O ne of the biggest misconceptions in fishing is you need a boat of some kind to get off the bank to catch fish—especially the big ones.
I call it a misconception because that’s exactly what it is. Landlocked crowds reel in plenty, and there is gobs of finny evidence to support the claim.
Some of freshest evidence (linked to bass fishing) rolled out of Pope County, Arkansas back in February.
There, anglers fishing from a public fishing pier at 752-acre Lake Atkins reeled in a pair of monster bass weighing more than 11 pounds apiece, one over 10 pounds and several over five pounds. The catches reportedly came about one week apart.
An 11-pound bass is big fish to catch by any means. It is a particularly remarkable feat to pull off while fishing from a stationary pier. Pier fishing typically means soaking a bait in the same ol’ water for long periods of time while waiting for the fish to come to you.
One of the 11-pounders might very well rank as a pier fishing record for Arkansas if such a category existed, but it wouldn’t come close to matching the unofficial Texas record for bank-caught bass.
Troy Coates of Emory holds that title with a 17.08-pound monster he caught from Lake Fork in February 1991. The bass currently ranks as the No. 6 heaviest Texas bass of all-time.
Coates said he caught the bass while dragging a big crawworm along the edge of a nearby creek channel swing. The big bank bass topped the previous unofficial Texas shore bass record that was caught in February 1990. That catch came from the public fishing pier at the Lake Bob Sandlin Recreation Area by crappie angler Jesse Runnels, Jr. of Dallas. Runnels’s bass, a 14.31 pounder, still ranks as the lake record largemouth for Bob Sandlin.
There is some good humor in Runnels’ story.
Runnels reportedly placed the big bass in a five-gallon bucket (with no water) along with the rest of the fish he had caught that day.
Curious to learn what the fish weighed before he cleaned it, he took the big bass to a nearby marina. There, Runnels was approached by a group of other anglers who offered to trade him several smaller fish in exchange for the big bass, which was still alive at the time.
Runnels gladly accepted the offer and handed over the trophy bass, which was quickly placed in an aerated minnow vat. Amazingly, the “bucket bass” survived the ordeal and was entered in Toyota ShareLunker program.
A number of other big fish tales have been hatched on Texas fishing piers and shorelines over the years.
Scotty Deaton’s former Lake Falcon record of 15.12 pounds was caught from dry ground in May 1991. More recently, Jon Babich of Lewisville caught a 13.63 pounder while fishing from a Lake Lewisville pier in 2005.
There’s a good story behind the Babich bass, too.
Babich was fishing for crappies from the Lake Lewisville Fishing Barge when he saw a huge bass rise from the depths to inhale a small crappie he had tossed back into the water seconds earlier. The angler quickly pitched a soft plastic bait to the same spot, and the big bass grabbed it. The fish was subsequently entered in the Toyota ShareLunker program.
Largemouth bass anglers aren’t the only ones who have scored big from the bank.
In April 2002, George Ward of Garland was crappie fishing at night from the Minnow Bucket Marina pier at Lake Fork when he caught a 3.92-pound black crappie on a live shiner. The 18 1/2-inch slab is the biggest black crappie ever reported in Texas.
Another exceptional public pier catch surfaced in June 2010. That’s when Ashleigh Defee of Manville reeled in a huge flathead catfish from the 150-foot long pier located at 429 RV Park and Marina on Lake Tawakoni.
The big fish tipped the scales at 70 pounds. Defee was 16 at the time. Her fish still holds a passel of records, including the state junior angler rod and reel weight record for flatheads.
While Defee’s boat dock flathead was a giant by most standards, it was a midget compared to the monster blue cat 15-year-old Landon Evans reeled last June at Lake Gaston in North Carolina.
Evans made national headlines last summer when he landed a fish that was way bigger than most folks have ever seen. Weighing 117.5 pounds on certified scales, the heavyweight cat crushed the 105-pound rod and reel state record set in January 2015 by fishing guide Zakk Royce.
That fish is just shy of the current Texas state record blue cat caught from the banks of Lake Texoma in January 2004 by Cody Mullenix of Howe.
Evans caught the fish at night while fishing from his family’s boat dock using a chunk of fresh gizzard shad for bait. The battle reportedly lasted for around 20 minutes before he and his parents were able bring the fish in and secure it on the dock.
The obvious motto here is you don’t necessarily need a fancy boat to catch big fish. Just being in the right place at the right time goes a long way in this game.
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Email Matt Williams at [email protected]