Lake Lyndon B. Johnson, named for the Texas senator who later became a president of the United States, is an impoundment on the Texas Colorado River, not to be confused with the much bigger Colorado River further west.
The lake is about 45 miles north of Austin, one of the United State’s two proudly named “Weird Cities.” The other is Portland, OR. With such quick access to Austin, one of the top cities in North America for live music, a family vacation to this central Texas town can easily include a fishing trip to Lake Lyndon B. Johnson.
The lake was created in 1950. It twists along the original Colorado River channel for about 21 miles and has a ragged shoreline. It has a maximum depth of about 90 feet. It is extremely popular with skiers, boaters and other people who want to spend a day on the water.
The lake holds six different species of bass. Some of these are few and far between and others are easier to find.
The No. 1 fish on the lake for anglers is the largemouth bass. Ol’ Bucketmouth can grow to double digits, but finding one over 10 pounds is rare here. The lake record is 13.7 pounds. Largemouth are aggressive feeders and will hit just about anything. Live shad, also called shiners, and live crawdads are the best bait. Artificial lures include everything in the tackle box with the top selections being jigs, crankbaits, plastic worms and spinnerbaits.
The Guadalupe Bass is named for Guadalupe River and found only in Texas. Some have made it into the Colorado River system. This fish is considered threatened so if you catch one, please release it. You’ll find this fish where the lake has current. Small jigs and tube lures are top baits.
The lower end of the lake has a moderate population of smallmouth bass. They will hit everything a largemouth will take. Smallmouth, sometimes called a bronzeback, are strong fish and pound for pound will outfight a largemouth.
The hybrid bass is a cross between the white bass and the striped bass. Hybrids are schooling fish and will drive baitfish to the surface. When that happens, you can catch a fish on nearly every cast. Throw topwater, shallow-running crankbaits or light-weight tube lures into the feeding frenzy; you need to stay near the top of the water column. Get up early, before daylight even, for the best chance of catching them.
Striped bass, also called rock, stripers, rockfish and several other names, are the largest of the freshwater bass species. They can feed like hybrids, driving fish to the surface, and they cruise the lake looking for something to eat. Stripers get their rockfish nickname because they like to cruise rocky areas. Top lures are big plugs and big, white bucktails. Big live bait is the preferred way to chase these fish.
White bass are an open-water schooling fish. They are constantly on the move looking for something to eat. Comparing them to a blackfin tuna in saltwater is a good analogy. They hit just about anything, as long as it is mid- to small-sized. Like the white and striped bass, they will also drive schools of baitfish to the surface.
There’s more than just bass in this lake. The second most-chased group of fish on Lake Lyndon B. Johnson is panfish, with catfish another option for anglers.
Panfish covers a lot of species. This is a look at the top two.
In the South, bream is a catchall term. They are very common, excellent table fare and easy to catch. The bream family is what many beginning anglers start with because of how easy and how fast they are caught.
Catch bream with bream poles using crickets, worms or most any insect. The same pole can bounce small jigs and flies. Small spinnerbaits and tiny crankbaits will also produce fish.
Crappie, pronounced CROP ee, are included in panfish. Crappie like live prey. The most common bait is live minnows on a bare hook or added to a hair or rubber jig. The lines can be fished over the side of the boat over structure like sunken Christmas trees or trolled. Veteran crappie anglers can have a dozen poles in the water at once, a setup called a spider rig.
Mr. Whiskers comes in many varieties on Lake Lyndon B. Johnson. The top targets for fishing and eating are the channel cat and flathead.
In both cases, find deep holes to find the fish. Fish on the bottom with cut bait for either fish. Channel cats also like stinky bait; chicken liver is a perennial favorite. Worms also work well. For big flatheads, weighing more than 50 pounds, use live bream, the bigger the better for these behemoths.