Texas is home to the best bass fishing in the country.
That’s a statement anglers in the Lone Star State long have been able to take to the bank, but actually quantifying it has been tough in the past, especially considering other notable largemouth locales including Florida and California arguably have prime habitat of their own. However, the annual release of Bassmaster Magazine’s “100 Best Bass Lakes in America” again has Texas at the top of the heap for lakes and reservoirs that harbor largemouths, smallmouths and spotted bass — or in some cases all three.
Toledo Bend Reservoir — the massive impoundment on the Texas-Louisiana border — took the No. 1 ranking. Texas led the way with nine selections, a year after tying California with eight. Lake Michigan’s Sturgeon Bay — last year’s No. 1 — dropped to second. The No. 1 fishery from 2013 — Michigan’s Lake St. Clair — took third. The California Delta and Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Texas round out the Top 5.
Other Texas bodies of water making the Top 100 include Lake Fork (No. 15), Ray Roberts Lake (No. 31),Falcon International Reservoir (No. 42), Lake Conroe (No. 50), Fayette County Reservoir (No. 62), Lake Texoma (No. 73) and Squaw Creek Reservoir (No. 86).
Fork, Ray Roberts and Fayette County also made last year’s list. Lake Austin, the highest-rated Texas lake at No. 8 in last year’s rankings, didn’t make this year’s cut.
The Texas bodies of water are situated in a variety of locales and climates, but all feature one similarity – excellent habitat for spawning and ambushing prey – the things bass do best. Each lake has produced entries 13 pounds or larger into the ShareLunker program, a selective breeding effort by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department that ultimately is aimed at eclipsing the state record largemouth of 18.18 pounds. That fish was caught from Fork, which has produced more than half of the state’s 50 heftiest largemouths.
Texas’ bass fishing success rests almost solely on the efforts of fisheries biologists, who in the early 1970s began producing and stocking Florida largemouth fingerlings. Those fledgling efforts have amped up into mass production – TPWD stocked more than 11 million Florida largemouth fingerlings across the state last year – and the big bass craze only will continue to expand.
The rankings are compiled using input from state fisheries agencies, the B.A.S.S. Nation and B.A.S.S. Council, and are finalized by a 15-member panel of experts from across the fishing industry. The complete listings will appear in the July/August issue.