A non-native species to Oklahoma, striped bass offer the state’s anglers extraordinary fishing opportunities to catch big fish.
Stripers, as most locals call them, are native to brackish and saltwater areas on the East Coast, but they have proven highly adaptable to freshwater because they swim up freshwater streams to spawn.
Striped bass are closely related to our native but significantly smaller white bass, also called sand bass. They are closely related enough, in fact, that a hybrid of the two species inhabits many of Oklahoma’s waterways.
This article will show you the very best lakes and rivers to catch both striped bass and hybrid bass, along with some tips on how to catch them.
Natural reproduction of the hybrids (also known as wipers in some places) has not been observed. ODWC produces hybrids in hatcheries by crossing female striped bass with male white bass, and those hybrids are stocked in select lakes.
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation began stocking Lake Texoma and Lake Keystone in the 1960s. Since then, the striper and hybrid populations have come to thrive in other Sooner State lakes as well.
How to Identify Striped Bass vs. Hybrids
The quickest way to identify a striped bass vs. a hybrid is the long unbroken black lines that run laterally down a striped bass’s body. A hybrid’s stripes are more broken.
Striped bass also grow much larger than hybrids. The Oklahoma state record for a striped bass is nearly 50 pounds, while the state record hybrid is just over 20 pounds.
However, if you catch a small one, another simple way to identify them is by the curve of their back. A striped bass does not have an arched back like hybrids.
Where To Find Striped and Hybrid Bass
Striped bass are found primarily toward the eastern side of Oklahoma. However, a few lakes on the west side are excellent hybrid fishing lakes.
Unlike species of black bass, like Oklahoma’s famous largemouth bass fisheries, striped bass prefer the open water. You’ll rarely find them near the shoreline. This means you’ll likely need a boat to catch them.
Stripers are a schooling fish like white bass, so if you catch one, there’s likely more in the area.
They primarily eat smaller fish such as shad and minnows, as well as crustaceans and insects. When you find a large school of shad in the middle of the lake, chances are the striped bass and hybrids are nearby, hunting for an easy meal.
How to Catch Striped Bass and Hybrids
Stripers and hybrids are regularly caught using several different methods.
Nearly all require a boat, so I recommend hiring a guide the first time you go out. When you hire a guide, you will learn the general area striped bass like to frequent, what bait works best in that lake, and the best gear to use.
However, if you prefer not to hire a guide, you can drift live shad, troll, vertical jig and use topwaters. Each method has its time and place, as you’ll see below.
Drifting live shad is an excellent way of locating fish when the wind is blowing 5-8 miles an hour. If you have too much wind, the waves cause your baits to bounce too much, and if there’s too little wind, you won’t cover enough area.
You will need to experiment with the depths to find where the fish are. It’s always best to start on the bottom and work higher in the water column.
Trolling is one of my favorite ways to fish. Cast your lure out and motor around at a slow speed around until you get a bite.
You’ll need to experiment with the speed and depth of your lures to get the best results. Use crankbaits, spoons or other lures that resemble shad.
Vertically jigging is similar to drift fishing, except you will use a spoon or jig.
Once you find the fish, you can stay in place or follow the school around until the bit stops, you reach your limit, or it’s time to head home.
Using topwater lures is the most fun way to catch any fish, especially striped bass. However, it’s not as common as the other methods because it requires perfect conditions. You need a calm day and hungry fish.
If you see fish causing a huge commotion at the water’s surface in the middle of the lake, it’s time to throw a topwater lure. Any lure that resembles an injured shad should work.
You will need heavy-duty gear to catch stripers.
Your heavy bass fishing rods and reels will work, and many people use catfish rods and reels when drifting for stripers. Remember, you’re trying to catch a large, powerful fish. You need gear that will give you an advantage.
Best Striper Fishing Rivers and Lakes
As I mentioned earlier, stripers are primarily found in lakes on the eastern side of the state, particularly east of I-35, so if you live in the western portion of the state, you will have to travel to get to the best striped bass fishing in Oklahoma.
Arkansas River & Reservoirs
The Arkansas River is easily one of the best waterways for stripers in Oklahoma.
Beginning at the tailwaters of Kaw Lake, flowing through Keystone Lake, and on down to Webbers Falls, all three locations are excellent striped bass fishing.
There are public access locations along the Arkansas River. However, to best fish it, you will need a boat to put in at a boat ramp and run up or down the river.
Fishing below the dam at Kaw Lake is the most likely spot you’ll encounter stripers in the far-northern region of Northeast Oklahoma, and it’s also a very good white bass fishery along with much of the Arkansas River and its reservoirs.
Webbers Falls is a wide spot in the Arkansas River, but it’s home to high-quality striped bass fishing about an hour southeast of Tulsa or two hours east of Oklahoma City.
Webbers Falls also is home to a variety of other fisheries, including boasting some of Oklahoma’s best crappie fishing.
The Arkansas River offers the opportunity to catch lots of stripers from the moment it enters Oklahoma until it exits the state. It also has quality-size stripers swimming in its waters.
You can use all fishing styles to catch both stripers and hybrids along the Arkansas River. It will most likely depend on the day as to which one will yield the best results.
Lower Illinois River
The Lower Illinois River flows out of Tenkiller Lake, which also harbors some striped bass but pales in comparison to the Lower Illinois River.
The river doesn’t have as many fish as the Arkansas, but it does offer the chance at quality fish. In 1996, a 47.5-pound Oklahoma state record striper was caught in the Lower Illinois.
Trout swimbaits are very popular baits because the ODWC stocks the Lower Illinois year-round with trout.
Check the Oklahoma fishing regulations before using live or dead trout as bait because the agency has special rules when it comes to trout fishing.
Using other species of legally caught fish for bait is permitted. Using live bait is probably the most popular way to catch striped bass on the Lower Illinois River.
Several public access locations along the river offer fishing from the bank. While using a boat will give you access to the best places, this is one waterway you can fish from the bank and reasonably expect to catch stripers.
Lake Texoma is one of the rare locations where you can catch stripers in both quality and quantity, so it has been nicknamed the “Striper Capital of the World.” That’s a bold statement considering stripers didn’t call Oklahoma home until the 1960s.
Texoma is located Southeast of Ardmore on the Red River, the Oklahoma/Texas border. Not surprisingly, it’s also on our list of best striped bass and hybrid fishing lakes in Texas.
Several local guides can show you the ropes of striped bass fishing on Texoma. You will need a boat to properly fish the lake because it is one of Oklahoma’s largest lakes. So there is a lot of water to cover when searching for stripers.
The best places to start are at the mouths of creeks and river channels.
Fish will use these areas as travel lanes and also will congregate there to feed. Fish further up the streams in the spring, as striped bass use creeks to spawn. During the summer, they will head back to the main lake.
The lake is an expanding tourist destination, so there is plenty to do while you’re not catching striped bass. For example, you also can catch some of Oklahoma’s biggest catfish.
More: Lake Texoma Fishing
Best Hybrid Striped Bass Fishing Lakes
Since they were first stocked in 1977, hybrid striped bass have thrived in many lakes across the state. They are still stocked at several lakes across Oklahoma, and the hybrid fishing continues to be excellent at several of these locations.
For bank anglers, hybrids are most readily caught during the spring spawn and summer when they chase schools of shad onto shallow flats to feed.
However, since they are primarily a roaming fish, a boat will give you the highest chance of success at any location.
Here are a handful of the very best hybrid bass fishing spots across Oklahoma.
Oologah Lake is located 30 minutes northeast of Tulsa and is a popular destination for many species, especially catfish, sand bass and hybrids.
Hybrid fishing is best for bank anglers below the Oologah Dam when it is releasing significant water. Bouncing a large white jig along the bottom in the swift current is very effective.
However, the main lake shouldn’t be overlooked. If you have a boat, there are many creek mouths and channels to explore, as well as the main river channel.
Another popular destination for bank anglers is the Winganon Bridge crossing the lake.
Hybrids are often caught during the spring spawn in the Verdigris River that flows into the lake because they will school up with the white bass in the river.
More: Oologah Lake Fishing
Foss Reservoir, a.k.a. Foss Lake, is located two hours west of Oklahoma City. It’s one of the westernmost lakes in the state with hybrids swimming in its waters, and they are the most popular fish to catch in the lake.
The reservoir has many public access areas; however, bank anglers will find it challenging to have a successful day. So a boat is highly recommended.
Trolling using large spoons or crankbaits is an effective way of finding where the fish are in the lake.
During the morning and evening hours, hybrids will move shallower to feed. So fish during these times to have the greatest chance of success.
Since Western Oklahoma is less populated, Foss Reservoir receives less pressure than many lakes on the eastern side of the state, which means fishing can often be better.
Located 25 miles north of Stillwater, Sooner Lake is a relatively small lake that offers great hybrid fishing. It’s managed by OG+E, a power company that operates a power plant on the lake.
You will need a boat to fish effectively for hybrids on Sooner Lake. Even though it’s a small lake, there is not a lot of public bank access.
Hybrids will behave similarly here as in other lakes, except you will find that the water is warmer near the power plant, and the fish will be more active in this area.
I recommend starting your search near the power plant and working your way down the rest of the lake to locate concentrations of hybrids.
Located two hours northwest of Oklahoma City, Canton Lake is another western lake that offers excellent hybrid striped bass fishing.
Public lands surround it. However, that doesn’t mean easy bank access. As usual, when fishing for hybrids, a boat will be the best option.
Only a couple of creeks feed the lake, so locating hybrids in the spring should be reasonably simple. When they’re back in the main lake during the summer, you’ll likely need to troll across wider areas to find where they’re located.
Canton Lake is a little ways off the beaten path, and it is mostly fished by locals. That means it doesn’t receive much pressure even during the height of the fishing season.
More: Canton Lake Fishing