The capital of Texas and its fourth-largest city, Austin is known for its vibrant nightlife, great food, creative culture and legendary live music scene. One thing it’s not usually known for is bass fishing. Why is that?
Fishing lakes near Austin provide some of the best bass fishing in Texas, so maybe it’s time to reevaluate Austin.
Nestled right at the intersection of the Texas Hill Country and the Prairies and Lakes region of East Texas, Austin is within a two-hour drive of several world-class bass lakes.
Largemouth bass are the main quarry at most Austin bass lakes, and there are opportunities to target trophy largemouths and stock your livewell with smaller keeper-sized fish.
But several of these Austin lakes are also great smallmouth waters. A few—particularly the reservoirs along the Colorado River—also harbor the rare Guadalupe bass.
Without further delay, here are the best of the best Austin-area bass fishing lakes.
Lake Lyndon B. Johnson
One of the most reliably productive bass lakes in Central Texas, Lake Lyndon B. Johnson has gained a reputation for year-after-year-consistency.
It’s cracked the top 10 on Bassmaster Magazine’s “100 Best Bass Lakes” multiple times in the last decade, which is no small feat. It’s also an honorable mention on our comprehensive listing of the best bass fishing lakes throughout Texas.
One of the great things about Lake Lyndon B. Johnson (you can go ahead and call it Lake LBJ) is that it’s fairly approachable. At just over 6,400 acres, it’s one of the smaller lakes on this list, and it gives up its secrets more readily than most.
Several different patterns usually pay off on LBJ. Bass head toward the shallows in pre-spawn mode during February most years, and can be found on their beds any time from March through May, as the weather dictates.
This spring season brings great bass action in the lake’s many coves, creeks and canals. The backs of many creek arms are filled with flooded water willows, and bass often fall for jigs and plastic worms.
There’s usually a shallow bite on Lake LBJ, but if you can’t find bass shallow, head to the nearest point or rocky ledge and work it with a tube jig or crankbait.
The shoreline of Lake Lyndon B. Johnson is highly developed, and dock fishing can pay off in a big way.
This is a great place to practice your pitching and flipping techniques, and there’s a more-than-solid chance you’ll pull some bass out from among the marinas, boathouses and bulkheads.
There’s a power plant overlooking Horseshoe Bay, on the southern shore of the lake. In winter, warm water discharge keeps this part of the lake consistently warmer, which attracts fish to the area.
Unlike a lot of Texas reservoirs, water levels in Lake LBJ are usually pretty consistent, even in times of drought.
Also, water clarity tends to be quite good. The lake is rocky and mostly clear near the dam, while the upper portion has a sandy bottom and is typically lightly stained.
Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir
Nestled at the northern tip of the Texas Hill Country about an hour north of Austin, Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir is one of the great bass factories in central Texas.
You can catch bass here pretty much year-round, though spring and fall are the best times to be on the water.
One of the great things about Stillhouse Hollow is that it supports healthy populations of both largemouth and smallmouth bass—something of a rarity in Central Texas.
The water here is deep and clear, with a lot of steep, rocky banks and ledges. There are some good-sized beds of hydrilla in the lower lake, as well as a few patches of standing timber farther up toward the Lampasas River end.
For largemouth bass, targeting hydrilla is usually a good approach. Try working a topwater over hydrilla-covered points in the lower lake, especially in the morning. This is an effective tactic in areas where the weeds haven’t reached the surface.
In emergent hydrilla beds, which become more common in summer, try dropping a hefty jig, creature bait or Texas-rigged worm into pockets in the slop. You can usually get bites working right along the edges of weed beds too.
Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir produces solid numbers of largemouths, as well as some very big bass. Every year a handful of 8-pound-plus bass from this lake are recognized by the Texas ShareLunker program.
Smallmouth bass, on the other hand, typically top out at 3 to 5 pounds, but pound-for-pound they’ll out-fight a largemouth every time. Stillhouse Hollow’s smallies are usually caught around rocky points, ledges and rip-rap, which the lower part of the lake has a lot of.
Jigs, tubes and plastic grubs are top smallmouth lures. You’ll most likely find smallmouths shallow in spring and fall, but even in winter, they’ll strike small jigs and drop-shot rigs along deeper rocky drop-offs.
Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir is a U.S. Corps of Engineers lake, and the Corps operates six access sites around its shoreline, with four-land boat ramps located at Stillhouse Park, Dana Peak Park, Union Grove Park and River’s Bend Park.
Lake Austin is one of several Colorado River reservoirs that offer prime bass fishing in and around Austin. It’s also one of the closest to home, located within the city limits and just minutes away from many Austinites.
Plus, it’s home to some very large fish. A 13-pound largemouth was brought to the boat here in 2021, and the lake record stands at a hefty 16.03 pounds.
Lake Austin covers just shy of 1,600 acres, and it’s a very long, narrow, meandering lake that looks and fishes more like a slow-moving river. Spring and fall offer the best bass fishing, but you can have a great day on Lake Austin in summer too.
The problem is boat traffic, which in summer can get so heavy that fishing from a boat can be a frustrating experience. If you come to Lake Austin during the warmer months, try to get on the water before daybreak to beat the crowds.
The bass spawn on Lake Austin can occur any time between February and April, depending on the weather. Bass spawn later in the upper end of the lake because releases from Lake Travis, just upstream, keep the water cooler.
Lake Austin has an abundance of near-shore grass beds, and a lot of the most successful local bass fishermen target them with topwaters, jigs, spinnerbaits and lipless crankbaits. Shad and various sunfish make up the bulk of bass’ diet.
This is one of the best lakes in the Austin area for bank fishing, as there are numerous parks along the shoreline that provide access.
Emma Long Metropolitan Park has boat launch facilities and shore access, and Jessica Hollis Park is a great place to fish from shore or launch a kayak at the upper end of the lake, right below the Mansfield Dam.
About 40 miles east of Austin, Lake Bastrop isn’t really known for producing trophy bass. But there’s something to be said for catching 2- to 4-pound largemouths until your arms are sore, and this is a lake where that’s a real possibility.
Lake Bastrop is a 906-acre reservoir on Spicer Creek, and its relatively small size makes it a very approachable lake for newcomers, especially compared to the massive impoundments spanning tens of thousands of acres that Texas is known for.
Another great thing about Bastrop is that it has a lot of classic bottom structure, including humps, points and a well-defined creek channel. It also has strong vegetation growth that provides cover.
Fishing weed edges in springtime is usually effective, and there’s typically good fishing here all the way from February into June. There’s a power plant on the shoreline, and the lake warms up early thanks to the warm water discharge.
Carolina-rigged worms and lizards are great baits here, and wacky worms and jigs can also be highly effective. In summer, the water gets quite hot, and weedy growth takes over, which can make fishing difficult, but there may still be a good topwater bite.
Lake Bastrop is one of the best winter bass lakes in the Austin area thanks to the discharge from the power plant, and it’s possible to catch bass well into the colder months by fishing crankbaits, football-head jigs and Carolina rigs along the creek channel.
Lake Buchanan is one big lake. At 22,000 acres, it’s the largest reservoir in the Austin area, and one of several that provide excellent fishing along the Colorado River.
Though it’s better known for its outstanding white and striped bass fishing, there’s a major sleeper largemouth population here. Lake Buchanan is a great numbers lake for largemouths, and there are also plenty of fish weighing 5 pounds or more.
On a lake this size, you have a lot of options. Flipping soft plastics around boathouses and docks is a reliable pattern, and flooded willows around the shoreline are often productive when the water is high.
Spring and fall offer the most productive bass fishing on Lake Buchanan. More often than not, the months of April and May offer a fantastic bass bite in shallow water.
Purple plastic worms are a local favorite, but crankbaits, jigs and spinnerbaits can also be dynamite in 5 to 15 feet of water during these peak seasons.
The upper end of Lake Buchanan—from the Beaver Creek Arm up to the Colorado River—tends to be pretty heavily stained, which keeps the shallow bite going year-round. Down closer to the dam, the water is usually much clearer.
In addition to largemouths, Lake Buchanan also has a limited population of Guadalupe Bass. These fish are found only in a handful of Texas waters, preferring moving water. In Buchanan, they’re most common at the extreme upper end of the lake.
Lake Buchanan is about an hour northwest of Austin.
Built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and located on the Leon River in the Brazos River basin, Belton Lake is a long, meandering reservoir that covers a little over 12,000 acres at full pool. It’s about an hour north of Austin, just outside the city of Temple.
Belton Lake—often referred to as Belton Reservoir—is a solid largemouth fishery, but what really makes it special is that it’s arguably the best smallmouth bass lake in Central Texas.
Compared to largemouths, smallmouth bass prefer rockier habitat and favor slightly cooler water. Belton Lake delivers on both counts, especially in the lower portion of the lake, which is where the best smallmouth fishing tends to be.
Aquatic vegetation is largely absent from Belton Lake, and there’s precious little timber. Rocky areas are key to fishing this lake, and you’ll find an abundance of tall bluffs and long, rocky points that hold a mix of smallmouth and largemouth bass.
If it’s smallies you’re after, start near the dam and work your way up the rocky banks with jigs or crawfish-pattern crankbaits.
Live Oak Ridge Park is a good place to launch near the dam.
Smallmouths are most likely to be shallow in early spring and late fall. When they head deeper at other times of the year, a drop-shot rig is the way to go.
Of course, the largemouth bass in Belton Lake are not to be overlooked, and you can catch a lot of them in sheltered coves and creek mouths using jig-and-pigs, wacky worms and jerkbaits.
Lake Travis is a long, snake-like reservoir on the Colorado River. Just west of Austin, the lake spans over 18,000 acres and offers a wealth of fishing opportunities.
Trophy bass are rare here, but a new 15.32-pound lake record was set in 2021, so make no mistake; there are big bass in Lake Travis. That being said, this lake really shines when it comes to producing great numbers of smaller bass.
Steep banks and rocky bluffs typify most of the shoreline, and the water tends to be fairly clear throughout most of the lake. The lower end also has an abundance of floating docks, so this lake can be a lot of fun for anglers who enjoy dock fishing.
As is often the case in Texas lakes, February and March offer your best shot at a big bass, but numbers are better from April into June.
Try swimbaits and drop-shot rigs at around the ends of deeper boat docks early in the season, or focus later on the season on hitting rocky shorelines and ledges with jigs, lizards and crankbaits.
There are almost always bass in Lake Travis’ many creek arms and inlets as well. At times when the water is high, focus on flooded vegetation along the banks.
Lake Travis is a great lake to take kids fishing because it has a lot of smaller bass that bite readily.
Lake Travis is one of the most popular recreation lakes in the Austin area, so expect a fair amount of boat traffic on a summer weekend. This is definitely a place where it pays to arrive early if you want to beat the crowds.
Lake Travis also is one of the best catfishing lakes in Texas.
Lake Walter E. Long
A great little close-to-home bass lake in Austin’s eastern suburbs, Lake Walter E. Long is a real favorite among local Austin bass anglers.
At just 1,200 acres, it’s a relatively small lake that can be a lot of fun to fish from a kayak or float tube.
Lake Walter E. Long produces solid numbers of largemouths in every size class. It’s especially well known for kicking out bass within its 14- to 21-inch slot limit, but bigger fish are also brought to the boat every year.
The shoreline of this lake is mostly undeveloped park land, so there are no docks or other man-made structures. For the most part, success here relies on fishing bottom structure and weed edges.
Lake Walter E. Long has a lot of vegetation growth, including hydrilla, pondweed, bulrush and coontail.
Pitching and flipping soft plastics along weed edges and into pockets in the weed beds is usually productive, especially in spring before the vegetation becomes too overgrown.
You might also try tickling the tops of submerged weed beds with a lipless crankbait. Topwaters can be effective too, especially in the morning and evening hours.
This is a power plant cooling lake, so it can get pretty hot and weedy in summer, but there’s often a good winter bite because it stays warmer than most lakes in the area.
Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park encompasses much of the lakeshore, and provides boat launch facilities and ample bank fishing access.
A little off the beaten path, Lake Somerville is a 90-minute drive east of Austin, placing it roughly equidistant between Austin and Houston.
Anglers who are in on Lake Somerville’s secrets know it as a great sleeper bass lake.
Somerville is a fairly large lake at 11,500 acres, and it’s home to an abundance of largemouths around the 5-pound class, as well as the occasional 10-pounder.
Overall, April is the best month for bass fishing, but some good fish are usually caught in fall as well.
Lake Somerville has some fallen timber and brush that often holds bass. Texas Parks & Wildlife has also sunk a number of fish attracting structures on the lake, and they make their coordinates available on GPS.
For the most part, however, most successful bass anglers on Lake Somerville find fish using the bottom contours.
This reservoir has a well-defined creek channel, as well as other features like rocky points, creek bends and old road beds. Any of the lake’s coves are also likely to hold bass during the spawn.
This lake is best known for its excellent white bass fishing, and the action can be absolutely off the charts in spring when these fish are spawning.
Juvenile white bass, along with shad, are also major forage for largemouths, so tie on a lure with some silvery flash.
Lake Somerville State Park encompases a large portion of the upper lakeshore, and includes a fishing pier, boat ramp and lots of open shoreline. Several additional access sites are located closer to the dam.