Navigating Lake Travis: Strategies for Catching Quality Bass

Every once in a while you run across a fishery like we saw at Lake Travis – lots and lots of small bass interspersed with some really big ones. As we found at Travis, you can catch 100 bass a day and most will be under the 14-inch size limit. Travis is an interesting body of water. It was in a drought for a few years and a lot of bushes grew up on the dry land followed by heavy rains that refilled most of the lake.

The Small Bass Conundrum

When you get that much new habitat in a body of water, it triggers incredible spawns with lots of small bass that are eager to bite anything and they will get to the lure before the bigger ones can react.

So what do you do? The most obvious answer is to use bigger baits but that isn’t the only solution.

At Travis, I tried a number of lures in practice and caught small bass on some of my larger versions. I tried drop shotting with the Fat Baby Finesse, which is bigger than I normally use, but even it wasn’t attracting bigger fish.

Effective Lures and Techniques

I had the most success with a 6XD crankbait, a Strike King 6 1/2–inch Finesse Worm with a nail weight in the nose (Neko Rig), and a Rage Cutter Worm Neko rigged.

The lesson here is if the situation calls for finesse baits, up-size your plastic. Or, if you’re jig fishing, use a much bigger trailer like a large creature bait instead of a frog or craw style. The key is to create a bigger profile. But when upsizing your baits, remember it’s a risk/reward situation, especially if you’re a tournament angler. It’s just as important to catch keeper-size bass, too, so you have to show them a little of both.

Fishing location is another consideration. At Travis, I keyed on those areas with deep water nearby. If the area offered extremely heavy cover, that made it better. In that tournament, deep docks provided the best cover in most areas, but it could be bridge pilings, standing timber, stump rows, etc.

And finally, one of the biggest keys to drawing bigger fish in a lake dominated by small fish is the presentation. During practice, if I used a standard presentation I would hook a 12 incher and see 3 and 4 pounders following it.

Strategic Retrieves

I figured out that I had to change the speed of my retrieve and make it even more erratic to get bigger fish to bite. Like, on the 6XD, I would burn it as fast as I could, stop, snap it a few times then burn it again.

I also caught bigger fish with a Sexy Dawg topwater by doing the same thing… speed up the pace, stop it for just a second and speed it up again. I did that multiple times on each cast. I saw the same thing when fishing the soft jerkbait Caffeine Shad and I had to impart some erratic action to my finesse presentations to trigger better bites.

Quality Over Quantity

So, my advice if you’re fishing waters that contain a lot of small fish, you can improve the quality of what you catch by fishing big-fish areas, upsizing when you can and experiment with retrieve to trigger a stronger reaction from the bigger fish.

It’s all about the attitude!

Kevin VanDam’s column appears weekly on You can also find him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.