TEXAS IS HOME to a passel of top-notch bass lakes, but names such as Sam Rayburn, Fork, Palestine, Toledo Bend, Amistad and Falcon have a way of grabbing most the attention.
Here are three sleepers you might want to check out this summer:
Fairfield: Lake Fairfield is proof positive that big things do indeed come in small packages. At 2,159 acres, the Freestone County reservoir near Fairfield may be one of best-kept bass fishing secrets east of Interstate 45 right now.
The former Luminant power plant reservoir is super rich in nutrients and chock-full of chunky largemouths, but it hasn’t always been that way. The lake underwent several fish kills between 2003 and 2011 because of low oxygen levels. To hear TPWD fisheries biologist Jake Norman of Tyler tell it, the bass fishery has since made a big-time rebound.
“It’s definitely one worth looking at that isn’t on the radar of a lot of fishermen right now,” he said. “The bass population is phenomenal. We’re hearing about lots of five- to eight-pounders, and our electrofishing surveys show that the numbers and size are increasing every year.
“The habitat is about as good as you could ask for. There are eight-foot walls of hydrilla around the whole and cut grass inside of that. The sunfish and shad are available in abundance. Everything is textbook for the explosion we’re seeing there.”
Lake O’ the Pines: Located 25 miles northeast of Longview, Lake O’ the Pines is what FLW pro Jim Tutt of Longview calls one the best bass lakes on the planet. Built on Big Cypress Creek in the late 1950s, the 19,000-acre reservoir produces like one that is much younger.
“It’s truly incredible,” says Tutt. “It’s full of four- to seven-pounders, and it produces its share of 10s. It’s not just good in the spring, either. It’s good year-round. You just have adapt to the changing patterns.”
Just how good is it? Tutt says it routinely takes 30-plus-pounds on five fish to win local tournaments.
“My nephew and I fished a team tournament there last June, and we finished third with 29 pounds. It takes 30 to win there all the time.”
‘Pines has some grass up north, but the better summer fishing from mid-lake south targets points, humps other main lake structure using Texas rig worms and crankbaits.
“Two gallons of drinking water, sunscreen, a Strike King 6XD, Zoom Ol’ Monster worms and maybe a big shaky head is all you need,” Tutt said.
Waco: Lake Waco isn’t the best little bass lake in the state, but it is one that MeClennan County anglers feel fortunate to have in their back yards.
“It’s hardly a secret with the local anglers, but it is one that a lot of others around the state may not know about,” said John Provine, a TPWD fisheries technician from Waco. “It’s definitely one of the better largemouth bass lakes in our district, and it keeps getting better every year. It’s a stellar crappie lake, as well.”
Provine says Waco doesn’t have much aquatic vegetation to speak of. The primary cover is water willow and pondweed. Waco also has plenty of flooded timber, which can be found in about 40 percent of the lake.
Granbury: Local bass pro Cody Bird of Granbury says 8,300-acre Lake Granbury near Fort Worth is a quiet sleeper well worth putting on the hit list this summer. The lake has hundreds of boat docks, but Bird tends to bank on the current of the Brazos River.
“The docks are all right, but I’m all about the current on Granbury,” Bird said. “You can smoke ’em this time of year when it’s right.”
Bird said he likes to fish the lake’s far upper reaches down to mid-lake. When fishing upriver he will key on still water eddies in water ranging from zero to five feet. His go-to baits are buzz baits and spinnerbaits.
Farther south, he will position on the back sides of points in five to ten feet of water and work the sweet spots with shad pattern crankbaits and Texas-rigged worms.
—story by MATT WILLIAMS