¢ Springtime Fishing Tips: Spawning activity can begin as early as February and typically runs through April, depending on the frequency and severity of early-spring cold fronts. For best results, key on shoreline grassbeds in major and secondary creeks, boat docks and marina structures using assorted plastics, spinnerbaits, jerkbaits, crankbaits and jigs. Clear water here offers some outstanding opportunities for sight-fishermen when the timing's right.
â€¢ Guides: Mike Hastings, (512) 773-7401
â€¢ Other Good Picks: Fayette County, Bastrop and Travis.
â€¢ Lake Record: 15 pounds
â€¢ Surface-Acres: 2,900
â€¢ Lake Description: Lake Alan Henry may be small, but don't be fooled by its size: When it comes to producing double-digit bass, the Garza County reservoir has proved that it can hang with the heaviest hitters in the state.
Roughly 45 miles south of Lubbock on the Double Mountain Fork of the Brazos River, Alan Henry is the only Texas lake ever to produce more Budweiser ShareLunker entries in a single season than Lake Fork. A deep, clear canyon reservoir, Alan Henry is long and narrow with steep banks and long rocky points. It lies east to west and is fed by a number of secondary feeder creeks that offer the fish prime habitat in the form of flooded timber and brush. The lake sees a tremendous amount of bass fishing pressure, especially during the spring months when the big ones move shallow to spawn.
â€¢ Springtime Fishing Tips: The lake's geographic location causes its temperature to warm more slowly than that of lakes in other parts of the state. Most spawning activity occurs during April, although spawning can drag out through May on the heels of an extremely chilly winter. A high percentage of the bigger bass will spawn in water as deep as 10 to 12 feet, primarily on underwater ledges or flats that jut out from deeper water. Sight-fishing with the large craw worms, lizards and tubes can be highly effective when water clarity allows for it. Crankbaits, jigs and spinnerbaits also have a history of producing large fish.
â€¢ Guides: Mac McConnell, (806) 773-2389, and Norman Clayton, (806) 792-9220.
â€¢ Other Good Picks: Meredith (for smallmouths), Baylor, Clyde, Coleman, Arrowhead, Brownwood and Nasworthy.
Yes, for bass fishing that will ruin a man, no matter where he's from, Texas is the place to be. Try one or more of the waters listed here -- and get a taste of ruination for yourself!