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Best Lakes for Bass


There are many reasons people decide to head out on a fishing trip: quality time with family and friends, enjoyment of the outdoors or the sheer thrill of catching a lunker bass. For the lunker seekers, there’s a calculus to choosing the right fishing spot at the right time.

I consider myself lucky to have grown up in Texas. As a high school student, I’ve been able to pursue my interest in bass fishing by competing in tournaments with the Texas High School Bass Association and by serving as a fisheries intern with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Through those experiences, I want to help the fishing community make the most of their time on the water by identifying the best public lakes and seasons for bass fishing. Last month I looked at the best seasons, and this month I’ll look at the best lakes.

Put the two together, and you’ve increased your odds for a lunker.

Texas is blessed with some of the best bass fishing in the nation. In 2022, bass fishing organization B.A.S.S. ranked three Texas lakes within the Top 10 bass fisheries in the country: O.H. Ivie at No. 2, Lake Fork at No. 7 and Sam Rayburn at No. 9.

No matter the national rankings, I wanted objective answers powered by statistics. Texas hosts many open fishing tournaments every year where two-angler teams head out before sunrise to catch the heaviest five-fish bag. By analyzing data from hundreds of these tournaments from 2014 to 2022, I was able to find trends that may be useful to anglers hoping for a productive season.  

PREMIER BASS LAKES 

What is the best lake for bass fishing? I decided to first look at the proportion of teams that weighed in a five-fish bag over 15 pounds, which is generally considered a quality day of fishing. We see that Choke Canyon tops the charts, followed by Toledo Bend and Falcon Lake.  

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At Choke Canyon, a large lake close to Corpus Christi, plentiful flooded vegetation provides excellent habitat for many species of fish. Texas’ biggest lake, straddling the Texas-Louisiana border, Toledo Bend produces excellent fishing year-round. Falcon Lake, on the U.S.-Mexico border, has long been regarded as a top largemouth bass lake. Lake Fork may appear to be a weaker lake based on this 15-pound weight metric, but it is often considered the top trophy bass lake in Texas. This lake’s tournament results are biased by the 16- to 24-inch slot limit (anglers cannot possess any fish between 16 and 24 inches). Tournament statistics cannot be used to accurately assess Lake Fork.  

NUMBERS GAME 

The average keeper bass is 1-2 pounds. The 15-pound bag metric used above places heavy emphasis on catching quality fish. However, some lakes (such as Lake Travis) are known for producing high numbers of smaller fish. These “number” lakes are well-suited for anglers who desire frequent, consistent catches. To identify these lakes, I used the proportion of teams that successfully weighed in a five-fish limit as a metric.  

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Lake Amistad, a lake on the Rio Grande, is rocky with many deep drop-offs that attract both forage and gamefish; TPWD stocks it with approximately 250,000 bass fingerlings yearly.

Smaller Lake Palestine, in Northeast Texas, is a little more than 25,000 acres. However, fish habitat is abundant and diverse, which results in high numbers of available bass.

Sam Rayburn has perhaps the most tournaments of any lake in Texas every year, yet it remains one of the state’s strongest fisheries. The lake’s estimated to contain 400,000 bass greater than 14 inches in length; at least 30,000 of them are caught in tournaments annually.

BIGGER IN TEXAS

Lakes that can consistently produce lots of lunkers (8 pounds or more) are considered trophy fisheries. They’re not properly assessed by the 15-pound metric — a limit of 3-pound bass is enough to satisfy the 15-pound condition, yet a 3-pound bass is far from a trophy. For this metric, I compared the average winning weight from the lakes to see where top anglers can catch some truly mind-blowing bags of trophy fish.  

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O.H. Ivie, the most successful lunker factory in Texas these past few years, leads the way with an average winning bag weight of 38 pounds — the average fish was nearly 8 pounds. Recently, O.H. Ivie has had an unprecedented run of trophy fish, bringing in more ShareLunkers than any other lake.

*Make sure to follow the harvest regulations at Texas lakes. The statewide regulation for largemouth bass is a 14-inch minimum length limit, with a five-fish daily bag limit. However, numerous lakes have specialized regulations (slot limits or 16-inch maximum lengths). Download the Outdoor Annual App (free for iOS and Android devices) or visit the TPWD website to see specific harvest regulations for each lake.

 Andy Li;  Clemente Guzman

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