East Texas Farm & Ranch Living
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The Other Bass
Largemouths are king, but ’spots, smallies and ‘Lupes are still worth a cast By Matt Williams
assmaster 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 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 Photo by Matt Williams other is low in abundance or struggling. Texas is a haven for bass anglers, where 8-10 pounders don’t garner much attention anymore. Spotted bass are native to Texas waters and abundant in many. Smallmouth aren’t as Colorado River between Austin and Bastrop. TPWD Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. They were considered widely distributed. fisheries biologist Marcos De Jesus says Guadalupe’s can as members of the spotted bass family until 2011. That’s Meanmouth bass have been documented in only be found in waters all around Central Texas. However, he when the American Fisheries Society designated them a two Texas lakes — Lake Ray Roberts and Texoma. Ray thinks the 25-mile stretch of Colorado where Townsend separate species, mainly because of their genetic potential Roberts has produced several big ones in recent times, caught the record is the best for numbers of quality fish to grow extremely large. A big northern spotted bass is including a trifecta of state records since 2016. because good habitat is abundant and water flows are a three pounder. Alabama bass have been documented The current record was caught on a stormy day in Oct. steady. beyond 11 pounds. 2018 by Cody Morrison of Pilot Point. It weighed 5.96 Several state agencies have stocked the fish in public pounds, topping the former record of 4.9 pounds reeled waters. In 1996, TPWD stocked 150 adult Alabama bass in seven months earlier by Adam Pels, also of Pilot Point. in Lake Alan Henry as an experiment. Apparently, the What’s interesting is smallmouths have never been fish have fared pretty well. The lake produced a 5.62 stocked in Ray Roberts. Scientists believe the bronzebacks pounder in 2011 and a 5.98 pounder in 2016. Genetics were illegally introduced to the lake several years ago, testing showed both fish were pure Alabama bass. In possibly by anglers who transported them from nearby 2017, TPWD created state record category for Alabama Lake Texoma. bass. Texoma, a Texas/Oklahoma border lake, has abundant Alan Henry is the only Texas lake were Alabama bass populations of smallmouth, largemouth and spotted bass. The recent outbreak of big meanmouths at Ray Roberts have been stocked. TPWD says it has no plans to stock is believed to be the result of one spawning event several the fish in others lakes. years ago. Spotted Bass As earlier mentioned, there are several other species of “Spot” is the abbreviated term frequently used for black bass other than largemouth finning around in Texas northern spotted bass. Also known as Kentucky spotted lakes and rivers. Here’s a little background history on each bass, the sport fish are widely distributed throughout one, followed by some of the top spots to find them in the Ohio River basin as well as the central and lower number: Mississippi River basin. Spots also are found in several Guadalupe Bass coastal states, including Texas, where they are native to The ‘Lupe is special. So special, in fact, it was declared several river systems from the Guadalupe to the Red the official state fish of Texas in 1989 by the 71st Texas River, exclusive of the Edwards Plateau region. Legislature. As earlier mentioned, spotted bass rarely grow beyond Native only to the rivers and streams of Central Texas, three pounds. Anything larger is highly suspect of TPWD Photo the Guadalupe thrives in swift running water riddled carrying hybrid genes. Texas Parks and Wildlife lists a Bryan Townsend with his 3.71 pound state rewith rocks, boulders and still water pools. They also can 5.56 pounder as the state record for that species. The bass be found in catchable numbers in deep, clear, riverine cord Guadalupe bass caught in 2014 from the was caught at Lake O’ the Pines in 1966. Genetics testing reservoirs across the Edwards Plateau. Colorado River between Austin and Bastrop. was not performed on the fish. Just don’t expect a limit of Guadalupe bass to take you The Guadalupe bass was declared the Texas Spotted bass can be found in a number of lakes, but very high in the standings of a bass tournament. Any fish they are most abundant in East Texas reservoirs like state fish in 1989. over two pounds is a big one. Anything over three pounds Cypress Springs, Palestine, Jacksonville, Bob Sandlin, is a giant. The current state record is a 3.71 pounder Alabama Bass Toledo Bend and Sam Rayburn. The fish are especially caught in 2014 by Bryan Townsend. plentiful on lakes Jacksonville and Cypress Springs, Alabama bass are native to the Mobile River basin of Townsend caught the fish while fly fishing on the 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 spotted bass is five fish, but there is no minimum length limit.
Photo courtesy of Jim Tutt
Lake Texoma in North Texas ranks among the state’s top smallmouth fisheries. Longview angler Jim Tutt boated this six pounder there a few years back.
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’s 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 1/3 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. Matt Williams is a freelance writer based in Nacogdoches. He can be reached by e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.
A special supplement to the Palestine Herald-Press focusing on East Texas Farm and Ranch Living.