Apr 01

Predicting tournament outcomes is hardly an exact science, but simply anticipating what to expect will be particularly challenging when the 2019 Texas Team Trail, presented by Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops visits Lake Texoma on April 4.

Hailing from Argyle, Texas, Billy Cline has amassed several years of Texoma experience, including a 2015 TXTT win. He’s been monitoring lake conditions and he says there’s a good bit of uncertainty as to how the event will unfold.

Before we get to all that, let’s take a look at the playing field.


Straddling the Texas/Oklahoma border, this 74,686-acre lake has a maximum depth of 100 feet. As of March 27, the lake stood a 615.64 feet, just over the full pool mark of 615.

Impounded in 1944 with the completion of the Denison Dam on the Red River, Texoma’s also fed from the north by the Washita River. Mineral, Little Mineral, Buncombe, Rock, and Glasses comprise some of the dominant creeks. The lake’s upper end fluctuates most in clarity, while the deep water down by the dam is typically clearest.

The 12th largest U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lakes, Texoma offers a diverse mix of points, bluffs, riprap, docks, shallow wood, and standing timber. The big lake’s thin on vegetation, but there are scattered areas of water willow, American lotus, floating heart, and bushy pondweed.


Here are the factors that could impact the tournament’s challenges and opportunities.

Conditions: One of the biggest considerations for any fishery is clarity and Cline said the Corps has been pulling a lot of water through Texoma. That has left much of the lake off-colored and, as he notes, it’s hard to say if those conditions will continue.

“Everything is weather-dependent,” he said. “The year that we won, we had several inches of rain before the tournament and the lake came up overnight and muddied up everything. You never know this time of year on Texoma.”

If the water remains off colored, Cline expects sight fishing to suffer. The event will see a mix of prespawn and spawning activity, but visibility is a crucial factor for the latter. Murky water hides the fish and leaves anglers with only the less-efficient option of blind casting likely areas.

“The bed fish are hard enough to see in a lot of the creeks anyway, but if the water remains off colored, the sight fishing will be nil,” Cline said.

Baitfish Attraction: “I don’t know if we’ve had warm enough weather yet for a shad spawn because we’re typically there a little later for this event. During those past events, when we were on Texoma in late April, there was a shad spawn going on. I don’t know if that will play out this time or not.”

If water temperature does prompt the shad to do their thing, anglers will find them flickering and splashing around docks, rocks and most any hard surface. This scenario, Cline said, could significantly impact the playing field.

“It will make the lake fish a lot bigger,” he said. “It really brings the whole lake into play at that point, instead of just the creeks where the fish like to spawn. It makes it fish a whole lot bigger in an event like this.”


Lacking a shad spawn, anglers will have to decide if they want to look for prespawners or bed fish. If the former gets the call, then points, drops and docks outside of spawning pockets area all good bets. Cranking will handle much of this duty, but topwaters, swimbaits, bladed jigs and flipping laydowns, docks, etc. will also play. It’s also likely that Texoma will hear the splash of Alabama rigs during the tournament.

For bed fish, it’s usually a matter of preference on soft plastics, but a mix of beaver style baits, craws and finesse worms will see plenty of action. Cline notes that in dingier water, when beds are less visible, anglers often fare well by twitching a fluke around likely bedding areas.

“There’s a lot of sand in these creeks and that offers the hard bottom that spawning fish like,” he said. “They’ll also spawn on dock floats in marinas, a stick or root ball in the water. They just need hard bottom and something to get beside.

“Main lake smallmouth could be a factor, but it’s going to be hard to win on smallmouth alone,” Cline said. “An event like this, is usually takes mid to upper 20’s to win and it’s hard to do that with smallmouth only.

“There are a lot of 5- and 6-pound smallmouth in the lake, but in my experience, it’s harder to catch five of those than it is to catch (big) largemouth, especially if the smallmouth are spawning. They spawn out there deep and largemouth are much easier to spot (on shallow beds).”

Whatever flavor anglers pursue, Cline said he’s looking for 28-29 pounds to win. Could be more, as Texoma definitely has the quality and quantity to pack a big bag.

Cline’s advice: “Fish your strengths and don’t let the crowd get in your head. Don’t be afraid to fish around a crowd because even if four people go through the same area, you still have a really good chance of catching fish behind them. Texoma just fishes like that.

“If you have a bait that they’re biting, the guy who goes through before you may be throwing something totally different and miss the whole thing. Don’t get spun out with a crowded lake. If you’re in a crowd, don’t let it bug you.”


The Texas Parks and Wildlife agency advises boaters that Zebra mussels have infested Lake Texoma. That means cleaning, draining and drying boats, trailers and all gear is required before traveling to another water body. Zebra mussel possession is illegal.