Road Trip: Largemouths and Taquerías in Central Texas

Bass and tacos—both are emblematic of central Texas, where big largemouths swim in the region's many lakes and homespun taquerias stand at seemingly every corner. To find the best, I grabbed food blogger and local taco expert José R. Ralat to serve as my copilot on this grande gustatorial adventure.

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Want to enjoy your best summer ever? Then load up your car with tackle and camping gear for an unforgettable fishing road trip. We've dreamed up seven D.I.Y. road trips—all packed with amazing country, great food, and out-of-this-world fishing. You can send us a thank-you postcard from the road.

If you like Tex-Mex cuisine and trophy bass, then you'll love central Texas and our Lunker-Taco Trail.

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1. Ta-que
The marriage of ­Texas's two great cuisines could be a volatile one, but at Valentina's Tex Mex BBQ, a taco-and-barbecue food trailer, Miguel Vidal draws on the foods of his youth in San Antonio and the traditions of central Texas to create tacos with soul. "All manner of barbecue is available," Ralat says. "My recommendation is mesquite-smoked brisket served on a freshly made, cushiony flour tortilla that's topped with guacamole and the sweet heat of the ­tomato-​serrano salsa."

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2. Night Life
Hit Austin Lake after dark to avoid the summer crowds. Huge bass wait out the boat traffic and soaring daytime temps in deep water. At night, they move into the shallows, where nocturnal anglers cast 1-ounce dark-colored spinnerbaits to shallow stumps and around docks, working them slowly back to the boat.

3. Wake and Take
Hole-in-the-wall is used to describe many taco joints, but Taco-Mex truly fits the description. Located in a shopping strip that has seen better days, this ­taqueria specializes in cheap, quick-serve ­tacos to go. "Morning favorites range from ­migas and egg with crunchy tortilla strips and cactus strips in soft scrambled eggs to classics like ham and eggs," Ralat says. "At lunch, try fajitas or beef served in a spicy green chile sauce."

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4. Have a Ball
By midsummer, Lake Bastrop's healthy population of 3- to 5-​­pounders school up to work over bait balls of shad. Get on the water early and keep an eye out for surface activity. Once you find a school, position your boat off the frenzy and make long casts into the fray. A Heddon Baby Torpedo twitched across the top of the water ignites violent strikes.

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5. Deep Cover
Despite low water levels, Choke Canyon remains one of the best bass lakes in Texas. This time of year, the lake's lunkers will be moving onto deeper structure. Early and late in the day, target dropoffs near brushy points and submerged stands of hardwoods. Cover here can be thick, so braided line and a Carolina-rigged creature bait is the best way to go to punch through the junk.

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6. Fuel Up
Gas-station taquerias are a staple of Lone Star State road-food options. While most offer foil-wrapped fare languishing under heat lamps, breakfast-taco specialist Laredo Taco Co., located inside Stripes filling stations, stands as the antithesis. The large flour tortillas are handmade to order and quickly served with fresh combinations of bacon, egg, potato, chorizo, ham, and more. "It's hard to order a fail here," Ralat says. "The signature Q-taco is a delicious mess of potato, egg, bean, and cheese."

Photographs: Tosh Brown. Map by L-Dopa