Bassmaster Magazine recently ranked 10 Texas fisheries among the best in America. Two Texas lakes — Sam Rayburn and Lake Fork — landed spots in the Top 5.
The national recognition from one of the world’s most respected bass fishing organizations comes as no surprise.
Texas is a well-known sweet spot for bass anglers around the globe looking for numbers and quality, alike. Dozens of reservoirs have produced fish upwards of 13 pounds. On most lakes, word of a 10-pounder doesn’t even raise eyebrows anymore.
Adding to the appeal of Texas fishing is the diversity of “other bass” finning around out there waiting to be caught. While the largemouth is king in these parts, some Texas water bodies support abundant populations of smallmouth bass, northern spotted bass, Guadalupe bass and Alabama bass.
Pay a visit to the right lake and you might even catch a “meanmouth” or two.
The meanmouth is not designated as a species of black bass. Meanmouth is a slang term used to describe the genetic cross that results when a smallmouth bass and northern spotted bass share the same spawning bed during springtime.
Fisheries’ biologists say hybridization is fairly common among bass and sunfish. It is usually an indication that one species or the other is low in abundance or struggling.
Spotted bass are native to Texas waters and abundant in many. Smallmouth aren’t as widely distributed.
Meanmouth bass have been documented in only two Texas lakes — Lake Ray Roberts and Texoma. Ray Roberts has produced several big ones in recent times, including a trifecta of state records since 2016.
The current record was caught on a stormy day in October 2018 by Cody Morrison, of Pilot Point. It weighed 5.96 pounds, topping the former record of 4.9 pounds reeled in seven months earlier by Adam Pels, also of Pilot Point.
What’s interesting is smallmouths have never been stocked in Ray Roberts. Scientists believe the bronzebacks were illegally introduced to the lake several years ago, possibly by anglers who transported them from nearby Lake Texoma.
Texoma, a Texas/Oklahoma border lake, has abundant populations of smallmouth, largemouth and spotted bass. The recent outbreak of big meanmouths at Ray Roberts is believed to be the result of one spawning event several years ago.
As earlier mentioned, there are several other species of black bass other than largemouth finning around in Texas lakes and rivers. Here’s a little background history on each one, followed by some of the top spots to find them in number:
Guadalupe Bass: The ‘Lupe is special. So special, in fact, it was declared the official state fish of Texas in 1989 by the 71st Texas Legislature.
Native only to the rivers and streams of Central Texas, the Guadalupe thrives in swift running water riddled with rocks, boulders and still water pools. They also can be found in catchable numbers in deep, clear riverine reservoirs across the Edwards Plateau.
Just don’t expect a limit of Guadalupe bass to take you very high in the standings of a bass tournament. Any fish over two pounds is a big one. Anything over three pounds is a giant. The current state record is a 3.71-pounder caught in 2014 by Bryan Townsend.
Townsend caught the fish while fly fishing on the Colorado River between Austin and Bastrop. TPWD fisheries biologist Marcos De Jesus says Guadalupes can be found in waters all around Central Texas. However, he thinks the 25-mile stretch of Colorado where Townsend caught the record is the best for numbers of quality fish because good habitat is abundant and water flows are steady.
Alabama Bass: Alabama bass are native to the Mobile River basin of Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. They were considered as members of the spotted bass family until 2011. That’s when the American Fisheries Society designated them a separate species, mainly because of their genetic potential to grow extremely large. A big northern spotted bass is a three-pounder. Alabama bass have been documented beyond 11 pounds.
Several state agencies have stocked the fish in public waters. In 1996, TPWD stocked 150 adult Alabama bass in Lake Alan Henry as an experiment. Apparently, the fish have fared pretty well. The lake produced a 5.62-pounder in 2011 and a 5.98-pounder in 2016. Genetics testing showed both fish were pure Alabama bass. In 2017, TPWD created a state record category for Alabama bass.
Alan Henry is the only Texas lake where Alabama bass have been stocked. TPWD says it has no plans to stock the fish in other lakes.
Spotted Bass: “Spot” is the abbreviated term frequently used for northern spotted bass. Also known as Kentucky spotted bass, the sport fish are widely distributed throughout the Ohio River basin as well as the central and lower Mississippi River basin. Spots also are found in several coastal states, including Texas, where they are native to several river systems from the Guadalupe to the Red River, exclusive of the Edwards Plateau region.
As earlier mentioned, spotted bass rarely grow beyond three pounds. Anything larger is highly suspect of carrying hybrid genes. Texas Parks and Wildlife lists a 5.56-pounder as the state record for that species. The bass was caught at Lake O’ the Pines in 1966. Genetics testing was not performed on the fish.
Spotted bass can be found in a number of lakes, but they are most abundant in East Texas reservoirs like Cypress Springs, Palestine, Jacksonville, Bob Sandlin, Toledo Bend and Sam Rayburn. The fish are especially plentiful on lakes Jacksonville and Cypress Springs, where they account for a high percentage of the bass caught. At Jacksonville, anglers host Thursday night open tournaments and sometimes award a “Kentucky Derby” side pot for the five heaviest spotted bass brought to the scales.
The statewide daily limit for spotted bass is five fish, but there is no minimum length limit.
Smallmouth Bass: The smallmouth isn’t the big player in Texas that it is in northern states, but there are a few fisheries across the state that have gained reputations for producing numbers and quality, alike. Among the best are lakes Belton and Texoma.
Belton is a 12,385-acre reservoir built on the Leon River in Bell and Coryell counties near Temple. It looks like smallmouth central with plenty of steep banks, long, rocky points and lots of deep water. There are quite a few tournaments held on the lake, many of them won with mixed bags of smallmouth and largemouth.
The lake record of 6.43 pounds has stood since 1999, but biologists believe bigger ones have been caught and released without being reported. TPWD has stocked Belton off and on since 1978 with hatchery raised smallmouth fingerlings.
Texoma is a 74,700-acre reservoir along the Red River that TPWD co-manages with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. It’s got plenty of deep water and rocky habitat where the smallies grow fat and sassy. The Texas lake record is listed at 7.06 pounds; the Oklahoma side record is 7.8 pounds.
The best smallmouth fishing usually takes place around the lower third of the lake in relation to steep bluffs around Eisenhower State Park, the Denison dam and up the Washita River to an area known as Willow Springs. Areas with big boulders, rocky points and gravel bottoms have the best potential. The fish can be caught on a wide range of baits including Carolina rig plastics, grubs, topwaters, spinnerbaits, shaky heads and Alabama rigs.
Three other smallmouth fisheries to check out include the scenic Devil’s River that feeds Lake Amistad, Lake Grapevine (6,700 acres) and Stillhouse Hollow (6,400) acres.