Danny Iles, Brian Shook and Mike Hastings

Danny Iles (left) and Brian Shook (center) get some help from Texas Team Trail tournament director Mike Hastings in displaying what may be the heaviest limit of bass ever documented in an organized team tournament on U.S. public waters. Together the five Sam Rayburn bass weighed 49.31 pounds. Iles and Shook caught the fish during a TTT event held on Feb. 22.

Just when you thought the tales of whopper Texas bass couldn’t get any taller, somebody makes a haul that blows away everything else before it.

Danny Iles of Lufkin and Brian Shook of China have reeled in plenty of big fish over the years, but none to compare with the army of lunkers they caught on a magical Saturday morning that dawned on Feb. 22. Their epic catch sounds like an excerpt that might come from a fiction novel titled “Mega Sacks.” It is truly the stuff legends are made of.

Competing in the 2020 Texas Team Trail season opener on Sam Rayburn Reservoir in eastern Texas, the two anglers brought in an enormous five-bass limit weighing 49.31 pounds — a 9.8-pound average. Teams fish two-to-boat and are allowed to bring their five heaviest fish to the scales.

The recent catch ranks as the heaviest ever officially documented in an organized Texas team event. In fact, it may be the heaviest 5-bass team tournament limit ever recorded on U.S. public waters.

I spoke with numerous big bass experts and scientists from Texas, California, Florida and beyond about the historic bag of bass. Not one could recall to a heavier documented team tournament weight on five fish. Ever.

California big bass expert Bill Siemental did point to a 6-fish tournament weight of 63.26 pounds posted in Feb. 1994 by Dana Rosen and Darin Tochihara. According to the Los Angeles Times, the catch from Lake Casitas in Ventura County included three fish upwards of 10 pounds. The biggest was a 13.52 pounder.

The massive limit weighed by Iles and Shook was anchored be a 12.04 pounder and an 11 pounder that were the heaviest bass either angler had ever weighed in a tournament. The fishermen topped 304 teams and won a fully rigged Ranger bass boat, plus $4,565 in cash, for the effort.

Amazingly, it took the anglers only about three hours fishing on as many spots to assemble the remarkable catch. Their smallest bass weighed an estimated 7 1/2 pounds.  Iles said they were done fishing for the day by around 10:30 a.m.

“We felt like there wasn’t any way we could cull that 7 1/2 pounder,” he said. “At that point we decided to back off and go practicing for another tournament we had coming up.”

The record limit tops the former Texas team tournament weight record held by Bubba and Linda Haralson of Del Rio since March 2011. The Haralsons boated 47.29 pounds during an International Bass Challenge charity event at Lake Falcon.

Iles, 30, and Shook, 35, are no strangers to the winner’s circle in Texas team tournaments. Together they have won several bass boats, trucks and thousands in cash.

Both are offshore experts savvy to modern electronics. Their typical game plan is to bide their time and fish strictly for a few big bites as opposed to a bunch of little ones.

“Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t,” Iles said. “This was one of those times when it did. It still hasn’t sunk in. We were very fortunate out there on a lot of levels. We got the right bites. Plus, we managed to put them all in the boat. It was crazy.”

Iles said they got only six bites that morning, all on Strike King 10XD and Sixth Sense Cloud 9 C20 deep diving crankbaits. The big lures are designed to reach depths beyond 20 feet. The anglers were targeting “brush and other trash” along offshore drop offs with their boat positioned in about 28 feet of water.

The massive catch came on the heels of what had been already been a magical week for whoppers on the 114,000-acre reservoir east of Lufkin. On Feb. 15, Anthony Sharp of Village Mills set a single-day individual weight tournament record for ‘Rayburn with 40-6 in a FLW Bass Fishing League event. Four days later, on Feb. 18, Huntington angler Joe Moore boated the biggest bass reported from the lake since 2015, a 14.94 pounder.

Four Texans head to 50th ‘Classic on Guntersville

Four Texans will compete in the upcoming Bassmaster Classic set for March 6-8 on Lake Guntersville in Alabama, marking the 50th anniversary of the prestigious event.

Often referred to as pro bass fishing's Super Bowl, the 'Classic brings together 52 of the nation's top anglers to see who can stack up the most weight in what is arguably the most hallowed tournament in the sport.

Anglers will fish for one of the sport's most coveted trophies, a $300,000 payday and the opportunity to capitalize on lucrative endorsements and sponsorship contracts. It's been said that a 'Classic win can easily be worth $1 million to the guy who plays his cards right.

Texans on the roster include Keith Combs of Huntington, Ray Hanselman of Del Rio, Lee Livesay of Longview and Chris Zaldain of Fort Worth.

Combs, an 8-time ‘Classic qualifier, says things are shaping up for a big bass slugfest on the legendary Tennessee River reservoir.

“It’s setting up right,” Combs said. “It’s been taking 30 pounds to win tournaments there in the past couple of weeks. The fish are biting and it should get progressively better with a gradual warming trend the forecast. It wouldn’t surprise me if it takes 70-plus pounds win. Somebody is going to bust some big bags. They always do. Catching 30 pounds one of the three days then backing it up just a little bit the other two will be the key.”

TPWD Report: Chronic Wasting Disease Discovered at Deer Breeding Facility

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been discovered in a 5 ½-year-old white-tailed deer in a Kimble County deer breeding facility. It’s the first positive detection of the disease in the county.

The tissue samples submitted by the breeding facility as part of routine deer mortality surveillance revealed the presence of CWD during testing at the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL) in College Station Feb. 6. The National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, confirmed the findings on Feb. 26.

Officials have taken immediate action to secure all cervids at the Kimble County deer breeding facility with plans to conduct additional investigation for CWD. In addition, those breeding facilities that have received deer from the Kimble County facility or shipped deer to that facility during the last five years are under movement restrictions and cannot move or release cervids at this time, or they have completed the necessary testing to ensure that CWD was not transferred to their facility.

“The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is working in coordination with the Texas Animal Health Commission and other agencies to launch an epidemiological investigation to determine the extent of the disease, assess risks to Texas’ free ranging deer and protect the captive deer breeding industry,” said Dr. Bob Dittmar, TPWD wildlife veterinarian. “We want to thank landowners and the Texas hunting community for its strong support of our detection, sampling and herd management efforts – we cannot combat the spread of CWD without it.”

Although animal health and wildlife officials cannot say how long or to what extent the disease has been present in the Kimble County deer breeding facility, the breeder has had an active CWD surveillance program since 2011 with no positives detected until now.

"TAHC is working with TPWD to quickly assess and determine the extent of diseases prevalence in the herd and mitigate the spread of CWD," said Dr. Susan Rollo, TAHC State Epidemiologist.

The disease was first recognized in 1967 in captive mule deer in Colorado. CWD has also been documented in captive and/or free-ranging deer in 26 states and 3 Canadian provinces.

In Texas, CWD was first discovered in 2012 in free-ranging mule deer along a remote area of the Hueco Mountains near the Texas-New Mexico border, and has since been detected in 169 white-tailed deer, red deer and mule deer in Dallam, El Paso, Hartley, Hudspeth, Kimble, Lavaca, Medina, Uvalde and Val Verde counties, 129 of which are connected to deer breeding facilities and release sites.

CWD among cervids is a progressive, fatal neurological disease that commonly results in altered behavior as a result of microscopic changes made to the brain of affected animals. An animal may carry the disease for years without outward indication, but in the latter stages, signs may include listlessness, lowering of the head, weight loss, repetitive walking in set patterns, and a lack of responsiveness.

To date, there is no evidence that CWD poses a risk to humans or non-cervids.

However, as a precaution, the CDC and World Health Organization recommend not to consume meat from infected animals.

Matt Williams is a freelance writer based in Nacogdoches. He can be reached by e-mail, mattwillwrite4u@yahoo.com.

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