Is Arbuckle Lake the best bass fishing lake in the state? Two winning stringers of 40 plus pounds and a big bass of more than 10 pounds on consecutive January weekends in bass tournaments at Arbuckle certainly would make it seem so.
Arbuckle Lake frequently has been producing trophy bass in recent years, leading to more tournaments and fishing pressure. Anglers who had never before heard of Arbuckle Lake several years ago are now making it a fishing destination. But is it now the undisputed king of Oklahoma bass fishing?
“It's debatable,” said Gene Gilliland, assistant chief of fisheries for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “It depends on what you are looking for. If I am fishing for a 10-pounder, I am going to Arbuckle. If I am looking for a boatload of 2, 3, 4 or 5-pounders, I am going to Grand.”
Arbuckle has been on an incredible run of late, but it hasn't always been a good bass fishing destination. Historically, Arbuckle was dominated by small, slow-growing bass, Gilliland said.
About 10 years ago, the Wildlife Department reintroduced the Florida-strain of largemouth bass in the 2,300-acre lake and those fish have matured.
“The fish that we stocked, or the offspring of those stocked fish, are now turning into these trophy bass that are being caught on a pretty regular basis for the past three years,” Gilliland said. “You have good genetics from the stocking program, good habitat and good forage.
“Arbuckle has a very good survival rate of young bass and it's also a lake where fish can live deep most of the year, avoiding encounters with anglers and growing older and bigger. Catching those fish gets pretty tough later in the year, so the bass have a chance to grow up.”
February and March are normally the big bass months in Oklahoma. However, warmer than usual days in January and the fact that bass tournaments are starting earlier than in the past are reasons why Arbuckle is coughing up double digit size largemouth bass right now, he said.
Still, Grand Lake would be on the top of many bass anglers list of best fishing lakes simply because of numbers. Grand Lake is not stocked with Florida largemouth because it is too far north for those fish to survive, but Grand will produce more bites than Arbuckle, Gilliland said.
Grand will produce 20-pound bags for bass anglers almost year-round, while the fishing at Arbuckle gets tougher in the summer, Gilliland said.
“There is big fish in Arbuckle but it doesn't have gobs of 2 to 5 pounders (like Grand),” he said.