Destination: Lake Casa Blanca

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Even bass anglers who don't live in Texas have heard of big bass producers such as Lake Fork and Sam Rayburn, but what about Lake Casa Blanca? First reaction might be, "Lake who?"

Lake Casa Blanca is a small 1,680-acre lake on the outskirts of Laredo, deep in South Texas. In past years the lake has consistently produced several 13-pound-plus largemouth bass that have been entered in Texas Parks & Wildlife Department's ShareLunker program. The ShareLunker program encourages anglers who have caught 13-pound-plus largemouth bass to lend or donate the fish to TPWD for spawning purposes. In the production hatchery, the big females are paired with pure Florida strain males.

 At the beginning of March 2006, Patrick Starnes of Laredo caught a 13-pound, 1-ounce largemouth bass. The fish measured 25 3/4 inches long and 20 1/4 inches in girth. In January 2004, Richard Mims caught a 14-pound, 10-ounce largemouth bass that remains the lake record for the small lake. It measured 26 inches in length. To keep a largemouth bass, the fish must measure 18 inches.

 Spring spawning season comes early in South Texas. Best bets for hooking into one of Lake Casa Blanca's big largemouths is January through April, in the cattails that border the north end of the lake and dead trees in the upper portion of the lake. After the spawn, start fishing rocks along the dam or the creek channel that runs from the dam to the back of the lake.

Henry Leal, TPWD game warden for Lake Casa Blanca, says he sees lots of big bass caught from the lake, the average being 8 pounds. "Best spots have been along the dam, but I have seen big fish caught in the back of the lake," he says, referring to the cattail growth in the shallows.

Lake Casa Blanca International State Park borders about 60 percent of the lake, providing good access for bank anglers. There is one paved boat ramp suitable for launching bass boats. A lighted fishing pier extends out into the lake on the southeast side providing angling opportunities for anglers of all ages. Leal claims that angling is not limited to anglers in boats. "I have all kinds of fishermen, those who wade fish, those who float from tubes, and those who fish from small boats and large boats."

Lake Casa Blanca is a small impoundment that doesn't get the attention that Lake Fork or Sam Rayburn generates, but it produces its share of big bass action.

Casa Blanca fishing techniques

Lake Casa Blanca can provide some pulse raising action in the spring. Largemouth bass are in the shallows for the spawn, beginning as early as late December and lasting through April. Patrick Starnes got his fast action in the cattails on the upper end of the lake at the beginning of March.

"Run all the way to the back of the lake and get up in the creek," advises Starnes. "It's usually muddy and nasty back there, but Richard Mims caught two 13-pound-plus fish on two separate days, three years ago. He caught them both on the same laydown.

 "If you get in there at the end of February and start fishing those cattails, they are there; you'll catch bass," claims Starnes.

The fish had moved onto a little flat in preparation for spawning. "We just stumbled into them," says Starnes. "There were maybe 20 little cattails around us and my buddy and I flipped in and caught a 10-pounder. As we were laughing about it, I flipped into the same place right behind him and caught the ShareLunker. Flipped over to the next cattail and missed one, flipped back to it and she was about 7 1/2 pounds. We went five more feet and I caught an 8-pound bass. It was just one of those things that happen every now and then."

 In a five-minute period Starnes and his fishing buddy boated over 40 pounds of largemouth bass.

 Starnes recommends flipping a soft plastic bait, something bulky with no tail or "appendages and flaps" hanging off the bait. The loose ends of the bait tend to wrap around the cattails and become entangled. Weight size is either 3/4- or 1-ounce.

Favorite soft plastics include the Yum Wooly Hawg, Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver, Strike King 5-inch flipping tube or black/blue color combination on Oldham 1-ounce jigs. Best colors on the soft plastics are camo or watermelon with red flakes: "Something dark because there is never clean water in the lake," says Starnes.

"If you can find cattails 18 inches deep or deeper, you're in the fish," continues Starnes. "You have to pull on at least 65-pound-test Power Pro braided line to get them out of the cattails. Flip the bait where it ricochets off two or three of those cattails and get in there. Flip up in there real good and you will know when you are going to catch a fish because the cattails will shake.

"Man, when those cattails start vibrating, just kind of shake it (the bait) up and down. You don't have to swim it out. You'll see those cattails moving when the fish is coming to it. Most of the time you know when you are going to get the strike two to three seconds before you get it; that's what really makes it exciting. If you think you are too shallow, go shallower. If your trolling motor is kicking up mud, you're in the right spot."

 Lake Casa Blanca Trip Check
Location: Lake Casa Blanca is located five miles northeast of Laredo, Texas, off U.S. Highway 59.

 Lodging: There are numerous restaurants and motels in Laredo. Lake Casa Blanca International State Park, adjacent to the lake, includes restrooms with showers, picnic sites, and campsites with water and electricity. For park information, call 956-725-3826. For reservations, call 512-389-8900.

 Local Info: Laredo is located on the international boundary between United States and Mexico providing interesting historical and shopping side trips. Contact the Laredo Chamber of Commerce at 956-722-9895 or 800-292-2122.

 Web Site: For lures to pack, best times to go and techniques for fishing Lake Casa Blanca, visit www.bassmaster.com/magazine

 Weighing In

1951 - Year that Lake Casa Blanca was impounded

 14.64 - Weight in pounds of the record largemouth for Lake Casa Blanca, caught Jan. 31, 2004

 36 - Maximum depth in feet of this relatively shallow lake

 45/99 - Average low temperature in January and average high temperature in July

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