Sean Swank

Sean Swank, (Caddo Lake, 16.07 pounder) Caddo Lake is the second leading producer Top 50 fish with four entries, including three in the 16-pound class. Sean Swank’s 16.07 pounder caught in 2011, pictured here, currently ranks No. 20. Interestingly, Keith Burns caught the same fish the previous year when it weighed 16.17 pounds — the No. 16 biggest Texas bass of all-time.

It’s been a cold and dreary winter thus far, but Texas lunker lakes have come out of the gates red hot. Two reservoirs with rich histories of kicking out big bass have already rung the bell with a pair of Legacy class entries for the Toyota ShareLunker program.

Travis Moore of Cleveland jump-started the program’s 35th season on Jan. 9 with a 13.44 pounder caught at Sam Rayburn in eastern Texas. It’s Sam Rayburn’s 27th Legacy entry since the 1986 debut of Texas Parks and Wildlife’s spawning and genetics research program.

Genetic testing showed the big ‘Rayburn bass has pure Florida genes, according to Tony Owens, hatchery manager at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens.

If the fish spawns in captivity as hoped, a portion of its offspring will be used to help revamp the state’s Florida bass hatchery program. TPWD’s goal is to completely rebuild the hatchery program within the next few years using descendants of Toyota ShareLunkers 13 pounds or larger.

On Jan. 14, Lake Austin angler CJ Oates of Lago Vista landed the second ShareLunker of the 2021 spawning season, which got underway Jan. 1. The 13.02 pounder is the lake’s 21st entry and its first since 2014.

The Lake Austin fish is a Florida/northern strain crossbreed. Biologists will attempt to spawn the fish, but its intergrade prodigy won’t be used in TPWD’s selective breeding program, which is reserved for pure Floridas.

Oates’ bass is noteworthy for another reason. The fish was reportedly caught well after dark, around a boat dock, using a football jig. It’s not the first ShareLunker to be caught on a jig, but it’s the first to be caught at after sundown in a really long time.

The only other Legacy-class ShareLunker I’m aware of that bit under the cover of darkness is a 17.63 pounder caught in 1990 at Lake Fork by Jerry New of Marshall. New’s bass currently ranks No. 4 among Texas’ Top 50 bass of all-time.

Texas’ Top 50 list is an impressive one comprised of a small army of really big bass with some serious weight problems.

The current Top 50 includes bass ranging from 18.18 pounds at the top of the list to 15.45 pounds at the bottom. Included are five fish in the 17-pound range, 21 in the 16-pound class and 23 15-pounders.

Only one of those fish — a 15.5 pound former state record caught from a private lake called Lake Echo by John Alexander, Jr. — was caught prior to 1986.

Those fish are divided among 17 different impoundments, including three privates lakes and 14 public reservoirs that represent nearly a half dozen geographic regions. Only two states have produced bigger bass than Texas -- California and Georgia.

With the height of the springtime spawn still ahead, Texas anglers can expect more reports of giant bass to roll in over the next few months. Where they will come from is anybody’s guess.

Here’s a glance at the public lakes that have produced the lion’s share of the state’s biggest bass:

* Lake Fork

Top 50 Entries: 30

The Lake: The Top 50 list would look entirely different without Fork in the mix. The 27,000-acre reservoir near Quitman has produced the last two state records, 30 of the Top 50 and seven of the state’s Top 10 biggest bass.

The lake’s last Top 50 (No. 48) fish came in March 2018, when John LaBove of Rockwall made a magical cast with a jig that produced a 15.48 pounder.

* Caddo Lake

Top 50 Entries: 4

The Lake: Located in far northeast Texas on the Texas/Louisiana border, Caddo began as a natural lake before a dam was built in the early 1900s to trap water along the Big Cypress Bayou watershed. Floridas have done well in its shallow waters, as evidenced by three Top 50 fish weighing upwards of 16 pounds.

Interestingly, two of the 16 pounders were identified as the same fish by the Toyota ShareLunker program. The bass weighed 16.17 pounds when Keith Burns of Jefferson caught it in March 2010, making it the No. 16 bass of all-time. Sean Swank of De Berry caught the same bass in March 2011, when it weighed 16.07 and nailed down the No. 20 spot. Caddo’s latest Top 50 entry was a 15.7 pounder caught in March 2017 that ranks No. 32.

* Lake Amistad

Top 50 Entries: 2

The Lake: Amistad is the only other lake with multiple Top 50 entries, including a 15.68 pounder in 2005 (No. 34) and a 15.58 pounder in 1989 (No. 42). Rapidly fluctuating water levels over the years have spelled topsy survey fishing conditions for the big lake along the Texas/Mexico border. It hit a top stride in 2006-07, when several big tournament circuits including the Bassmaster Elite Series saw multiple anglers crack the 100-pound mark on 20 bass in four-day events.

Sam Rayburn

Top 50 Entries: 1

The Lake: Sam Rayburn’s only Top 50 entry (16.8) came in 1997, but the 114,000-acre reservoir near Lufkin continues to live up to its reputation as one of the state’s top big bass lakes and one of the best tournament destinations in America. The lake has produced 26 Toyota ShareLunkers upwards of 13 pounds and tournament weights to shock the imagination. Last Feburary, Danny Iles and Brian Shook weighed in a five-bass limit weighing 49.31 pounds in a Texas Team Trail event. It may be the heaviest 5-bass team limit ever recorded on U.S. public waters.

Falcon

Top 50 Entries: 1

The Lake: Falcon’s lone Top 50 entry came in Jan. 2011, when fishing guide Tommy Law boated a 15.63 pounder. The fish grabbed gobs of press, but nothing compared to the Bassmaster Elite Series event held there in April 2008. Twelve anglers busted 100 pounds during the Lone Star Shootout. Mississippi’s Paul Elias won it with a four-day weight record of 132.8 pounds. Falcon needs water to rebound. When it happens, look out.

* O.H. Ivie

Top 50 Entries: 1

The Lake: ‘Ivie’s Top 50 16.08 pounder came in 2010, the same year it erupted with a Toyota ShareLunker flurry that closed with 12 fish. The West Texas lake has produced 26 fish over 13 pounds since 2000, the most recent coming last March when it cranked out its first Sharelunker in eight years. Fisheries experts believe the stage is set for another big bass bonanza thanks to big rain events in 2019 that flooded thousands of acres of new growth terrestrial vegetation.

* Conroe

Top 50 Entries: 1

The Lake: Conroe’s only Top 50 entry, a 15.93 pounder, came in 2009. It has produced 17 Toyota ShareLunkers upwards of 13 pounds since 1994. It’s peak years for whoppers were 1997 and 2009, each resulting in three fish. Conroe’s last ShareLunker came in 2015. Bass anglers witnessed the best fishing during years before grass carp wiped out the lake’s lush hydrilla beds.

* Pinkston

Top 50 Entries: 1

The Lake: Pinkston’s only Top 50 entry came in 1986, when it produced a former state record weighing 16.9 pounds that now ranks No. 7 among the Top 50.. Only one other 13 pounder has been turned into Toyota ShareLunker, but others have likely been caught and released by tight-lipped locals. TPWD fisheries biologist Todd Driscoll says electrofishing surveys at Pinkston consistently produce higher per hour catch rates than any lake in his district.

* Austin

Top 50 Entries: 1

The Lake: Austin’s lake record 16.03 pounder from 2011 ranks No. 24 among the Top 50. The lake has produced 21 Toyota ShareLunkers weighing upwards of 13 pounds, including a single year high of six in 2012. Sadly, the fishery went downhill after grass carp were introduced later that year.

* Choke Canyon

Top 50 Entries: 1

The Lake: Like Falcon and Amistad, “Choke” is a lake prone to rapid water fluctuations triggered by drought and water demands downstream. Bass fishing quality tends to ebb and flow accordingly, with peak years occurring in years when the “new lake effect” is evident. It last peaked in 2009, when six Toyota ShareLunkers including three 15 pounders were caught. The biggest, a 15.45, ranks as Texas No. 50 bass.

Mill Creek

Top 50 Entries: 1

The Lake: Located near Canton, the 237-acre lake is legendary for the 16.77 pound bruiser (No. 10) it produced in spring 1990. Mill Creek kicked out three Toyota ShareLunkers in the 13-14 range between 1988-92. It was last heard from in 2006, when another 13 pounder was caught. TPWD biologists label it a “quality” fishery that doesn’t spit out giants like it used to.

* Gibbons Creek

Top 50 Entries: 1

The Lake: The 2,800-acre reservoir made its only mark on the Top 50 in 1988 when Troy Johnson boated a 16.13 pound ShareLunker (No. 17). It produced four more Toyota Sharelunkers, including two 14 pounders, between 1990-95, but hasn’t be heard from since.

* Possum Kingdom

Top 50 Entries: 1

The Lake: Bass anglers had high hopes for PK after it produced a Top 50 16.02 pounder (No. 25) in 1989 and followed it up with a 15.38 in 1991. All has been quiet since. The biggest fish reported to ShareLunker since the program was revamped to include multiple weight categories is an 11.32 pounder caught Feb. 2018.

* O.C. Fisher

Top 50 Entries: 1

The Lake: The West Texas lake near San Angelo produced a 15.69 pounder (No. 33) in 1996, but went through tough times in the years that followed. The lake was declared effectively dry in 2015 and is currently at 6.3 percent capacity. ‘Fisher’s only other ShareLunker entry came in 1992, a 13.25 pounder. 

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

Trending Video

Recommended for you