A recent news release from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife serves as a pretty good reminder of how lucky Texas bass anglers are.
In early August, Snohomish County angler Bill Evans caught a 12.53-pound largemouth from Lake Bosworth. The release says fish has been declared a new state record for The Evergreen State and eclipses the previous state record of 11.57 pounds set way back in 1977.
Although a 12-pounder is certainly a beast in anybody’s book, the new Washington state record doesn’t stack up very high in comparison to Texas’ long line of record class bass.
The bottom fish on the Texas Top 50 heaviest bass of all-time is a 15.38 pounder. Actually, there are four fish from two different lakes tied for the No. 50 spot. Three of the fish were caught from Lake Fork and one from Possum Kingdom, all between 1989 to 1992.
The Texas state record bass stands at 18.18 pounds. That record —in place since January 1992—also was caught from Lake Fork.
Interestingly, Evans claims he was targeting bass with an artificial lure when he caught the new Washington record. The 23-inch bass reportedly ate Strike King Shim-E-Stick rigged wacky style, so you have to assume he was fishing in fairly skinny water.
Not so with Texas record holder Barry St. Clair. St. Clair, who was soaking live shiners for crappie in deep water near the lake’s dam when the big bass came calling.
To date, the biggest Texas bass ever reported by a bass angler who was actually fishing for bass with an artificial lure belongs to veteran Lake Fork guide Mark Stevenson. Stevenson’s former 17.67-pound state record was caught in November 1986.
I’m not sure how many Texas lakes have produced bass larger than the new Washington state record, but it would be safe to say dozens. Of the 32 major reservoirs located in the Piney Woods region alone, only seven have not produced fish upwards of 12.53 pounds.
What is it that makes Texas bass fishing so good? Actually, it’s a combination of things all working together.
Here are a few key ingredients that I think have helped mold Texas into the big bass mecca it is today:
Florida Bass: This is a major player. Florida strain largemouth bass are genetically wired to grow bigger and faster than northern largemouths native to Texas waters. The late Bob Kemp brought the first Florida bass to Texas in the 1970s and the bass fishing here has not been the same since.
The correlation between big Texas bass and the arrival of Florida bass is evident by looking at the state weight records. In 1979, when I was a high school senior, the Texas state record was a 13.50 pounder caught from Lake Medina. That record had stood since 1943.
Since 1980, the record has been broken six times. Furthermore, 65 different lakes have produced bass weighing upwards of 13 pounds for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Toyota ShareLunker program.
The super-charged Floridas also have played a key role in making Texas one of the top tournament and pleasure fishing destinations in the nation. Multiple Texas lakes have landed spots on Bassmaster’s Top 100 Bass Lakes in America list every year since the list was created four years ago.
Lake Falcon along the Texas/Mexico border was named the No. 1 bass lake in America in 2012. Bassmaster recognized Toledo Bend as the best lake in the country in 2015 and 2016.
Climate: Texas weather is typically mild and warm. As a result, most lakes maintain moderate to relatively warm water temperatures over the course of the year. Bass and other fish are cold-blooded, which allows their body temperatures to be regulated by water temperature.
Fish in cold weather climates don’t feed as much, or as often as fish in warm weather climates, because their metabolism is slower. Bass in many lakes across eastern and South Texas enjoy a year-round growing season, because water temperatures seldom drop below 50 degrees.
Habitat and Water Quality: Many Texas reservoirs are rich in habitat with water that is high in nutrients. This nurtures forage that is critical throughout the food chain. Good habitat provides bass with a nursery for rearing their young and optimizing recruitment.
It also serves as a playground where forage species can thrive and bass can feed. At the same time, this provides anglers with a seemingly unlimited number of sweet-looking spots to soak their baits.
Progressive Management: Texas Parks and Wildlife’s inland fisheries division governs our reservoirs with restrictive regulations geared to produce high quality fishing while striving to maintain optimum constituent satisfaction. On certain lakes, length and bag limits are custom tailored to protect larger bass and ultimately enhance the trophy fishery.
Anglers Love Their Bass: Texas bass anglers in general are a conservative crowd who take pride in their bass fisheries. Most are willing to go the extra mile to protect them.
Email Matt Williams at [email protected]