The best bass lake in the nation offers thrills, chills and celebratory meals to go along with the catch of a lifetime. -Joe Sills
In 2023, Central Texas fishery O.H. Ivie was named Best Bass Lake in America by Bassmaster. Numero Uno. This outstanding fishery is the nation’s leading destination for massive, Toyota ShareLunker bass managed by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
So far, the biggest of the bunch in 2023 has been a 17.03-pound behemoth hooked by Jason Conn of Anna, Texas in February; and O.H. Ivie has already recorded an IGFA-certified line-class world record by aspiring pro LeaAnne Powell with 12.03-pound bass on 10-pound line caught in that month as well. By May, the lake had already produced an astounding 11 legacy class bass—capturing the attention of anglers nationwide and further solidifying itself as a destination fishery.
If you’re planning a bass fishing trip to O.H. Ivie, be sure to visit these Bassmaster approved destinations along the way.
Relax at a lakeside campsite or cabin
If you’re traveling with a bed topper, Elm Creek RV Campground has your hookup, literally. This lakeside outpost adjacent to the Kennedy Park Boat Ramp has nine RV hookups as well as 30 hotel rooms. A modest on-site bait and tackle shop can help you stock up on essentials or local favorites. Meanwhile, the campground’s legendary breakfast burritos and lunch specials have powered more than a few monster days on the water.
Anglers itching to stretch out in solitude will feel right at home in one of CB THREE’s unique cabins. Situated in an open meadow near the lakeshore, these cabins offer plenty of parking for bass boats while providing a chic, modern basecamp for longer stays. Available on both VRBO and Airbnb, Bassmaster recommends booking directly through the CB THREE website to save on service fees.
Near mid-lake, Conch Park Marina commands two, four-lane boat ramps alongside 30 RV hookup sites and an on-site motel. The marina hosts live music on weekend nights throughout the summer and plays hosts to annual events from the Border Anglers Fishing Trail. Their cafe opens early for breakfast sandwiches, eggs and biscuits and serves up Texas-style lunchtime classics like jalapeño cheeseburgers, taco salads and spinach wraps.
Dare a stay in a haunted hotel
Located about half an hour from the western shores of O.H. Ivie, the weathered bones of The Olde Park Hotel straddle 6th Street in Ballinger, Texas. The hotel’s facade has seen its share of stories play out in the streets of the old railroad and saloon town, and 137 years since it was founded.
Today, the Olde Park Hotel still welcomes guests for overnight stays. You can book online. But be aware that its bedrooms and hallways are reportedly frequented by citizens of Ballinger that have long since passed on. Unexplained footsteps, shadow figures and a spectral women in black have been reported in the hotel. So, too, have moving porcelain dolls, disembodied voices and inexplicable aromas of perfume and cigars.
Celebrate and unwind in historic Coleman
Travelers looking for a little more civilization may want to make the 30 to 40-minute drive to Coleman, Texas and the friendly confines of Rancho Pizzeria. There, wood-fired jalapeño, sausage, and shiitake pizzas await. While piquillo peppers with stuffed with goat cheese and fresh greens warm up the appetite.
Coleman (population around 4,000) is also home to a time-tested family favorite: the old fashioned soda fountain at Owl Drug Store. Here, anglers can belly up to the counter and cool off with homemade milkshakes and malts whose recipes haven’t changed much since the store opened a century ago. While the burgers and steak sandwiches at Owl Drug are renowned, local anglers swear by traditional American breakfast options as well.
Coleman is also the perfect place to celebrate that Toyota LunkerShare trophy bass. At the Black Cur Steak—a refined eatery highlighted by handcrafted walnut tables and a pressed-tin bar—rustic steakhouse fare like grilled quail and steak au poivre tenderloin blends with handmade cocktails to create a cigar-worthy celebration spot for big bass catches.
Swing through a wildlife safari on the way
A journey to O.H. Ivie may also offer outdoor lovers the chance to chip in to help species not only in Texas, but elsewhere around the globe at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center. This non-profit conservation organization located midway between Fort Worth and O.H. Ivie. The 1,700-acre wildlife park takes visitors on a seven mile “safari” as part of a tour that features cheetahs, wolves, giraffes and rhinos.
The wildlife center is tasked with helping to conserve animals in peril by conducting scientific research, training wildlife professionals and using ecotourism as an educational outlet to teach guests about the threats faced by species under their care. Travelers can hop in a park-operated safari vehicle for the tour, or unhook their boat and drive their favorite bass rig through a landscape engulfed in animals.
Fossil Rim also offers wildlife photography courses and a twilight drive through the park that concludes around the campfire.