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Photo by Randy Brudnicki / TPWD

NICE CATCH

Fat Fall Fishing

Cooler weather means bass are building up their body weight.

By Randy Brudnicki with Art Morris

The first pangs of cold are coming. We’ll leave behind the oppressive summer heat and don jackets and gloves. The fish notice it, too, and actively build their body fat for cold and lean times, meaning a bigger catch. The number of big fish reported is not as high as it will be in spring because fewer anglers are on the water now, but that means it’s a good time to catch a personal best.

LAKE O'THE PINES
LARGEMOUTH BASS AND CRAPPIE

Lake O’ the Pines is a 16,000-acre secluded reservoir where the top target species are largemouth bass and crappie. The scenery is spectacular, too. It is one of the gems of East Texas. The bass fishing is usually pretty good anytime, but it's better late fall through spring, typical of many Texas reservoirs. Large numbers of Florida-strain largemouth have been stocked consistently the past four or five years. Recent surveys show good populations of largemouth bass.

There is so much great cover — sticks, stumps and weeds — to fish. Go prepared to fish all the standard bass fare: crankbaits, worms, hollow belly frogs, lipless crankbaits, etc. A great lure to use now is a square-bill crankbait fished parallel to the bank. Cover lots of water until you locate a group of fish, then slow down and fish soft plastics to mine more fish from the area.

Crappie fishing is very popular on Lake O’ the Pines right now as well. The campgrounds see an influx of semi-permanent residents who arrive to winter here — for many, crappie fishing is the big attraction. TPWD and partners have installed artificial habitat in various places around the lake, often good crappie fishing locations. Many are near the dam end of the lake so there is easy access to them. Search the attractor sites on the TPWD website: tpwd.texas.gov/fishattractor.

There are beautiful camping and RV sites around Lake O’ the Pines. It is a great place to spend several days or all winter. RB

Photo by Earl Nottingham / TPWD

ALSO BITING

LAKE BASTROP
LARGEMOUTH BASS


Lake Bastrop is a reservoir that's popular with many Central Texas anglers. With fall and winter approaching, the tactics change from the open-water, school-chasing methods of summer to more precise presentations in dense cover.

Although Bastrop is not a large lake, it can handle sizable fishing pressure because there is so much shoreline vegetation. Anglers can spend considerable time picking apart small stretches of reeds and submerged vegetation.

Also, anglers can find opportunities fishing drop-offs, deep structure near the dam and creek channels coursing through some coves. Some main lake points offer deep-water fishing with a hard bottom of small rocks and gravel — ideal areas to retrieve deep-diving crankbaits. Crankbaits are more effective when deflecting off the bottom.

Furthermore, a limited amount of standing timber is available in the back of some coves near the Boy Scout camp.

Bastrop is a power plant cooling reservoir, so as energy demand increases with cold weather, more water flows from the plant discharge channel — water that is warmer than the main lake. Shad are attracted to the current and warmth, so active game fish use the channel for feeding. Colder days are better than warmer days in the channel.

Anglers are successful year-round at Bastrop. A lipless crankbait can be very effective, allowing anglers to quickly cover the outside edges of weedy flats. Good colors include chrome with a blue or black back or all red.

To fish the submerged vegetation such as eel grass, try weightless flukes. Look for openings in the grass and keep your lure in the strike zone by fishing the holes and breaks in the grass. Texas-rigged worms and Senkos can also be used.

On the dam, a suspending jerkbait is effective. Out from the dam in 20 feet of water or more, a drop-shot is a good choice.

Don’t overlook top-water baits. They can produce early and late in the day, or on cloudy days when fished in shallow water over vegetation — especially on the warmer fall days. RB

Illustration © TPWD

TEXAS SURF
FLORIDA POMPANO

Once November arrives, the Texas surf becomes the focal point for a shiny star of the surf: the Florida pompano. This relatively small fish has a fanatical following, and for good reason — pompano is delicious!

Pound for pound, they are energetic fighters, and they are quite plentiful. It doesn’t require a host of gear to catch one; typically, all it takes is a small hook and a bit of dead shrimp. Don’t forget the grill! AM

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