Oklahoma’s Management Strategy

Although it may be debated by some, black bass (largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass) are the state’s most popular sport fish, with largemouths the most pursued by anglers. Because of this species’ popularity and the varied angling opportunities throughout the state, the Department developed an official Largemouth Bass Management Plan.

Under the plan, which has been utilized for several years, biologists strive to match each lake's bass populations with appropriate regulations to maximize largemouth angling opportunities. Some lakes are suited for producing many bass, while others have the potential to become trophy bass fisheries.

Fisheries managers use a variety of biological information in determining management recommendations, but some of the most important pieces of information come from springtime electrofishing surveys. Information on population health, average fish size and habitat and forage conditions can be obtained from survey results.

The accompanying bass electrofishing chart lists the two most important sets of data: "Number of Bass Per Hour," and "Number of Bass Over 14 Inches Per Hour." While anglers can use these indicators to help determine where to fish for bass, biologists use the data to rate each lakes and, subsequently, formulate management strategies for them.

Lakes are classified as "Quality" if they can produce good numbers of catchable bass (indicated by at least 40 bass per hour of electrofishing, with at least 10 of those bass 14 inches or longer). "High Quality" lakes produce excellent numbers of catchable bass (at least 60 bass per hour, with 15 or more of those fish 14 inches or longer). Lakes that have trophy potential (capable of producing two fish over 21 inches in length per hour of electrofishing) are rated as "Trophy Quality."

Of course, reaching the goals outlined in the Largemouth Bass Management Plan requires both harvest and habitat management. Slot length Limits, minimum size limits and modified bag limits are established on some lakes to help create the highest quality fishing possible. Angler acceptance of these regulations is critical to their success.

In addition to the largemouth bass phases of the plan, the Department has increased its efforts in smallmouth bass management. Reservoir-strain smallmouth, which exhibit excellent growth and naturally reproducing populations, have been stocked at a number of lakes across the state.

Biologist’s Tips


Bass can be found in relatively shallow water, two to eight feet deep, during the cooler spring and fall months. During the summer, bass often move into the shallows at night to feed. However, when the sun’s rays are intense, and during the cold winter months, anglers should concentrate their searches for bass in deep water.

Bass almost always relate to some type of cover, including stumps, logs, brush, weeds, boat docks, drop-offs and creek channels. When fish are active, lures such as spinnerbaits, topwater plugs and crankbaits are good choices. If bass are pressured or if weather changes have "turned them off," jig and pork-rind combinations, plastic worms and grubs usually generate the most strikes.

Other tips to keep in mind when bass fishing include:

  • Use dark lures in dark (muddy) water and light lures in light (clear) water.
  • Use larger, dark-colored lures at night.
  • Try to fish spots other anglers might overlook, like a cluster of rocks along a tree-lined bank or a small log along a stretch of rip-rap.
  • Topwater plugs can be lethal early and late in the day, but they also will catch bass during the middle of the day -- in fact, anytime the fish are active. Don’t let a little chop on the water stop you from trying a topwater, either.
  • When using plastic worms in warm water, fish slow. You can fish too fast, but never too slow.
  • Many bass anglers recommend using pork-rind trailers for jigs whenever water temperatures are below 65-70 degrees. When water temperatures are above 70 degrees, they switch to plastic trailers.
  • when bass fishing’s "second spring" just begins. When the water temperature dips into the 60s in October, most lakes become less crowded with visitors, but bass are actively feeding in shallow water. Concentrate your efforts on windy points in the fall, where black bass are feeding on schools of three-inch shad.
  • When using a plastic worm in heavy timber, thread a piece of rubber band inside the slip sinker with your line. This prevents the sinker from sliding up the line, yet is still removable when necessary. This technique is commonly called "pegging" the line. With the slip sinker up against your worm, the chances of hang-ups in heavy cover are greatly reduced.
  • Finally, if fishing pressure is intense or the action is particularly slow, try something off-beat or unusual. Try to present the fish with something they haven’t already seen 10 times. This can be accomplished by varying your retrieve, such as changing speed or using an erratic, stop-and-go pattern.


Bass Length Limits Brochure

Bass in Oklahoma