Lynn Burkhead — Summertime’s topwater bite continues on Texoma

Herald Democrat
For Texoma fishing guides like Bill Carey and Steve Hollensed (shown above), few things bring more smiles than a big topwater bite from a good sized Texoma striped bass. As the unusual run of reasonable summertime weather continues across the area, reports continue to show success

While visiting the inaugural Ducks Unlimited Expo late last month at Texas Motor Speedway near Fort Worth, I stopped in my tracks as I saw a smiling and recognizable face suddenly in front of me.

Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Bill Carey, the longtime owner and operator of Striper Express Guide Service on Lake Texoma, ever not smiling.

But on that particular cloudy and mild summertime Saturday morning, Carey was smiling even more than usual for a man who runs a fishing guide service on one of the best lakes in the state, if not the nation.

The reason for his big grin? Topwaters, that’s why!

After weeks of milder than normal weather with plenty of cloud cover — and quite often, a little too much rainfall — the result of the balmy Lone Star State weather has been a topwater bonanza that continues as this is written.

In short, it’s a shad eating heaven and the weather isn’t too bad either for the sizable population of striped bass that call Lake Texoma their home. While the surface busting action isn’t everywhere all of the time, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department inland fisheries biologist Dan Bennett noted on Thursday afternoon that the action is still pretty good for anglers “…in the right place at the right time.”

While Texoma’s summertime striper action can be good almost any given year, the surface busting bonanza in 2021 continues to play out with the downright comfortable weather — and lower humidity rates and a northerly breeze — that was found on the big lake earlier in the week.

Of course, this year’s weather is anything but normal, as most local residents have known since mid-February. But few are complaining — in North Texas, at least — where the afternoon weather was mostly cloudy with a temperature near 90 degrees as this was written yesterday afternoon.

Add in a big lake that is more than 6-feet above normal from all of the heavy rains upstream, the run of cloudy weather, and water temperatures that aren’t too hot yet and the result is some pretty good surface action, the kind of topwater stuff that keeps Carey and his son Chris grinning big along with most of their clients in recent weeks.

As Bennett notes, you won’t get into topwater action all of the time right now, but the action has been pretty good in recent times. How much longer that continues, who knows, but for now, get out on the big lake and enjoy it if you can find it.

How can you do that? Well, to be successful in mid-July for surface feeding stripers, a Texoma angler will want to have several topwater lures handy in their boat. It also doesn’t hurt to have a few rods with crankbaits, slabs, Sassy Shad, or even live-bait options handy when the topwater action is slim.

But that’s not what this story is about. So, to get in on the plug busting action, grab your topwater rod and head for Texoma in the low light time periods of dawn and dusk. That’s not the only time you’ll catch stripers busting the surface, but it’s a good time to start, particularly along rocky shorelines and points in the lake’s eastern and southern zones.

For the early and late stuff, I like to throw a topwater bait that can be walked — or moved back and forth from side to side — or one that will chug and spit water as it is retrieved back to the boat.

Keep in mind that while surface bites on Texoma can be solitary at other times of the year, most of the summertime stuff happens with schools of stripers lurking and swimming about nearby. In other words, where there’s one striper willing to dance on the surface, look for plenty of his or her linesider schoolmates willing to do the same.

During the middle of the day, there can also be a good run of surface action as schools of smaller sized stripers gather en masse and herd uncountable numbers of shad into bait balls that they will readily feed upon near the top of the water column.

If you’ve ever seen an acre or two of the 89,000-acre reservoir boil as shad leap from the water in pure piscatorial terror, it brings to mind a scene straight out of a Stephen King horror novel. A horror novel, that is, if you’re a threadfin or a gizzard shad living in Texoma as big stripers buzz about!

What type of lures are we talking about? Examples of walking style topwater baits can include the Heddon Zara Spook, a Strike King KVD Sexy Dawg, and a Rapala Skitter Walk among others. For the chugging style bait, try a Rebel Pop R, a Strike King KVD Splash, a Storm Chug Bug, or a H2O XPRESS TWP.

What kind of colors do you need in the topwater lure department? Well, that’s the easiest question to answer here — something that resembles a shad, of course. As a result, think white, silver, gray, clear, or bone body colors with a lure accent color added in that is red, chartreuse, olive, black, or blue.

Why such a focus on these colors? Because as local Orvis endorsed fly fishing guide Steve Hollensed likes to say, on Lake Texoma, it’s almost always a shad, shad story!

In addition to getting the color right, also note that size can also matter. Like many other anglers at Texoma, I’ve most often erred on the side of bigger is better, even upgrading to saltwater sized versions of the baits mentioned above, even some with big, rugged treble hook selections.

That’s also true when I’ve got an eight-weight fly rod in my hand, erring on the side of bigger topwater flies. But sometimes, the stripers can also be finicky and you’ll have to downsize to “match the hatch” more appropriately, either with flies or conventional tackle.

Either way, the topwater bite is one of the best ways to enjoy a striper fishing trip on Lake Texoma right now. And as long as the weather continues to be somewhat reasonable for this time of year, odds are, at least some topwater action will continue.

In fact, all you need to do to find out if the topwater bite is still going strong at Texoma, is to locate Bill Carey.

Because if he’s smiling, you’ll want to grab your rod-and-reel, load up the boat, and get to the lake as quickly as possible. After all, it’s still topwater time on Texoma and there’s no better way to see your rod bend as a big linesider comes calling and wants to dance on the surface.

Just ask Bill.