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Texas' 'Secret' Bass Lake
Lake Alan Henry may be one of the Lone Star State's hottest bass lakes right now ... but don't let the secret out.
By David Redwine
There's a particular place in a particular state in a particular county on a particular river that definitely is not known far and wide by most bass anglers - other than those who live in that part of Texas.
That place, called Lake Alan Henry is off U.S. Highway 84 16 miles southeast of Post, where you can fill your gas tank, get a good night's rest, have a hot breakfast and perhaps a big ice cream cone.
How do I know that?
Because I've fished for largemouth bass there. No, not from the pier, either.
Hey - don't laugh. It's a great spot with loads of quality food - for bass. (I haven't tried the ice cream cones.)
Just ask Baldomero "Baldo" Singleterry of Lubbock. While pier fishing early in the morning of Oct. 19, 2003, he landed a 13.14-pound largemouth bass right beside the boat dock - and, incidentally, right under the noses of dozens of Permian Basin Bass Club members who were launching their boats for a weekend bass tournament there. Talk about starting a tournament day with an adrenalin rush!
But let me back up.
Lake Alan Henry. The name conjures images of perhaps a cousin of the fabled "steel-drivin' man" John, hanging out in the wild country around the South Fork of the Double Mountain Fork of the Brazos River, where the John Montford Dam was completed in 1993. Actually, the lake is named to honor a former mayor of Lubbock who was instrumental in developing water supplementation for the city.
Bassin' is going full blast at Alan Henry - but local folks want to keep quiet about it. And frankly, I can't say that I blame 'em. At 10 years of age, the lake should be prime for some great bass fishing. It's old enough to hold some lunkers, yet young enough to have plenty of decent-sized fish to keep an angler busy catching them. Sounds like the bass lakes of old!
Well, that's close. But real life doesn't always match up to the travel brochures. Granted, most of Alan Henry's 2,888 surface-acres remain serene and lonely during weekdays - but when weekends roll around, the lone boat ramp and boat dock can, at times, resemble Dallas during a Monday-morning rush hour.
Fishermen - bass fishermen especially - seem susceptible to Alan Henry's mystique. Maybe it's the names: Ince Cove, Grape Creek, Little Grape Creek, Rocky Creek, Red Branch, and Sandy Creek. And, of course, there's Gobbler Creek. The names are like a siren's call.
The lake extends a length of 11 miles and has approximately 56 miles of shoreline. Rocky, brush-lined structure, most with steep 45-degree banks, accounts for almost all the shoreline of this very narrow, but beautiful, clear-water lake. Flooded timber (cedar and mesquite) and scattered aquatic duckweed in coves make for ample cover for largemouth bass, the fish of choice for most anglers, although hard-fighting spotted bass do fill a niche in the lake.
The trouble is that this lake tucked in the southeastern corner of Garza County and bleeding into western Kent County is a fairly long drive from almost everywhere. Extended stays can be pricey, too. Most fishermen I talked with consider the $24.00-per-day fee for two anglers and their boat to fish the lake a bit "overboard."
Many fishermen do have budgets to which they should adhere (although you can't always tell by the way we set down cash and plastic for the latest technology in rods, reels, lures, lines - well ... you get the point). Even so, with a chance to boat a largemouth matching Singleterry's lunker, or perhaps exceeding Steve Campbell's 27.5-inch 14.94-pound lake record caught on April 2, 2000, it could be money well spent.
During mid-October of 2003, I joined avid bass fishermen Jerry Green, who lives on the lake with his family, and Randy Caddell, of Andrews, for a prime-time Alan Henry bass tournament sponsored by the Permian Basin Bass Club of Midland. My idea was to accompany skilled bass fishermen in hot pursuit of the coveted Micropterus salmoides, and perhaps witness, up close and personal, the thrill of catching a trophy largemouth. However, the weather forecast called for a cold front, so my hosts weren't overly optimistic.
"October has always been one of my favorite times to fish," Green volunteered while munching on a breakfast burrito at Grubbs Bait and Grill store near the entrance to the Sam Wahl Recreation Area. "But with this cold front moving in, the bite is really going to be tough."
Randy proposed that I should fish with Jerry, who's considered a favorite on Alan Henry, and the local guru for catching bass at this lake.
Jerry observed that much of the water we would be fishing was on the west side of the lake, away from the dam. It consists mostly of submerged cedar in tapering coves, interspersed with mesquite, which (assuming suitable barometric pressure) was likely to serve up some really large bass.
"It's terrific habitat, really," he said. "That's the area of the lake where I've caught most of my really big bass. There are for certain some nice fish there."
Jerry's enthusiasm as he raved about our destination proved contagious, so I settled into the bucket seat for a perfect sunrise ride toward Rocky Creek. Even in the hazy pre-dawn, a glance around as we settled into a tight cove confirmed that this indeed appeared to be prime territory.
Excitement was apparent as Jerry quickly had his topwater Sammy exploring the still, dark waters of the brush-filled cove. But concern set in when only a single "dink" (anglers' jargon for bass under 18 inches) was in the livewell after 10 minutes of hard fishing. Green threw his Nichols 1/4-ounce white spinnerbait almost exclusively for the next hour, only to land several smaller fish, none of which exceeded the dimensions of the one already in the boat.
This prompted a quick move up Gobbler Creek and into an area where Jerry showed me the very bush where he'd caught a 10-pound bass the previous week. Switching to flippin' a green lizard tied to 65-pound-test line, Jerry dropped it into a submerged mesquite. This finally prompted a hard strike - and he yanked yet another dink into the boat.
Two more hours of working virtually every inch of underwater timber and promising-looking rocky enclaves, and using every technique from aggressive to finesse presentations, yielded no results. It had become painfully obvious to us that Mother Nature's timing on the cold front and the accompanying drop in barometric pressure were going to spoil our best intentions.
Making our way back to the boat dock, we stopped and visited with other contenders in the Permian Basin Bass Classic and discovered none had found the answer to getting Alan Henry to give up its bounty.
As we glided into one of the boat docks to wait our turn to exit the lake, we noticed a huddle of excited activity along the fishing pier. Curious about the commotion, we approached the group to find Baldo Singleterry showing off a 13-pound-plus largemouth bass that he'd caught earlier that morning.
According to Singleterry, he was standing on the walkway leading to the fishing pier when he hooked the monster. Baldo nervously described how he was dragging a Texas-rigged 7-inch Tequila Shad worm through the cattails next to the boat dock when the big bass gobbled his lure. Since he only had 14-pound-test line on his lightweight rod and reel, it took approximately 10 minutes for him to finally get the fish in hand.
How ironic! We had a number of "expert" bass fishermen out all day and all over the lake in multi-thousand-dollar bass boats, using all manner of state-of-the-art bass temptations, and Baldo caught the prize bass with a Tequila Shad worm not 50 feet from where we unloaded our boats. He was waiting for David Campbell, coordinator of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's ShareLunker program, to arrive and take the fish to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens, where its spawn would be used to stock fingerlings in Texas lakes. (Unfortunately, Singleterry's fish died before Campbell arrived from Athens. He suspects that stress was the cause of death. For details on caring for a bass qualifying for the ShareLunker Program, enter the keywords "Budweiser ShareLunker Program" into your Internet browser. For other info, check out www.lakealanhenry.com.)
As I prepared to get a quick photo of Baldo and his big bass, Jerry chuckled at his success. "I know this spot looks crazy, but now you see what I was talking about," he said.
But he didn't have to convince me anymore. I was a believer.
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