By Zell Rowland

 

You can find a lot to love about a lot of bass fisheries. Every lake and river has its own character, and some suit your style of fishing and your disposition more than others. Over time, you mix in big fish, tournament wins, unforgettable days and the beauty and charm that certain waters have, and you find that you’ve cleared a special place in your heart for them.

No one lake stands out as my favorite, but I can point to three that I like best: Falcon Lake in Texas, Alabama’s Lake Guntersville and Florida’s Lake Okeechobee.

They are spread out, each in a different part of the country, each a different type of fishery. One thing all possess, though, are big bass, and plenty of them.

Lake Guntersville
I’ve won two Bassmaster events at Guntersville (the Alabama Invitational in 1991 and a tour event with a $101,000 payday in 2005). I won each event doing different things.

If I had to pick my best and most memorable day in bass fishing it would be that final day of the 2005 event on Guntersville. I caught 47 fish over five pounds to wrap up the tournament on the last day.

I wish I had Jerry McKiniss’s footage from that day. His film crew caught just about my entire catch, but all the television coverage showed was 1-1/2 minutes of that final day with me catching them all on a 1/2-ounce Booyah jig with a 2-3/4-inch YUM crawfish trailer.

Guntersville is one of those fisheries that I call “universal.” It is primarily a shallow water fishery, but you can catch them deep at times as well. Where you catch them depends on the time of year.

The way to success on Guntersville is adapting to the vegetation. Sometimes you are just flipping reeds. Sometimes the bass are relating to one kind of plant but not the others. Often you are looking for mixes of vegetation, whether it is hydrilla and dollar pads, hydrilla and milfoil, or some other combination. You have to fish all of the vegetation to find out! But usually, some mix of vegetation is best.
guntersville
I use all types of baits on Guntersville from Fat Free Shads to Pop-Rs, jigs, spinnerbaits and the rest. You can also use multi-rigs on Guntersville, just as you can on the other two lakes. The best one to use, in my opinion, is the Yum Flash Mob Jr. You can rig it with anything from grubs to a “school” of Yum Money Minnows.

Falcon Lake
My home state of Texas has a ton of terrific bass waters, but I would have to pick Falcon Lake near Zapata as my first choice. Falcon may not be the best topwater fishery, but it is absolutely incredible for structure fishing and flipping heavy cover. And I can live with that!

Paul Elias broke the Bassmaster record at Falcon with a four-day total of 132 pounds, 8 ounces. Eleven anglers topped the 100-pound mark during that event, so you know it’s loaded with giants.

One of my best tournament days came on Falcon, too. I weighed five fish for more than 30 pounds.

A lot of fishermen leave Falcon with a new personal record. I’ve caught a couple of bass close to 13 pounds there. One came from deep water, the other shallow on a Booyah spinnerbait.

Falcon is famous for its sunken ironwood trees. They are like giant thorn bushes. I like to pitch my bait into the tree, not around it. When you fish ironwood, you have to use braided line most of the time. And still you will have bass breaking you off.

The largest baits in my box come out when I fish Falcon. The Bomber Fat Free Shad BD7 cankbait gets big usage here. Depending on the depth I am fishing, ¾-ounce or ½-ounce Booyah willow blade spinnerbaits take some punishment, too.

Use the largest soft plastics you can find when fishing this lake. A giant Mighty Worm (10.5-inches) is a good choice. You simply can’t go too big there. You should see the size of the crawfish at Falcon – they’re bigger than lobsters.

Lake Okeechobee
No single tournament day stands out in my experience on Lake Okeechobee. More than anything, it is just a lake that I love to fish.

But I have caught some of the biggest fish in my career there. One day, I caught a 12- and then a 13-pound bass on back-to-back flips. You don’t forget those days! Both fish came fishing the Yum Wooly Bug.

Unlike my other favorites, Okeechobee is almost exclusively a shallow water fishery. In spring, you can be fishing in eight to 10 inches of water. In summer you fish in 2- to 4-foot depths.  

You can find “deep” water in the 8- to 12-foot range, but there’s not a lot of it. You need to find a ditch or a draw to find water that deep.

You can catch a lot of fish on topwater baits, so I can give the favorite baits in my arsenal a workout. I love to fish the Rebel Pop-R and the Heddon Zara Spook family, but one of the best is the Smithwick Devils Horse.

Fishing Okeechobee is all about working different types of vegetation and mixes of vegetation. It is a great spinnerbait lake and great for flipping and pitching, too. I’ll also work the edges of hydrilla with a lipless crankbait like the XCalibur Xr50.

This is a beautiful body of water…a shallow-water fisherman’s paradise, and I love it!