Texas' Best Bass Fishing
In a state known for its outstanding bass fishing, it's
hard to key on the very best spots . . . but we're willing to try!
By C.C. Risenhoover
Folks from outside the Lone Star State are always surprised to learn that Texas has 4,959 square miles of inland water, ranking it first in the 48 contiguous states.
Just so you were wondering about the states trailing Texas, Minnesota is second with 4,780 square miles of inland water; Florida is third with 4,683 square miles; and Louisiana is fourth with 4,153 square miles.
There are about 6,736 reservoirs in Texas with a normal storage capacity of 10 acre-feet or larger.
So is it any wonder that Texas is one of the best, if not the best, bass-fishing states in the country? Bass, as you know, are dependent on water - and this remarkable state supports that dependency quite well. What's more, a majority of the state's water is fertile - meaning there's plenty of baitfish, crawfish, little snakes (and more) to tickle a bass' palate.
While all of the aforementioned puts a smile on the face of an angler, you're tickling the ire of many Texans when you put a "best" title on some lakes and leave their favorite(s) off the list. Nevertheless, here are this angler's choices for "best" lakes throughout the state, along with this warning: Lynching is against the law.
To give you an idea of what we're dealing with here, Texas has a land and water area of 267,277 square miles, which means it occupies about 7 percent of the total land and water area of the United States. The longest straight-line distance in a general north-south direction is 801 miles, and it is 773 miles in an east-west direction. If you're wondering what this has to do with bass fishing ... absolutely nothing. But it gives you an idea of the vast area to be covered in selecting Texas' Best Bass Lakes.
GOING ALPHABETICAL Rather than trying to rank Texas' best bass lakes in order of importance, it's probably best to go alphabetical and geographical. From a geographical standpoint, the state can be broken down into 10 areas: (1.) Pineywoods, (2.) Gulf Prairies and Marshes, (3.) Post Oak Belt, (4.) Blackland Prairies, (5.) Cross Timbers and Prairies, (6.) South Texas Plains, (7.) Edwards Plateau, (8.) Rolling Plains, (9.) High Plains, and (10.) Trans-Pecos Mountains and Basins. These are pretty self-descriptive in terms of the type of terrain where a lake is located.
The telephone numbers of chambers of commerce near the lakes mentioned are also included, because these are people who want you to visit their areas. They know you will leave some cash.
So here's how one fisherman sees it, with apologies to anglers if their favorite lake didn't make the cut.
AMISTAD Amistad is a 64,900-surface-acre reservoir fed by the Rio Grande River, which divides Texas and Mexico. It's about 12 miles northwest of Del Rio, located at the northwestern tip of what is known as the South Texas Plains, and at the southwestern tip of the Edwards Plateau.
Amistad is an excellent topwater lake in spring and fall, but in the early part of the year, anglers often have to deal with strong winds. Fortunately, there are many coves that provide some protection, but there's also lots of open water that can be especially dangerous for smaller boats.
The Rio Grande is a fertile stream and helps provide an abundance of baitfish and other edibles for bass. Knowledgeable anglers can easily read the terrain and discover areas most likely to hold bass. However, an always-good bet is to run crankbaits through submerged mesquite and vegetation, and to work points with plastic worms. For more information, contact the Del Rio Chamber of Commerce, (830) 775-3551.
CADDO Switching from Amistad to Caddo Lake is quite a culture shock. You are suddenly transported from desert-type terrain to the Pineywoods area, near Marshall and the Louisiana border. This area of some 16 million acres ranges from about 50 to 700 feet above sea level in elevation, and receives 40 to 56 inches of rainfall annually. Many creeks, rivers and bayous drain the region.
Caddo was originally a natural lake whose surface and capacity were increased to 26,800 acres by construction of a dam on Cypress Creek near Mooringsport, La. It is a maze of cypress trees, Spanish moss, lily pads and other types of vegetation. It's full of bass, but catching one 7 pounds or better is a rarity.
The lake is a great place for catching numbers of bass. The tranquil setting and always-deep shadows make it a year-round topwater lake, although the action is hotter is spring and fall. A spinnerbait is also good year 'round. Best hot weather bet is a plastic worm and winter calls for a jig-and-pig. You can fish a crank in the channels, but the bases of cypress trees seem to always hold fish.
For more information, contact the Greater Marshall Chamber of Commerce, (903) 935-7868.
CHOKE CANYON With San Antonio and Corpus Christi anglers, the popularity of 25,733-surface-acre Choke Canyon Reservoir on the Frio River has never waned. Located near Three Rivers and west of Beeville, the reservoir offers practically everything that makes a lake exciting - a quantity of good, solid bass and plenty of bait to support their growth. Cover is adequate and terrain ideal for working points, coves and other features.
Topwater fishing is OK in spring and fall, but cranks, spinnerbaits and plastic worms will more readily fill an angler's livewell. For more information, contact Three Rivers Chamber of Commerce, (512) 786-4330.
COOPER (JIM CHAPMAN) Hot, hot, hot is the best way to describe this 19,280-surface-acre reservoir northeast of Dallas. It does not matter what day you choose to fish Cooper; you will have company. But this lake, like many in the eastern part of the state, can handle crowds - and it's loaded with quality bass.
There's lots of cover, so go with topwaters and spinnerbaits in early spring. It's also an excellent lake for fishing the jig-and-pig, plastic lizards and buzzbaits. For more information, contact the Cooper Chamber of Commerce, (903) 395-4314.
FALCON Falcon has for years been one of Texas' best bass lakes, but its location (the western side of the southern tip of the state) and an abundance of bass reservoirs near large population centers has resulted in less fishing pressure on this Rio Grande River impoundment. The result has been a steadily increasing bass population, though water fluctuation can be irritating to anglers and cause bass to be finicky. Wind can also be a problem.
Still, this is a great hole of water for quantity and quality - many solid 2- and 3-pound fish that will smash topwater lures in spring and fall, and stretch the lines of anglers using plastic worms and cranks.
Like the newer Texas/Mexico border lake upriver, Amistad, the 78,300-surface-acre reservoir suffers from lack of proper management by Mexican authorities. For more information, contact the Zapata Chamber of Commerce, (956) 765-4871.
FORK This is simply the best lake in Texas for big bass. Lake Fork has produced most of our state-record bass simply because the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department did a beautiful job of management before the reservoir was ever inundated. Throughout the area that would be covered by water when the dam's gates were closed, big Florida brood bass were placed in small lakes and ponds. The result was that the lake started producing state-record fish almost immediately.
At various times of the year, practically any lure will work in this 27,690-surface-acre body of water, but diligence to detail and hard fishing is often required to catch bass weighing more than 10 pounds. Many lunkers are taken at night after the waters quiet from all the boat activity.
Because this lake is only a couple of hours' drive east of Dallas, it gets lots of fishing pressure. Its reputation also draws anglers from throughout the nation. For more information, contact the Greater Quitman Chamber of Commerce, (903) 763-4411.
HUBBARD CREEK All but forgotten by most Fort Worth anglers, 15,250-surface-acre Hubbard Creek reservoir near Breckenridge in Northcentral Texas is an excellent bass hole - particularly in early spring and fall. Directly west of Fort Worth (where the West begins), Hubbard Creek is considered a West Texas reservoir.
Geography aside, a jig-and-pig is very good there early in the year, along with spinnerbaits, worked through submerged brush and trees. For more information, contact the Breckenridge Chamber of Commerce, (940) 559-2301.
KEMP Lake Kemp, a 16,540-surface-acre lake near Seymour, attracts little attention except from anglers in the Wichita Falls area, including parts of Oklahoma. Southwest of Wichita Falls and north of Seymour, the reservoir is fed by the Wichita River and is typical of lakes in the state's Interior Lowlands and Rolling Plains.
It lacks the type of cover and vegetation that makes the state's eastern waters so appealing and productive, but abundant bait and good spawns make it a first-class reservoir for catching quantities of bass. You might have a problem hooking a bass of more than 7 pounds, but bass in the 2-pound range are plentiful.
Watch the wind and use the terrain to locate points that yield fish. For more information, contact the Seymour Chamber of Commerce, (940) 888-2921.
LAKE O' THE PINES An oldie but goodie bass hotspot, Lake O' The Pines is still yielding good catches of quality fish, especially in spring and fall. The good news is that because of all the "newer" bass lakes in East Texas, it doesn't get the pressure it once did.
There's ample vegetation for good spawns and the protection of bait to help fish grow. A lot of people still use crawfish to fill a stringer, but throwing topwaters, buzzbaits and spinnerbaits around submerged timber and vegetation can get your string stretched.
The lake is located in northeast Texas, not far from Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma. For more info, contact the Daingerfield Chamber of Commerce, (903) 645-2646.
LIVINGSTON When an angler thinks about Lake Livingston, it's difficult not to think about "The Jungle" and buzzbaits. The Jungle is an area of the lake that is hard to negotiate because of fallen timber and vegetation, but it's loaded with good bass. With buzzbaits or floating worms are about the only ways to fish the area.
Because this 90,000-surface-acre lake is in the southeastern part of the state and close to Houston, it has always known fishing pressure. However, because of its size and cover, it has handled that pressure quite well.
For sheer numbers of bass, this can be one of the most productive bodies of water in the state. For more information, call the Polk County Chamber of Commerce, (409) 327-4929.
MEREDITH Out Amarillo way, in the northernmost part of the state, near Borger is one of the state's premier bass lakes. Lake Meredith, all 16,505 surface-acres, does not get any serious fishing pressure from Texas' major metropolitan areas. It only takes a look at a map to dissuade most big city anglers from making such a trek. However, Meredith is a fine bass lake, especially for smallmouth bass.
Best bet for catching smallmouth bass are grubs and small cranks worked off gravel points. If you visit, be careful of high winds - and watch for rattlesnakes! For more information, contact the Borger Chamber of Commerce, (806) 274-2211.
O.H. IVIE Talk about rave reviews - O.H. Ivie is getting its share! Near Paint Rock, east of San Angelo, south of Abilene and southwest of Fort Worth, this 19,200-surface-acre reservoir is producing both quality and quantities of good fish.
With a limestone base and rocky terrain that grows mesquite, small oaks, cedar and cactus, the lake has more than adequate cover and is fed by several creeks. Because of the many productive lakes in the eastern part of our state, few D/FW Metroplex anglers drive west to fish, but O.H. Ivie is winning its share of converts from the area.
Surface lures work well early and late in the spring and fall, but during the rest of the day work cranks and worms off points, and spinnerbaits in submerged trees and vegetation.
For more information, contact the San Angelo Chamber of Commerce, (915) 655-4136
PALESTINE This 25,500-surface-acre lake has ample productive water, thanks to the Neches River and a number of creeks that feed it. The reservoir has fallen and standing timber and plenty of aquatic vegetation. Bait is plentiful and so are good, solid bass.
Lunkers here are in the 7- to 10-pound class, but not that easy to catch. You will, however, be able to put together an excellent stringer in the spring with plastic worms or lizards and with surface, buzz-, spinner- and crankbaits.
A good approach is to work the edges of the river and creek channels. If the wind forces you off the lake, and you have a small boat, the river below the dam offers excellent fishing. For more information, contact the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, (903) 586-2217.
RAY ROBERTS Ray Roberts is just outside Dallas' north door, and it's loaded with big bass. It's certainly ready for prime time, and capable of challenging Lake Fork for a state-record bass.
The big 'uns that occupy this 29,350-surface-acre reservoir have plenty of cover, deep water and natural bait to nibble on. Fed by the Elm Fork of the Trinity River and some good creeks, Ray Roberts has the type of structure you would want if you were building a lake specifically for bass fishing.
That doesn't mean fishing there is easy. You can have a fishing day that most people only dream about, or you can get skunked. But this is a place to "think big" instead of about numbers, though if it's numbers of fish you want, they're here. For more information, contact the Pilot Point Chamber of Commerce, (940) 686-5385.
RICHLAND-CHAMBERS Choosing Richland-Chambers as one of the state's best bass lakes is an "iffy" choice because it's not a personal favorite, but it is at Dallas' south door along I-45, and is home to lots of bass. The 44,000-surface-acre reservoir also has lots of open water, which looks dead to an angler used to the heavy cover of East Texas lakes.
The key is to go up the arms of the lake fed by Richland and Chambers creeks, which is where you will find most of the cover. Anglers adept at fishing open water can work the humps, points and creek channels - primarily with plastics and cranks.
This lake lends itself to quantity bass fishing. You can catch a few big ones here, but it's no Cooper, Fork or Ray Roberts. For more information, contact the Corsicana Area Chamber of Commerce, (903) 874-4731.
SAM RAYBURN Surely no one would argue about Sam Rayburn being on the list of Texas' Best Bass Lakes. This 114,500-surface-acre lake has been one of the state's best for a long, long time. Located in deep East Texas, the sheer size of this reservoir fed by the Angelina River and numerous creeks and bayous, makes it a favorite of anglers statewide.
The lake has wonderful arms - fed by creeks - that are loaded with standing and fallen timber, brush and vegetation. Big Sam has unbelievable structure for bass, ample natural bait and . . . well, frankly, everything you would want in a bass lake.
Depending on the structure you choose, practically any artificial bait you use can be effective. Because of its proximity to major population centers in southeast Texas, it gets a lot of pressure on weekends - but the lake's size accommodates a crowd, and if you can hit it on a weekday, it can be downright serene.
For more information, contact the Jasper Chamber of Commerce, (409) 384-2762.
SOMERVILLE There's going to be some flak on choosing Somerville as one of the best, but this 11,400-surface-acre lake has been good to anglers who know how to fish it. Located northwest of Houston and Brenham, it used to attract much more attention, but Houston-area anglers are now more likely to head to Conroe, Livingston, Sam Rayburn or Toledo Bend.
The lake offers some cover in the form of fallen timber and brush, but ridges, cuts and channels in open water offer the best chances for taking fish. It's a wonderful lake for 3- to 5-pound fish, most of which are taken on plastic worms. For more information, contact the Somerville Chamber of Commerce, (409) 596-2383.
TAWAKONI Most bass anglers will pass over 36,700-surface-acre Tawakoni in search of waters that offer bigger and larger quantities of bass, but this is still a good lake. Located east of Quinlan and west of Emory, the lake has been an excellent producer of bass for many years.
Again, this is not the type of lake where you are likely to catch a monster bass, but a good day's fishing can produce excellent results off points and mossbeds. Surface lures work great in spring and fall, and the plastic worm is practically always good.
For more information, contact the Quinlan Area Chamber of Commerce (903) 356-4703
TOLEDO BEND When it comes to the best bass lake in Texas, how can anybody quibble with the selection of Toledo Bend? Of course, part of this 185,000-surface-acre reservoir is in Louisiana.
Talk about cover, this body of water has every conceivable type. Fed by the Sabine River and many creeks on both the Texas and Louisiana side of the lake, these waters are a virtual paradise for bass.
Schools of quality bass ravage shad along the rivers and creek channels, and there's no lack of standing and fallen timber, brush and aquatic vegetation. Depending on structure and time of year, practically every artificial works here. For information, call the San Augustine Chamber of Commerce, (409) 275-3610.
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