For almost 14 years, I did a weekly fishing report for a major Texas newspaper.
When the idea was conceived back in the early-1990s by a well known outdoors writer, the goal was to provide some real information that fishermen could put to use, rather than the generic fishing reports common to the day.
Rather than the standard "bass good in shallow water on spinner baits," I learned how to compile information into terms that would be of use to the angler. "Bass are now in pre-spawn and moving into and out of shallow water. Slow rolled quarter-ounce spinner baits with gold tandem Colorado blades are working well along creek ledges, but soft plastics such as lizards (black with red tail) or Texas rigged 6-inch watermelon seed worms are producing better in shallow water."
See the difference in a generic report and one that has substance?
I can truly say I learned more about fishing patterns in Texas during those 14 years than in my entire career.
Each week, I visited with a group of the best guides and fishing pros in the state and although none of them gave GPS coordinates to their favorite hotspots (Johnny Procell did come close on many occasions at Ray Hubbard), the report was packed with very current, accurate information. As an outdoors writer with a severe addiction to catching everything from bream to catfish, I can truly say there are few lakes in Texas I have not fished.
So, here's my take on some of the very best places to fish for some of the post popular species. Hopefully these picks will help you plan your next outing.
Ten years ago, my favorite bass fishing hole was Fork, but I think Fork has seen its day as a monster bass producer. That's not to say lunkers won't continue to come from these fertile waters, but the numbers of 13-pound-plus largemouth from Fork has drastically dropped the past few years. Fork will remain a great destination for bass fishermen, but Choke Canyon has emerged as the premier big bass lake in the state.
Falcon, down on the Mexico border, is another producer of big bass.
Were it not for Falcon's ever-fluctuating water levels, I believe it would have long ago emerged as the premier bass fishing lake in the state. When it comes to bass fishing, I'd rather fish a lake with consistent action in the 2- to 5-pound range rather than fish all day for that one big bite.
Little Lake Crockett, located near Honeygrove in northeast Texas, has long been one of my favorites for catching bass. The largest I've landed here weighed just over 8 pounds, but trips here usually provide at least one fish around 5 pounds.
Crockett is a great place for the beginner bass fisherman to learn to pattern bass.
Another largemouth hotspot is Houston County Lake, located near Crockett in East Texas. Crockett's Family Resort (crockettresort.com) provides excellent lodging and a great campground. Bass fishing is usually very good here and the lake receives relatively light fishing pressure.
Bass fishing is also good on several of the larger reservoirs around Dallas. Lake Lewisville, Ray Roberts, Ray Hubbard and Cedar Creek all have a healthy population; they are just big and sometimes difficult to pattern, especially for the week end angler.
This is a no brainer: Tawakoni, hands down!
There are lots of great lakes for catching channel catfish and big blues, but none I know of hold a candle to good ole Tawakoni as a double threat. Right now, limits of channel catfish weighing 1.5-5 pounds are common. The fish are in the shallows and aggressively hitting everything from stink bait to earthworms. Guide George Rule has been fishing water 3-5 feet deep around willows and flooded grass beds, and clients are often limiting out in a matter of three hours, sometimes less. Around October and continuing through February (sometimes as late as March), trophy class blues are landed here with regularity by fishermen that know how to rig up and fish for these jumbo cats.
When it comes to fishing for Mr. Whiskers, Tawakoni is as good as the best and better than the rest.
Tawakoni is my favorite catfish spot, but definitely not the only place I fish when in search of a big catfish fry.
Cedar Creek, Richland Chambers, Whitney, Lake Lewisville and Lavon often provide equally good fishing.
Some sleeper lakes such as Eagle Mountain (near Ft. Worth), Bardwell (near Ennis) or Lake Brownwood offer great fishing for catfish. Down a bit farther south, Choke Canyon, Calavaras and Falcon are well known for producing heavy stringers. If I were looking to catch one huge blue catfish weighing 70 pounds or more, my pick would be Texoma or the tailrace waters below the lake during the late fall and winter months.
Texas lakes and rivers are home to some awesome catfishing.
Chances are very good the lake closest to your home has the potential to produce for you, once you learn the seasonal patterns.
The majority of the larger reservoirs in Texas are chock full of white bass (sand bass).
Tawakoni, Richland Chambers and Cedar Creek share my No. 1 choice, simply because I like them all and can't honestly pick one over the other. All three lakes are loaded with huge schools of white bass, but so are countless other lakes scattered across the state. White bass are plentiful, easy to catch and provide good eating when marinated with a 50-50 solution of buttermilk and Louisiana hot sauce.
Stripers and hybrid stripers
With twice the statewide limit and a natural spawn in the Red and Washita Rivers each spring, Texoma has to rate at the top of the list for sheer numbers of stripers.
Scores of striper guides have made good livings here through the years, exposing their clients to the great striper fishing. But Whitney is also a great striper fishery and, even though the stripers here are stocked and not as numerous as Texoma, the average size of fish landed tends to be a bit larger.
For hybrid stripers, Lake Cooper is at the top of the list with Tawakoni, Ray Hubbard and Richland Chambers running a close second.
Lake Navarro Mills and Limestone provide some of the state's best crappie fishing.
They share the No. 1 spot as my favorite, but Cedar Creek, Lavon, Richland Chambers, little Coffee Mill Lake in Northeast Texas and Houston County Lake near Crockett are great places to dunk a minnow for good eating papermouths.
There you have my take on the best places to fish in Texas.
I can almost guarantee you already have your personal favorites. We're blessed with great fishing in the Lone Star State, so pick a species, then a lake and go get em'.
Outdoor tip of the week
When fishing near bottom for catfish, try placing a small floater about six inches up from the hook.
Here's how to rig: place an egg sinker on your line and then tie a swivel below. Next, attach an 18-inch leader to the bottom of the swivel. Attach the small float six inches above the hook. This rig float keeps the bait suspended a few inches up from bottom, making it much easier for catfish to position the bait in their mouth. This rig, nicknamed the Santee Rig, was originally designed for drift fishing, but it's equally effective when fishing stationary for catfish.