Bass after bass swirl on the surface of Lake Claiborne as schools of baitfish scatter like bird shot hitting the water, gaining the attention of fishermen across the lake. Those are striped bass chasing shad. It’s probably the most popular game in town during the hot months on this 6,400 acre reservoir.
But it’s another bass, the variety with large mouths, that catches the attention of veteran fisherman and guide Sid Havard.
“Largemouth bass fishing is so good on Lake Claiborne this month,” says Havard, a resident of nearby Simsboro. “It’s a lot better than people think. The deal is you have to go early and finish by 10 a.m. or so, or go late in the afternoon. It’s not an all-day deal like spring fishing, but it’s good. And fishermen are surprised at how big some of the fish are.”
The deal is also concentrating on big bass that come out of deep water early and late, feed around the piers and seawalls in shallow water at that time of the day and provide some relatively easy fishing as bass fishing goes.
“The key is to just stay near deeper water and you can catch some nice fish,” Havard said. “They come out of the deeper holes, feed, and then go back as the sun gets up and it warms up more. The best way to do it is with a wacky worm. Just hook it in the middle, toss it out and work it back in slowly. They’ll nail it. In fact, this kind of fishing and Lake Claiborne in general is a great way and place to introduce somebody to bass fishing. It’s generally in the open and you don’t have to be an expert casting or setting the hook.“
When the fish go back deeper, Havard says you don’t have to quit, but you need to find sharp changes in the contour, switch to a shaky head setup and start again. Either way, he likes using a Zoom straight tail trick worm in some shade of purple. His second choice would be watermelon with any color flake. Another option for the largemouth is topwater.
“These bass up here are old school,” he says with a laugh. “They’ll hit a Tiny torpedo or Lucky 13 like it’s the hottest new bait on the market.” He also fishes some Ribbitt frogs right up on the seawalls.
If largemouth aren’t your fish of choice, then stripers are a close second on Claiborne in June. They school up on the big end of the lake off the points near the spillway and hit topwaters, white bucktails and shad or bream colored Rattletraps.
Bream fishing is also good on the lake around the flats and banks where there is plenty of grass. Crappie fishing is slow, although veteran anglers who know right where the tops are do continue to register success in the hot summer months.
“That’s feast or famine and you have to know where the tops are,” he said. “Best baits are hair jigs.”