When it comes to smallmouth, all the talk centers around waters like Oneida, 1000 Islands, St. Clair, Mille Lacs and the lakes of the Kentucky/Tennessee hill country like Dale Hollow. But I am here to tell you that Oklahoma and Texas are also places to fish smallmouth. I grew up fishing in West Texas lakes such as Alan Henry, JB Thomas, Possum Kingdom, and other hot, rocky and sandy places. Most of these were man made impoundments stocked with largemouth.
It wasn't until I was in my teens that I first heard stories about the hard running,
acrobatic jumping smallmouth. It was while on an early fall fishing trip to Conchas Reservoir in New Mexico that I had my first encounter with the velociraptor of the fishing world. We were fishing for walleye with bombers. The bite had been a little slow. We had put a few walleye in the boat when one of my most exciting fishing moments occurred- I got a hit near the bank. It did not have that shakey head pull of a walleye. Whatever it was I knew it was a very determined, hard fighting fish. It ran hard to the side, then, on three
different runs, it leapt in spectacular fashion into the air. I saw it was a smallmouth, my first smallmouth, and I suddenly realized what all the talk was about.
That first impression was tattooed into my brain that day- the day I learned that it is not necessarily the biggest fish that is able to wage the toughest battle. My next memorable encounter with small jaws was on a small river near Tishomingo, OK. I set off on foot to find some fish. The clear, slow moving water called for a wacky rig. I was catching largemouth sitting off the rocky cover of rip rap. I had also had a few hits in the open water, but something told me to try the faster current. The first cast yielded a hard strike that quickly unspooled line in the fast flowing water. This did not feel like a green machine and memories of the Conchas experience filled my head. After fighting both fish and current, I landed, to my amazement, a smallmouth! It wasn't a big one, but just as on the Conchas, I was surprised to encounter a smallmouth.
Since then, I have found more and more smallmouth in Oklahoma and I have learned to
target them in their preferred conditions/habitat. While not the legendary 6-7 lb. monsters I’ve read about, there are a number of healthy fish in the 16", to 18" range, and I am here to tell you that if you are a west Texas or Okie angler, you can find them too! They like the Red River, and seem to co-exist well with the many spotted and largemouth bass also found there. Unlike their green cousins, the smallies prefer smaller lures. I have luck using Strike King’s green pumpkin Bitsy jig paired with a Rage Menace in summer craw or green pumpkin trailer. A wacky rig works well too. I use Yum Dingers in bourbon berry, baby bass, and black & blue colors.
On Lake Texoma, switch to darker colors, and experiment with adding weight to the rig.
Drop shots also work well there near the offshore humps, and long submerged points. If you fish around bridge pilings use a jerk or a spy bait as the smallies move to these areas to intercept schools of shad, and baitfish traveling the lake channels. At Lake Murray, try dragging a downsized Carolina rig around the rocky points and offshore ledges. Remember, smallmouth are not just the target of northern anglers. If you find yourself fishing any of these West Texas or Oklahoma waters, try some of these techniques and #LiveThePassion!
Zachery Warren is a Kayak Bass angler originally from Albany TX and now residing in Denison, TX. He often fishes across the boarder in Oklahoma. He has a real passion for the no motor, limited electronics nature of kayak angling. He has fished a number of online tournaments to test his skills and he is now moving to local and state tournaments along the Texhoma border. We appreciate Zach sharing his favorite tricks and tactics with the 360Nation.