Pound for pound, black bass are the most aggressive gamefish in New Mexico. Originally found east of the Mississippi, black bass (which include largemouth and smallmouth species) have been transplanted throughout the West.
With voracious appetites and short tempers, black bass readily feed on small fish, crayfish, worms, lizards, insects, mice, small birds, and frogs. They also strike on lures. Black bass and their food are usually found in and around cover, called ‘structure’. Black bass typically hide next to logs, docks, underwater ridges, submerged brush and rocks, or by an abrupt drop-off.
In New Mexico, black bass start spawning when water temperatures reach 63 degrees F. The male selects a sunny spot in gravel shallows, courts a female, and persuades her to deposit eggs in his nest. The male discharges milt to fertilize them, then guards the eggs until they hatch.
Bass Fishing Guides are available, on most water, to make your fishing more productive on unfamiliar water.
The largemouth bass is a sturdy, greenish-colored fish with a horizontal dark stripe along its side. Its upper jaw is big in proportion to its body, extending beyond the eye. The largemouth spends most of its time in its home range, a small, concealed area of deep cover, quietly waiting for food to come its way. Elephant Butte, Ute, and Conchas are our best largemouth reservoirs.
Smallmouth bass are typically bronze-colored, with dark, vertical stripes or blotches. The upper jaw is small and does not extend beyond the eye. In New Mexico, ‘bronzebacks’ are found in cool-water reservoirs, as well as in portions of the Gila River. They prefer rocky underwater habitat. Ute, Conchas, Elephant Butte, and Abiquiu are our best smallmouth reservoirs.
SPRING BASS FISHING
Pre-Spawn 50-60 degrees F. at 5-20 feet deep
The warming temperatures of spring draw the bass into shallow waters where they actively feed until spawning. March through June are New Mexico’s prime bass fishing months. As water temperatures start climbing above 50 F., bass begin to feed aggressively. Use a spinnerbait right on the bottom.
Post-Spawn 55-65 degrees F., less than 10 feet deep
Use slow rolled spinner baits, shallow running crankbaits, worming or flipping worms, salt craws, lizards, and jig’n pig combinations for bass in less than 10 feet of water. As bass become more active, use jerk baits. All of these can be easily used from boat or bank.
SUMMER BASS FISHING
65 degrees F. and warmer 1-20 feet deep
As upper lake layers warm, bass typically go deep to cooler waters. In summer, bass only come to the surface to feed, generally before dawn and after dusk, though bass will feed on the surface anytime their food is there. When bass are on top, use buzzbaits or propbaits. When bass are deep, fish a light line and split shot, with small plastic worms or grubs, off rocky or brushy lake points.
FALL AND WINTER FISHING
40-65 degrees F. at 1-60 feet deep
Fall fishing is the reverse of spring. Retrieve faster in early fall and slower in late fall. In winter, go very deep and extremely slow off lake points with jigging spoons and small plastics.
BEST BASS WATERS
Of all New Mexico reservoirs, Elephant Butte is best for bass fishing. This 35-mile-long reservoir on the Rio Grande, near Truth or Consequences, has boat ramps, a state park, and is very busy during holidays. Its deeper lower lake is clear, while the shallower supper lake is murky. Be alert for dan-gerous, high winds. Excellent black bass, white bass, and striper fishing. Threadfin shad is their main forage. Other New Mexico bass fishing reservoirs: Ute, Caballo, Cochiti, Bill Evans, Conchas, Brantley, Navajo, Santa Rosa, Abiquiu, and Sumner.
SPORT FISH RESTORATION ACT
A ten percent federal excise tax on your purchase of fishing equipment and motor boat fuel helps states indi-vidually promote sport fisheries This includes acquiring easements or leases for public fishing, funding hatchery and stocking programs, supporting aquatic education programs, and improving boating facilities for anglers.