The latest edition of Bassmaster magazine hit mailboxes this past week as the Alabama based Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.) announced its ninth annual “Top 100” bass lake rankings around the country.
In researching lakes around the nation — which includes input from a variety of bass fishing experts, industry officials, fisheries biologists and from tournament data gleaned over the past 12 months — the state of Texas lost the top ranking as previous No. 1 bass water Sam Rayburn Reservoir near Lufkin fell from first to third.
However, the Lone Star State stood tall in the overall number of “Top 10” fisheries, garnering two nominations — Sam Rayburn and Lake Fork — to give the state two entries, tied with New York (two entries) and California (two entries) for the best states to go target largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass.
Taking top national honors this year was the St. Lawrence River in New York, a smallmouth fishery that produced a four-day winning weight of 95 pounds during a Bassmaster Elite Series event held there last August. What’s more, Bassmaster magazine noted that each angler in the event’s “Top 10” had more than 86 pounds of smallmouths in their bags last summer and that the average weight of the 1,335 bass caught at that derby weighed right at 3.85 pounds.
Alabama’s famed largemouth factory at Lake Guntersville came in at the No. 2 spot, followed by Sam Rayburn in the No. 3 spot, Clear Lake in California at No. 4, and Lake Fork at No. 5. Rounding out the “Top 10” were Tennessee’s Lake Chickamauga in sixth; New Melones Lake in California checking in at seventh; Michigan’s Lake St. Clair in the eighth spot; South Carolina’s Santee Cooper Lakes (Marion and Moultrie) in ninth; and New York’s Lake Erie region near Buffalo in 10th.
In the “Top 100” rankings’ Central Region where Texas and Oklahoma fall, there were a number of lakes making the region’s “Top 25” cut.
Sam Rayburn was first with the 114,000-acre reservoir continuing to pump out huge winning weights. At the Sealy Big Bass Splash in April, Bassmaster reported that 20 of the 21 hourly winning bass were seven-pounds or greater with the one exception missing that mark by only .04 pounds!
Lake Fork checks in at the No. 2 spot with the 27,690-acre reservoir near Quitman continuing to produce double-digit bass in solid numbers. That included Brandon Cobb’s 11-pound, 1-ounce bucketmouth in May when the Elite Series pros visited Fork for the Toyota Texas Bassmaster Texas Fest event. Cobb won the event with a four-day “Century Club” total of 114 pounds, runner-up Garrett Paquette joined him in the “Century Club” with 101-15, and six other Elite Series pros were better than 90 pounds.
Next up in the Central Region rankings is 185,000-acre Texas/Louisiana border lake Toledo Bend, which while down from its most recent heyday a few years ago — a run that made it Bassmaster’s No. 1 lake two years running in 2015 and 2016 — is still cranking out 10-pound or better fish with regularity. That included 49 double-digit bass being entered into the Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program, a 2018 figure that while down from previous years, is still impressive. So too is the 30-plus pound sacks that won two events on T-Bend earlier this year.
Continuing on down the Central Region rankings list, 83,654-acre Falcon International Reservoir on the Texas/Mexico border checks in at No. 6; 20,118-acre Lake Conroe — site of the 2017 Bassmaster Classic and the stage two stop earlier this year for Major League Fishing’s new Pro Bass Tour — is ranked 7th; 25,400-acre Caddo Lake on the Texas/Louisiana border is 9th; and 6,534-acre Lake Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) — site of recent Bassmaster Elite Series and FLW Tour stops — checks in with an 11th place ranking down in the shadow of Austin and UT’s Bevo.
That brings us to the two local lakes on this year’s rankings list, Lake Ray Roberts, the 29,350-acre lake southwest of Sherman, which has produced a need for anglers to have winning sacks averaging nearly five-pounds a fish in recent derbies. Then there’s 89,000-acre Lake Texoma to the northwest of Denison, site of the long ago 1979 Bassmaster Classic as well as the more recent 2016 Bassmaster Elite Series BASSfest event won by Greg Hackney. Bassmaster writers noted that while Texoma isn’t known for producing monster largemouths, it does consistently produce winning sacks of 20-pounds or more including the 23.08-pound bag limit that won April’s Texas Team Trail event there, a derby that also produced a 7.8l-pound largemouth that took big bass honors.
Moving on down the list, 19,780-acre Lake O’the Pines in northeast Texas checks in at 19th, thanks again to numerous bag limits above 20-pounds. At a Media Bass event last April, Bassmaster said that the top weight was a bag limit of 27.87-pounds with big bass honors going to a 8.23-pound bucketmouth.
Oklahoma’s Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees took the 20th spot in the Central Region this year, with the two-time host of the Bassmaster Classic producing a 25.06-pound winning weight at an event earlier this year. What’s more, the 46,500-acre northeastern Sooner State water body takes a nearly 4-pound average these days for an angler to have a shot at having a winning bag limit weight.
While all kinds of things can happen over the course of a year — from turbulent weather conditions like drought and flood to unexpected issues like a fish or baitfish kill to simple fishing pressure — one thing seems certain when taking a look at the 2019 version of the Bassmaster Top 100 list.
And that’s simply this — from Texoma to Falcon and in a whole lot of wet spots in between, there aren’t many better places to wet a bass fishing line than the great state of Texas.
So why not get out over the next few months and see what all of the Lone Star State bass fishing fuss is all about? The bass fishing is very good in most regions of our state, and with a lot of hard work by TPWD and its constituents in the coming months, maybe, with just a little bit of luck, hopefully the big blue Texas sky is the only limit.