“Topwater!” Jason Lenderman said as he turned off the motor and stepped onto the front deck of his bass boat. We were several casts’ distance from any shore, and he started casting off the left side of the boat, which was opposite the direction of the nearest shore.

Trusting Lenderman, an Ouachita guide who has fished this big Arkansas impoundment all his life, I cast a Super Spook Jr. in the same general direction and started walking the dog. A few casts later my Spook got attacked, and I found myself hooked up with a chunky spotted bass that wasn’t terribly large but seemed to think it was.

We ended up catching two bass and missing strikes from a couple of others from that spot, which Lenderman said was a hump that rose to a little less than 20 feet, before moving to the next spot, a long point that stretched close to the main river channel.

A 40,100-acre impoundment of Ouachita River, the Lake Ouachita is flanked by the steep slopes of the Ouachita Mountains. The steep terrain creates a deep lake, averaging 50 feet and with a maximum depth of about 200 feet. A complex shoreline wraps around dozens of creeks and coves and extends nearly 700 miles. Countless points, offshore humps and broad flats, plus extensive stands of sunken timber, make Ouachita an outstanding structure-fishing lake.

Fed by mountain streams and bounded by rocky banks, Lake Ouachita ranges from fairly clear to extremely clear, with the clearest water normally found in the deepest water at the lower end of the lake. Rocky shores are almost completely undeveloped and mostly within the Ouachita National Forest.

Spotted and largemouth bass dominate Ouachita’s black bass population, with spots far more plentiful than they were a decade ago. It’s currently more of a “numbers” bass lake than a big-fish lake, but the population does contain some heavyweight largemouths, and when the bite is right, bass anglers definitely bring in some big bags. A few smallmouths can be caught up the rivers and in the lake’s extreme lower end, but they do not make up an important part of the overall bass population.

Because of the plentiful offshore structure and normally clear water, Ouachita yields good topwater action almost year ‘round. The same clarity makes it an outstanding jerkbait lake and an excellent place to fish vertically with a jigging spoon or a dropshot rig. At times, Lake Ouachita has been a very good grass lake, producing great flipping and frog-fishing action. However, the hydrilla and milfoil have been almost gone from the lake for several years, so for now anyway, grass isn’t a significant player.

Other important fisheries at Lake Ouachita include crappie, striped bass and walleyes. In truth, though, it’s one of those lakes where you never know what you’re going to catch because it also contains good populations of channel and flathead catfish, various species of sunfish, white bass and yellow bass.

Ouachita’s crappie population includes both black and white crappie, and it’s not uncommon to catch both species together from a single location. Some fish get caught around laydowns and rocks, other shoreline cover during the spring. Through most of the year, though, brushpiles offer the most dependable prospects. The key any given day is figuring out the best depth. Minnows fished beneath slip floats, crappie jigs and jigging spoons work great for fishing brush.

Stripers provide big fun on Lake Ouachita, especially during winter and early spring, when they move shallower than at other times and often can be found schooling on the surface. Excellent bets for schooling stripers include Super Spooks and Pencil Poppers. When the stripers cruise shallow to feed on big shad but are not actively schooling, a great approach (as long as your heart is strong) is to throw a big Red-Fin across long points and wake it.

Lake Ouachita also supports a strong walleye population, but targeted pressure is generally light, in part because walleyes spend much of the year deep, relating to open-water forage. and are more difficult to find and catch than other gamefish species. A fair number or walleyes do get caught by fishermen throwing jerkbaits, dangling minnows or jigging spoons for other species, and they do get some targeted attention very early in the spring, when they run up the rivers to spawn.

Of course, with so much variety in Lake Ouachita, sometimes the best approach is to not pick a species, but just to fish for fish and enjoy a day on a spectacular mountain lake.

Lake Ouachita Planning

Lodging & Fisherman’s Services

Mountain Harbor Resort & Spa



More than 15 boat ramps provide good access to all parts of Lake Ouachita, and several are in parks or recreation areas that also offer shoreline fishing access.

Guided Fishing

Jason Lenderman – 870-490-0804

Hugh Albright – 501-767-2171

Lurenet Favorites

Heddon Super Spook Jr., Okie Shad 

YUM Dinger, Elder’s Magic 

Smithwick Suspending Super Rogue, Clown 

Cotton Cordell C.C. Spoon, Silver 

Finesse Worm, Ghillie Suit