Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine   



Bass Without
a Boat

Texas anglers can find success
fishing for largemouths from
the bank or a kayak.

I LOVE TO FISH, but will admit to being a novice when it comes to angling for largemouth bass. At Texas’ busy bass lakes, I often watch anglers speed off in big boats to their favorite spots to go trolling near the bank or in a cove.  

I don’t have a big boat and may not be in a position to purchase one for a long time, if ever. I began to ask myself: How can I fish for largemouth bass without one of those fancy boats?

The great news is that opportunities abound for people like me to catch the most sought-after sportfish in the state without a bass boat. Texas has become a prime destination for anglers around the world who want to pursue massive largemouth bass. The Toyota ShareLunker program and the excellent work of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Inland Fisheries Division have made bass fishing bigger and better than ever.

Texas State Parks provide excellent opportunities for accessible bank and kayak fishing. I decided one of the parks would be a great place to start on my first largemouth bass fishing adventure.

I focused my search on state parks in East Texas and settled on Purtis Creek State Park, although other excellent options include Tyler, Lake Tawakoni and Martin Creek Lake.  


My first call went to David Fischer, Purtis Creek's then-superintendent, who helped me plan the visit. The next call went to my friend Mike, an avid white bass angler.

Mike and I have fished for white bass together on the Neches River (which I wrote about in the March 2022 issue of this magazine), and when I pitched the idea of angling for largemouth bass, he was up for the challenge. Mike is in the same boat I am (no pun intended) — he doesn’t own a big bass boat either.  



CASTING FOR largemouth bass can be an intimidating venture, especially for a novice angler like me. I started researching when to fish, where to fish, and what lures and rigs to use in multiple different scenarios. I also enlisted the help of Jake Norman, a TPWD Inland Fisheries biologist in Tyler, for tips that beginners could use to help boost the odds of landing a largemouth bass from a kayak or shoreline.

“Novice anglers that are interested in targeting largemouth bass in Texas do not need to feel intimidated by the overload of advanced equipment and tackle available,” Norman says. “While all of these advancements certainly have their place and time, there are plenty of simple techniques, which, when paired with the right season, can help anglers catch a few bass, and maybe even a ShareLunker, from the shore.” 

Lure in a Lunker

No advanced equipment and tackle are needed when fishing for bass. There are three basic lures to have in the tackle box:

Largemouth bass can be targeted all year long. However, Norman suggested mid-March through May as the prime time for catching bass from the shore or a paddle craft. Most of the bass in a given water body are going to be within casting distance of the shore as they focus on their spawn during those months. While bank fishing works fine, a paddle craft can give anglers even more advantages: the ability to get into deeper waters and flooded timber in the middle of the lake and the opportunity to work more of the shoreline, especially in places where the bank isn’t accessible.

Norman says he always tells new anglers to keep it simple, in terms of tackle and approach. There are three basic lures to have in the tackle box: a buzz bait, a white and chartreuse spinner bait, and a Texas-rigged set-up for either a craw-style soft plastic or a 7-inch power worm. These three setups will catch bass most of the year and take very little experience or knowledge to get a bite.

Keeping it simple is the name of the game for location as well. If the water body happens to be a bowl-shaped pond, use the spinner bait or buzz bait first and cast your way around the entire pond. Move on to a Texas-rigged soft plastic if you don’t have success.

Purtis Creek Lake and other reservoirs in Texas obviously don’t fall into the small pond category, so what’s the strategy for these spots?

Norman says to start near a protected pocket or cove. Work along the shoreline toward the back of the cove until you get a bite or two. Bass that are looking to spawn will be moving into these coves and pockets and can be very aggressive at times.

Anglers should also look for any obvious habitat in the water. For example, a fishing pier or dock will always attract bass along with any visible brush or laydown trees.

Essentially, bass will be drawn to anything in the water that is different from bare bank. Vegetation, rocks or even a floating buoy may attract largemouth bass.

As I considered my setup, I daydreamed about achieving one of Texas bass anglers' proudest accomplishments: adding a catch to the ShareLunker list.

The Toyota ShareLunker program brings anglers from around the nation to Texas in search of the catch of a lifetime. The Legacy Class Lunkers (13-plus pounds caught between January and March) grab a lot of the headlines, but you don’t have to land one of these massive fish to participate in the program.

“The Toyota ShareLunker is year-round, and it really is open for anyone to participate if you have a largemouth bass that’s greater than 8 pounds or 24 inches,” says Natalie Goldstrohm, TPWD’s Toyota ShareLunker coordinator. “We have a lot of anglers who are able to be a part of the program, including bank anglers and kayak anglers. Collapsible measuring boards and handheld scales are great tools to have while you fish to get quick measurements and weights.”

Anglers can enter the catch data on the Toyota ShareLunker mobile app or website. In addition to basic catch information, anglers can also provide a DNA scale sample from their lunker bass to TPWD researchers for genetic analysis. The goal of the program is to produce bigger, better bass for Texas anglers.  

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BACK TO Purtis Creek Lake. The 355-acre water body was designed specifically for fishing — from the angler amenities to the habitat provided for the fish. The park has two excellent lighted piers, a boat ramp and a fish cleaning station that doubles as an official weigh station for the ShareLunker program.

“I would definitely recommend both piers for largemouth bass fishing,” Fischer says. “We’ve actually had an 11-plus-pound bass caught off one of the piers. Another great spot for bank fishing in the park is off the Beaver Slide Trail. For kayak anglers, targeting the flooded timber areas is going to provide excellent bass fishing. The sole purpose of the lake was to create opportunities for fishing and recreation.”

The big day had arrived, so we loaded up our gear and kayaks and drove to Purtis Creek. Unfortunately, the weather conditions didn’t turn out to be ideal. Freezing temperatures chilled our bones as we set out on a frigid Saturday morning. We decided to try our luck at the fishing docks and play the kayaks by ear.  


The fishing pier was already bustling with activity. The anglers there mainly had their eyes on crappie, which are also prevalent at Purtis Creek Lake. We asked how things were going for them, and the news wasn’t good. Nothing seemed to be biting. Multiple lines descending from the dock into the water remained motionless. The anglers were just trying to stay warm in their heavy coats.

I opened my tackle box and decided to go with a plastic bait to start the morning. As I tied my lure to the line, other anglers offered advice. One said, “Over there on the bank to the left of the dock, someone caught a couple of nice-sized fish last night.” Another angler talked about an 8-plus pounder that made the dock its home and, as legend would have it, had been caught multiple times and released.

I took my chances on the bank and cast in the spot where the anglers saw success the night before. Unfortunately, their fortunes eluded me. I moved to spots on and around the dock, to no avail. Meanwhile, Mike and the crappie anglers couldn’t get anything to take the bait either. It wasn’t just me.

We decided to pack up and head to the dock on the other side of the park. This section of the park also features a boat ramp where visitors can launch kayaks or motorized boats. The lake does have a limit of 50 motorized boats at a time and an “idle only” speed restriction. If you don’t own a kayak, the park offers kayaks for rent at a self-service kiosk. Rentals include paddles and life jackets.

We made our way out onto the dock and found more anglers in search of crappie, but the results were the same. On this cold morning nothing was biting. I worked both sides and the middle of the dock, which extends a fair distance into the water. I tried various spots on the shoreline but still had no luck.

Mike and I decided against taking the kayaks out because of the cold and windy weather. Maybe we would have had better luck out in the flooded timber and brush piles.

Shortly after, Fischer followed up to see how things were going. We let him know it had been a struggle and he said, “Follow me and we’ll fish in a pond behind my residence in the park.”

Maegan Lanham, the magazine’s photographer, met us at the park to take photos for this story and to do some fishing of her own. We all set up shop at the pond, and it wasn’t long until Maegan landed what we had searched for all morning — a nice largemouth bass. A few more fish followed, including a handful of nice-sized crappie, before we decided to call it a day.

In speaking with Fischer and the multitude of anglers we met, this wasn’t a typical day for fishing at Purtis Creek. However, no matter the outcome, it’s always a great day when it’s spent outdoors and on the water. 


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