March 10, 2020
After several years of abundant water, prolific spawns and cooperative weather, it looks like it's going to be an epic spring of big bass action in Texas.
It’s the best time of the year to catch a bucket-list-worthy largemouth bass in the Lone Star State.
Already, some bass waters across the state are showing off. Take the performance a couple of weeks ago by Danny Isles and Brian Shook in a one-day team tournament which sent bass-fishing shock waves across the state.
On Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020, the angling team caught an astounding five-fish limit weighing 49.31 pounds to win theseason-opening Texas Team Trail at Sam Rayburn Reservoir. It’s believed to be the largest five-fish tournament bag ever weighed in the state’s storied bass fishing history.
With a 12.04-pound largemouth bass anchoring their limit, the duo successfully battled the aftereffects of a strong cold front from a few days earlier. The team had the winning weight in their livewell by 10:15 a.m., as they fished deep-diving crankbaits over offshore ledges leading toward shallow water.
"Honestly, the cold front we had the middle of the week is the only reason we caught those fish," Isles told writer David A. Brown in a tournament wrap-up story. "It seems like they had really moved up shallow pretty good, but we had a pretty severe cold front that knocked the water temperatures down and pushed the fish out of the little pockets that they had been in."
With their massive derby bag—one of the top five fish bags ever recorded anywhere in the country—Isles and Shook went on to claim a brand-new Ranger bass rig and more than $9,000 in cash prizes.
Giant Largemouth ShareLunkers
If you need more proof about how well Texas bass fishing is as springtime begins, consider that days before Isles’ and Shook’s performance on Big Sam, the popular TexasFishingForum.com saw two threads started that reported the catch of a 15-pound fish at Sam Rayburn and a 14-pounder at Lake Conroe near Houston.
But even then, the recent run of big-bass news isn’t complete until you consider the pair of ShareLunker Legacy Class bass that were caught on Leap Day weekend. Angler Joe Castle caught the first when he landed a 15.34-pound largemouth bass at Lake Nacogdoches as he fished a Senko wacky rig in three feet of water…on his Leap Day birthday, no less.
As the 583rd Legacy Class ShareLunker in the program’s history, the fish is the pending lake record for Nacogdoches according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Austin-based agency which administers the ShareLunker program.
"My initial reaction was that it was a double-digit bass, but when I put it on the scale and realized just how big it is I about fell over," Castle said in a TPWD news release concerning his Feb. 29, 2020 big bass.
"After I put her in my live well and called someone to tell them what just happened, he thought I was lying. I sent him a picture of the scale and he said, 'You need to call the ShareLunker program..'"
Incidentally, Castle’s ShareLunker becomes only the second such fish to ever be landed on the calendar’s rare occurrence of Leap Day. Angler Gasper Cardinale landed the first on Feb. 29, 1992 when he caught Legacy Lunker #112, a fish that weighed 16.04 pounds and still ranks #22 on the Lone Star State’s top 50 largemouth bass list.
Double Double-Digit Bass
And if you still need proof about how good Texas bass waters are fishing this spring, consider the recent big bass caught by Blake Cockrell, who caught his second ShareLunker of the year on Leap Day weekend when he pulled a 13.28-pound fish from Alan Henry Reservoir near Lubbock.
Wait a second – his second ShareLunker of the year?
That’s right. On Feb. 9, 2020, the Ransom Canyon, Texas angler caught the 2020 season’s first Legacy Class ShareLunker when he landed a 14.36-pound largemouth not long after a big snowstorm had blanketed the West Texas region.
On March 1, 2020, he did it again as he and angling partner Cade Copeland were only minutes into a tournament day on Alan Henry.
"I had only been fishing for five minutes on a single hook lure, and when she came up and turned, I knew it was a big fish," said Cockrell in the TPWD news release. "I looked at the kid in the back of the boat with me and said, 'This is another ShareLunker…this really just happened again.'
"After the first one, people had told me 'You’re going to catch another one like this or you’ll never catch one again in your life' – and I really wanted to catch one again."
In fact, with two ShareLunker bass tipping the scales at a combined 27.64 pounds this season, Cockrell is now a member of an exclusive club with only 17 other anglers who have multiple ShareLunker Legacy Class catches.
And with the heart of the Texas big bass season just now starting to show up on the calendar, he’s aiming to join the even more exclusive club of five anglers with three or more SL catches in their careers. For what it’s worth, no angler has ever recorded four ShareLunker catches, a club membership that Cockrell is now halfway to achieving.
What’s Up with Lake Fork?
While all of this big-bass info gives credence to the idea that Texas bass fishermen can expect a great spring and early summer of lunker action across the Lone Star State, many eyes are now turning to Lake Fork near Emory, Texas, to see what the state’s most famous largemouth fishery will produce over the next several weeks.
Fork, home to Barry St. Clair’s 18.18-pound Texas state-record largemouth bass, boasts 30 of the state’s top 50 largemouths. And in the 30-plus years since guide Mark Stevenson caught “Ethel,” the former state record largemouth that weighed 17.67 pounds when caught in Nov. 1986 and became ShareLunker #1, 261 bass weighing 13 pounds or more from Lake Fork have been entered as Legacy Class ShareLunker bass. Who knows how many bass over 13 pounds have been caught over the years and not entered in the ShareLunker program.
That number could go up this weekend as the Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour Stage Three event rolls into Emory for the March 13-18.2020 lunker fest at Fork.
With mild weather, the waning effects of the March 9 full moon, and the gathering momentum of the spring spawn, the aging Fork may be ready to show the world that she’s still at the top of the Lone Star State’s must-visit bass water list!
Look for BPT pro and former Major League Fishing Challenge Cup champ Kelly Jordon to do well in the MLF visit to his home water body. Ditto for MLF pro Jeff Sprague, who lives near the lake and is anticipating a SCORETRACKER LIVE! Slugfest.
With the state’s most storied bass fishery teeming with fish in the 4- to 10-pound range and more double-digit giants than most any other lake in the country, the MLF pros' visit to Fork should be exciting if the weather cooperates with mild spring weather.
How exciting? Well, consider that Bassmaster Elite Series pro Keith Combs, who hails from East Texas, landed 110 pounds worth of bass in a three-day, 15-fish effort back in the spring of 2014. That was more than enough to win the Toyota Texas Bass Classic held on Lake Fork that year.
With a little luck, expect to see similar results from MLF pros during their March 2020 visit to Fork as the height of the East Texas bass spawn begins.
"It could get stupid good," said Sprague to MLF reporter Sean Ostruszka.
Come to think of it, that seems like a pretty good way to describe the current state of Texas bass fishing.
And with spring 2020 having only just begun, who knows what bass fishing headlines await in the Lone Star State?