It’s been more than three decades since Texas has seen a state-record bass. Here’s a New Year’s wish hoping some lucky bass angler makes the magical cast and gets it done in 2023.
Texas’ bass fishing community is starving for a record. It would be great for fishing and golden for Texas. Such a fish also would be a fluffy feather in the cap of Texas Parks and Wildlife, especially if it were confirmed as a descendant of a Toyota ShareLunker.
Super-sized largemouths are always females. Most will be full of eggs and nearing peak weight over the next 30-45 days as the spawning season draws near. Factor in a healthy breakfast, and a big bass can develop a really serious weight problem in a hurry. Brodey Smith’s 17.06-pounder caught from Lake O.H. Ivie last March was one big gizzard shad away from busting the 18.18-pound mark set by Barry St. Clair in January 1992 at Lake Fork.
It won’t come as a surprise if someone strikes big bass gold at O.H. Ivie this year. There is something special going on with West Texas fishery that isn’t happening elsewhere. Just call it the perfect storm of factors including the new lake effect, great habitat, an abundant forage base and an army of Florida-strain bass that are simultaneously coming of age to reach trophy size.
Another factor is the evolution of forward-facing sonar. The electronics technology gives savvy anglers the ability to sniff out big winter bass suspended over deep water, make precise bait presentations to them and see in real-time how the fish react to the lure. O.H. Ivie is a deep, clear lake that sets up perfectly for the “Live Scopers.”
The lake has produced 35 Toyota ShareLunker entries over 13 pounds since January 2021, several in the mid-to-upper teens. A pair of 14-pounders were reported there on December 30. Both were caught by Dalton Smith of Columbia, Kentucky. On January 15, Tom Nilssen of New Braunfels caught a 13.52-pounder.
TPWD fisheries biologist Lynn Wright of San Angelo expects plenty of anglers will head to Ivie over the next few months with the record mark in their sights.
“Given its recent track record of producing trophy bass, combined with the national attention the reservoir has received over the past two years, there will be plenty of anglers making a run for a new state record in 2023,” he said. “There’s no shortage of trophy bass in the pipeline, either. In 2022 alone there were 73 double-digit bass entered into Toyota ShareLunker Program from O.H. Ivie, 19 over 13 pounds.”
TPWD inland fisheries director Craig Bonds agreed that Ivie is the frontrunner to crack the next record, but says it is hardly the only reservoir that could do it.
“It seems every ShareLunker season brings new surprises, like Possum Kingdom last year,” he said. “The great thing about Texas is any lake can be included, especially those about a decade out from some significant hydrologic event, such as new-lake filling, partial or full recovery from low water levels, and combined with past stockings of bass containing genetic potential to reach maximum sizes.”
Lakes Nacogdoches, Fork, Richland Chambers, Caddo, Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend were among the other state record contenders mentioned in a recent poll of several fisheries biologists around the state. Todd Driscoll of Brookeland ranked Lake Nacogdoches at the top of his list, followed by Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend as the dark horses.
Nacogdoches produced a lake record 15.34-pounder in February 2020, and a second 15-pounder was found floating dead just a few weeks later. The lake also produced a 13.27-pounder last spring.
“Lake Nacogdoches has produced its share of 8- to 12-pound bass for years, in part due to the 16-inch maximum length limit, consistent quality habitat and annual Florida bass stockings,” Driscoll said. “Several recent catches of larger fish could make this lake part of the state record discussion in 2023.”
Lake Fork isn’t cranking out the number of teeners it once did, but Jake Norman of Tyler says there is way too much history there to leave it off the list.
“When you combine a excellent forage base, a trophy-oriented harvest regulation and quality offshore habitat, you can never write off a few giants swimming around,” Norman said. “The lake produced a 15.27-pounder in March of 2021, indicating she can still grow some giant bass.”
Fisheries biologist Tim Bister of Marshall is another fan of Fork and Ivie, but says Caddo in northeast Texas is another lake with plenty of potential. Caddo has produced four Top 50 fish, including a ranging from 15.70 pounds to 16.17 pounds.
“I think the next state record will come from a lake that has a track record of producing big bass, a history of Florida bass stocking and restrictive fish harvest regulations to increase the chance that fish can survive to larger size,” Bister said. “The two lakes at the top of the list for me based on these criteria are Fork and Caddo.”
Matt Williams is a freelance writer based in Nacogdoches. He can be reached by email, [email protected].
Texas’ Top 25 Largemouth Bass
1. Lake Fork, 18.18, 1/24/1992, Barry St. Clair
2. Lake Fork, 17.67, 11/26/1986, Mark Stevenson
3. Lake Fork, 17.64, 4/1/1989, Stan Moss
4. Lake Fork, 17.63, 8/29/1990, Jerry L. New
5. Lake Fork, 17.29, 2/14/1988, Larry Barnes
6. Lake Fork, 17.08, 2/26/1991, Troy Coates
7. O.H. Ivie, 17.06, 2/24/22, Brodey Davis
8. Pinkston, 16.9, 2/16/1986, Earl Crawford
9. Lake Fork, 16.89, 2/08/1993, Bryan Turner
10. Sam Rayburn, 16.8, 5/31/1997, Tommy Shelton
11. Mill Creek, 16.77, 3/1/1990, Herchel Brickey
12. Lake Fork, 16.75, 3/8/1990, Stephen R. Trepkus
13. Lake Fork, 16.63, 2/28/1999, Flo O’Brain
14. Lake Fork, 16.59, 5/15/1987, Guy Witherspoon
15. Lake Fork, 16.54, 2/27/1991, Bill Reed
16. Lake Fork, 16.44, 3/10/1996, Chris Adams
17. O.H. Ivie, 16.40, 2/19/21, Joe McKay
18. Caddo, 16.17, 03/20/2010, Keith Burns
19. Gibbons Creek, 16.13, 1/15/1988, Troy Johnson
20. Lake Fork, 16.12, 3/22/2002, Jim Harrell
21. O. H. Ivie, 16.10, 3/1/22, Kyle Hall
22. O.H. Ivie, 16.08, 4/30/2010, Jerry Bales
23. Caddo, 16.07, 3/18/2011, Sean Swank
24. Lake Fork, 16.06, 3/9/1988, Tom Hallum
25. Lake Fork, 16.04, 2/2/2013, Richard Scibek
25. Lake Fork, 16.04, 2/29/1992, Gasper J. Cardinale
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