As I’ve mentioned in this space before, ask most Texomaland bass anglers about the year’s best fishing and they’ll most often tell you to fish the springtime spawn.
And for good reason too as anyone who has ventured onto a bona fide bucketmouth rich environment in late February, March or April can attest to. The largemouth bass in the region are shallow, their egg-laden weights are heavy, and the fish of a lifetime may only be one more cast away.
But poll those same anglers at any dockside café right now and the guess here is that few will pick the early days of summer as a prime-time to fish for North and East Texas sowbellies. Even in years when endless downpours and muddy floodwaters aren’t inundating area bass lakes.
That fact can be a shame, high water or not, as a couple of conversations with two of my D-Town bass fishing buddies reminded me of this past week.
For one of those angling pals, a trip a few days ago to a small water body in southern Oklahoma gave him a glimpse of the biggest bucketmouth of his career.
“Like most local places these days, the spot I was fishing is flooded and a little stained,” said my pal Lance San Millan. “But it was clear enough and I had already caught several good bass, including one nice one pushing five-pounds.”
But it’s the one that got away that San Millan, a principal in the Denison ISD, won’t soon forget.
“I threw my spinnerbait to a lily pad stem and made a couple of cranks on the reel’s handle,” said San Millan. “All of a sudden, my line just stopped dead in the water and I saw the pad stem move.”
Figuring he had snagged the stem, San Millan kind of half-heartedly popped his rod back to try and free the lure.
And that’s when his rod bowed over and his line started moving.
“That fish started taking line and pulling away as I tried to catch up,” said San Millan. “But I apparently didn’t get the hook buried too well because that bass — easily the biggest one I’ve ever seen- jumped and spit the hook. It was probably 10-pounds or better — I’m still sick about losing that fish”
Andrew Means, recreation manager for the Denison Parks and Recreation Department, understands San Millan’s anguish all too well.
Fishing a few years back with his pal Jason Blankenship at one of several regional lakes that the pair of longtime friends likes to hit each spring and early summer, the sultry morning right before the Fourth of July had the two anglers tossing jig-and-pig combinations near the end of an underwater point.
Suddenly, Blankenship’s rod bowed over and the fight was on. After the big bass came up and rolled a time or two, Means tried to land it at the side of the boat. And that’s when the big largemouth gained a final burst of energy, slapped its head again, and spit the hook as it swam away into the depths.
How big was the fish? Big enough that Means and Blankenship still think ruefully about that bass to this very day.
What’s the point of these two big fish near-miss tales? Simple — the chance to catch a big bass still exists even as late spring slowly turns into summertime.
“You can have some good to great fishing days in June,” agrees my pal Rob Woodruff, a former Orvis endorsed fly fishing guide for Lake Fork’s largemouth bass who now manages the world class El Pescador saltwater fly fishing lodge in Belize.
Featured on ESPN Outdoors television programming twice for his bass fishing prowess on famed East Texas waters, Woodruff boated more than a half dozen double digit bass during his numerous years at Fork along with having several client’s do the same.
Drawing upon his conventional tackle days in years gone by and his reputation as one of the top long rod guides in the business, Woodruff has plenty of keen insight into the art and science of catching largemouth bass during the end of May and on into June.
Regardless of what type of fishing rod you’re using.
“What you’ve got to remember is that they (the bass) are not all concentrated in one area like they were (earlier) in the spring,” said Woodruff. “From three feet on down to greater depths, there is more variety now to the water that will hold bass.
“But the good thing about this time of the year is that if you figure things out, you can pick ‘em apart and start trying to repeat that same pattern in other areas.”
In other words, largemouth bass are certainly catchable as springtime bleeds into summer, but it’s a little bit more complicated than just tossing a topwater or spinnerbait up into shallow water.
So where should an angler concentrate their bass fishing efforts over the next few weeks?
“I’d say secondary points inside of major creeks and major main lake points will tend to hold fish,” said Woodruff. “But I’d also remember that in (late) May and June to look for bream beds (since they are spawning) and fish along the deep water edges of those.”
Why is that? Because after weeks of defending their own eggs and fry from marauding bluegills, post-spawn largemouths are hungry and looking to dispense a little payback to the local panfish population.
What lures or flies should you throw at early summertime bass over the next month?
Early and late, Woodruff says topwaters for conventional anglers and poppers for fly fishing enthusiasts are excellent choices for a June bass fishing trip.
“Look for points and humps that have hydrilla sticking up towards the surface, the fronts of lily pads, the front of cattails especially near deeper creeks,” said Woodruff.
But once the sun is up good each day, say about 9 to 10 o’clock in the morning, Woodruff suggests switching gears and targeting bass hanging around the deeper water edges of bream beds.
For conventional anglers, bluegill hued shallow running crankbaits and spinnerbaits are good choices, as are bream colored topwater baits with a spinning prop at both ends. For fly anglers, try a sink tip line and a bluegill colored fly like a Dahlberg Diver, a Ray Sims Lake Fork Diver, or Woodruff’s own Silli Shad or Lake Fork Leech patterns.
Later in the month, as the teeth of Texas’ summertime heat begins to take hold and daily temperatures push into the 90s, the Texas turned Belize fly guide admits that anglers will have to remember that the bass are transitioning to deeper water haunts — not to mention feeding on threadfin shad schools — around such features as offshore roadbeds, pond dams, humps, and the deeper ends of main lake points.
For conventional anglers, that will mean fishing a wide variety of deep-water lures from slow rolled spinnerbaits to swimbaits to deep diving crankbaits to Carolina rigs to big flutter spoons.
For fly anglers, the gathering summertime heat means that it’s time to pull out the full sinking lines and flies that resemble threadfin shad. The deep water bass fishing game isn’t always familiar to fly fishermen used to trout or saltwater fish on the inshore flats, but once mastered, it can produce some memorable action.
The bottom line here is that in early summer, it can still be a fine time of the year to wet a line for Texas’ lunker sized largemouth bass no matter what type of angling gear you prefer.
As long as those bass aren’t able to throw the hook, that is. But either way, there could be a big bass story produced, the kind that you’ll remember for the remainder of a lifetime.
One way or the other.