The Texas Bass Fishery… Best in America?
At the time of this writing, the Toyota Sharelunker season was slow. In fact, it only had one entry, leaving some anglers to wonder what was going on.
While the Sharelunker program is a great indicator of the gigantic fish being caught, truly big bass have been on fire in the Lone Star State. Toledo Bend for example has been producing large numbers of 10-pound bass. Other lakes are cranking out plenty of double-digit fish as well.
The Lone Star State enters 2011 not only positioned as the number one overall location for bass fishing in the United States, but also to exceed its own lofty expectations for trophy bass production.
“We’re seeing some pretty amazing things happen with largemouth bass in Texas right now,” said Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Inland Fisheries director Craig Bonds.
Bonds said one of the best parts of this equation is access to these fish is wide open, and anglers in any part of the state can make a short drive to seeing their dreams realized.
“There is not a single populated area in the state where anglers have to make a long drive to find lunker largemouths,” Bonds said.
And this shows in the statistics.
In 1990, there were only 64 reservoirs with record bass weighing 10 pounds or more. By 2016, there were more than 160 with the state record at a whopping 18.18 pounds.
Let’s take a closer look at Texas’ incredible bass fishery and the factors making it tops by a long shot.
Lake Fork’s Whopping Survey
Inland Fisheries officials conduct electroshock surveys to study largemouth bass populations statewide. However, they often give little insight to how many lunker fish dwell in certain lakes.
Take legendary Lake Fork for example. We found a report in our archives dating back to 2010 that speaks volumes.
Comparing the numbers of fish caught by electrofishing with the angler-based Lake Fork Trophy Bass Survey, shows a stark contrast.
Combined catches in all spring and fall electrofishing surveys have yielded 3,137 fish, only three of which were 24 inches or longer, and 12 weighed seven pounds or more. In the same seven-year period anglers have reported catching 11,141 fish seven pounds or heavier or 24 inches or longer.
Biologist Kevin Storey said the figures show the state’s management of the lake with a 16- to 24-inch slot limit works.
“Of the 11,141 fish reported in the survey, 83 percent were weighed, and of those, 15.6 percent weighed 10 pounds or more.”
“Anglers measured the length of 64 percent of the fish, and one-third of those were 24 inches or longer. The slot limit is producing impressive numbers of fish above the slot, as it was intended to do.”
North, South, East and West
Unlike many states with only a few top-notch waterways to find trophy largemouth in abundance, Texas has lots of them.
A whole lot of them in fact.
The Toyota Sharelunker program, which seeks donations of live largemouths weighing 13 pounds or larger has taken 564 entries since its inception in 1986.
What is more impressive however is the number of water bodies producing these mammoth fish and where some of them are located.
Some 65 public water bodies have produced Sharelunker fish, and yes, lakes like Fork, Sam Rayburn and Conroe in East Texas are at the tops in overall fish donated.
However, Alan Henry and Baylor Creek in North Texas, Falcon and Casa Blanca in South Texas and O.H. Ivie out West have produced impressive numbers of these prized fish. Some of these are out of commission now, due to drought; but when waters come back, the quality bass fishing will no doubt return as well.
Add to that dozens more water bodies ranging from state park ponds to Toledo Bend have also given up fish big enough to keep anglers up at night.
The Sharelunker program typically goes in streaks. In other words certain lakes will be red hot for a while and looking at those, it is obvious, particular lakes were the place to be during certain stretches of time.
According to TPWD, a search of the ShareLunker archives on the official web page reveals that while streaks are exciting and generate a lot of “That lake is on fire!” comments, they aren’t that uncommon,” they reported.
“Sam Rayburn Reservoir had a run of six ShareLunkers between January 21, 1998 and March 22, 1998. Choke Canyon Reservoir had a six-fish streak from January 21, 2009 to April 26, 2009. Lake Alan Henry spouted nine ShareLunkers between January 29, 2005 and April 15, 2005. And then there’s those nine fish from O.H. Ivie this season.”
They went on to report, however, that Lake Fork, which has produced about half the total number of ShareLunkers, is the undisputed king of the streak. Its first came in 1988 and 1989, when it produced 18 ShareLunkers. The next season it produced 17, the following year 22, and from January 8, 1992 to April 25, 1992, another 21, including the current state record of 18.18 pounds.
“The following four seasons Lake Fork produced 17, 16, 23 and 21 ShareLunkers. After a two-year break in 1997 and 1998, Fork started streaking again, but with lower numbers: 10 fish in the 1998-99 season and eight the following season. Following another low production year in 2002, Fork’s output of ShareLunkers hit seven in 2002-2003, seven in 2003-2004, seven in 2004-2005 and eight in 2006-2007.”
What the Pros Say
So you don’t think Texas is the top destination for largemouth bass?
Well, take that up with Kevin Van Dam. The four-time Bassmaster Classic winner and seven time Angler of the Year said, “Texas is no doubt the best bass state and should be commended for its attitude toward conservation.”
The 2008 Classic winner Alton Jones might seem biased since he hails from the Lone Star State, but he said there is no doubt to Texas’s domination of bass fishing.
“There are lots of good bass states, but none like Texas,” Jones said.
Women’s Bassmaster Tour Champion Judy Wong said the sheer amount of lakes that produce big bass in Texas is “amazing.”
And tournament legend Denny Brauer said he picks Texas as the top bass state as well.
Kind of hard to argue with the best of the best isn’t it? California may produce more mutant-sized fish when it comes to overall trophy bass, Texas is at the top of the list.