Texas Fishing: The Blue Jewel Of The Desert Produces Lunkers

Except for people living in nearby Del Rio, Texas, anyone wishing to fish Lake Amistad must drive a long distance to get there, but they could return with smiles on their faces.

Situated about 150 miles west of San Antonio and 425 miles east of El Paso, the lake spans the Mexico border about 12 miles northwest of Del Rio. The long drive across the deserts and scrub country of south Texas can reward visitors with incredible beauty and lunker bass fishing.

About one-third of the 64,900-acre lake sits in Mexico as it spreads through the Rio Grande and Devils River valleys. Impounded in 1969, the lake drops to more than 200 feet deep in places. On Dec. 28, 2005, Tom Sutherland set the lake largemouth record with a 15.68-pound lunker he enticed with a deep-diving crankbait. The lake also produces good catches of striped bass and a few smallmouths.

Professional Bass Angler, Kevin VanDam
Kevin VanDam, a professional bass angler, shows off a bass that he caught on a spinnerbait while fishing at Lake Amistad near Del Rio, Texas. (Photos by John N. Felsher)

“The lake produces some 10-pound bass each year,” said Kurt Dove, a guide with Amistad Bass and a professional angler. “I know of at least one 12-pounder caught in early 2009. We see many fish in the 6- to 11-pound range. The better quality fish remain in the deeper main basin of the lake on either side of the U.S. 90 bridge. Farther up the Rio Grande, people more likely catch numbers instead of giants.”

Best Fishing March-May

The best largemouth fishing generally occurs from March through May. In such a deep, clear lake, bass spawn through late spring. Bigger fish often hover around deep channels. The old river channel, ranging from about 100- to 150 feet deep, runs through the middle of the lake. People also fish steep drop-offs and ledges in a lake dominated by rocky cover and shoreline bluffs.

“For big bass, the best way to catch fish is with swimbaits out to about 15 feet deep,” Dove said. “The second best way is to use football-head jigs in deep water. Tip the jig with a craw worm or twin-tail grub to give the trailer some swimming action. Fish the jig on the bottom from 25- to 50 feet deep. Amistad is very clear. It’s not hard to see 20 feet down. Most of the big fish hover just past where the light can penetrate, generally in the 30- to 50-foot range.”

Professional Bass Angler Peter Thliveros
Peter Thliveros, a pro bass angler, lands a bass he caught on a fluke-type, soft-plastic bait while fishing at Lake Amistad.

In the extremely clear water, anglers can often see bedding fish and sight-cast to them in the spring. Use small, lifelike soft plastics. Some fish might spawn on deep humps in 15- to 20 feet of water. Many humps hold submerged grass or brush that provides cover for fish.

“Lake Amistad is so clear that we call it the Blue Jewel,” said Debra Hengst, professional bass angler from San Antonio. “When the wind is calm, we can see the fish swimming around in the water, but if we can see them, they can see us. I’ve seen double-digit fish swimming around. In that clear water, I like to use a drop shot or vertically jig a spoon. It’s also a good lake for throwing crankbaits and swimbaits, but my favorite way to fish for big bass at Amistad is around the weeds with weightless plastic baits.”

Bass Suspend In Hydrilla

Hydrilla started growing in the lake several years ago and now covers several thousand acres. In the clear conditions, hydrilla might grow in water as deep as 40 feet. The aquatic plant grows thickest in the summer and forms dense canopies on the surface, but stalks spread out, giving fish more room. Giant bass often suspend in these grassy forests or lurk near the bottom.

Bass caught by VanDam
VanDam admires a bass that he caught on a jointed crankbait while fishing at Lake Amistad.

“When the grass is just right, we do what’s called a ‘scrape,'” Hengst advised. “With heavy rods loaded with at least 50-pound test braided line, we drop a 1- to 1.5-ounce jig into a hole in the grass. It might be in 20- to 25 feet of water. The hydrilla is like an umbrella. Once you drop the jig through the surface, the water opens up. Fish hold up under it. Most of the time, they are on the bottom, but sometimes they are suspended under the grass canopy. In a good scrape, we can easily catch 40 pounds with five fish.”

American boaters can travel to the Mexican side of the lake as long as everyone on board the boat holds a Mexican fishing license, easily available at several places on either side of the border. For Texas license information, visit Texas Parks & Wildlife. For booking trips, call Dove at 830-719-3648 or visit Amistad Bass.

Stay up-to-date with the latest fishing stories and tips at Guide Outdoors. For the latest assortment of fishing gear be sure to visit Sportsman’s Guide.

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