In recent years, bass fishing fans have become familiar with a ranch deep in the heart of South Texas, the La Perla Ranch owned by Tecomate Seed Company founder and Outdoor Channel television show personality Dr. Gary Schwarz.
In an effort to produce a future world-record-class largemouth bass, Schwarz and company have embarked on an ambitious program to manage the bass fisheries on the ranch for optimum growth and size by way of maximizing and supplementing the nutrition sources available to bass on the ranch better known for its big white tailed deer.
Like the results seen in tilapia stocked bass lakes in Mexico and rainbow trout stocked bass lakes in southern California, whatever Schwarz and his biologists are doing at La Perla, it seems to be working.
That much seems evident after Gary's son Blair Schwarz caught a 14.3-pound (14-pound, 5-ounce) largemouth while fishing one of the ranch lakes, a fish that was promptly donated to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's ShareLunker program.
Weighed on certified scales at the ranch, the 559th entry into the popular SL program – which accepts bass from October through April each year that weigh 13 pounds or better for spawning and research purposes – the La Perla fish is the biggest bass accepted into the ShareLunker program in two years.
The fish also breaks the previous La Perla Ranch record by nearly 2 pounds, a mark that was formerly owned by Matt Carter, a well-known pastor of the Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas.
The big bass caught by Schwarz a few weeks ago becomes the 22nd private waters entry into the ShareLunker program in addition to being the sixth largest private waters bass accepted in the program's 29-year history.
"Blair was working a Jackall squarebill crankbait around a brush pile on what is known as Star Island in La Perla Lake when the massive bass engulfed the lure," said Jordan Shipley, Tecomate director of sponsor relations, in a news release. "A subsequent call was made to TPWD, and when they arrived in the wee hours of the night, the fish appeared to be healthy and in great condition."
According to Shipley, the fish was transported by TPWD Inland Fisheries personnel to the agency's fish hatchery in San Marcos. There, TPWD biologists conducted tests to see if the fish was a pure Florida largemouth bass. If so, she would be entered into the 2014-15 SL program and if not, she would be returned to La Perla ranch personnel for release back into the ranch water body.
In a Facebook message posted on Thursday morning by Major League Fishing pro Alton Jones – who himself caught a huge bass weighing nearly 12 pounds at the lake last year – the big fish has been confirmed to be a pure Florida bass.
"This means that offspring from this fish will be used to stock various lakes all across the state of Texas," stated Jones. "Thanks (to) La Perla for investing in the future of bass fishing across our great state."
The second ShareLunker submission of the 2014-15 SL season, Shipley indicated that the bass will be held at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC) in Athens through the spawning season.
If the La Perla bass does successfully spawn, fry that contain the highly desirable genetics that led this fish to grow to more than 14 pounds can then be grown and distributed. Shipley indicates that a portion of any fry produced will be released into water bodies producing ShareLunkers during the current season while others will be used for TPWD research.
The Tecomate’s La Perla Ranch and its various lake projects on the ranch are the brainchild of Dr. Schwarz, who is well known for his work on nutritional food plots for whitetails. Schwarz has been a pioneer in such nutritional food plot development along with biologist, fellow Outdoor Channel television personality and North American Whitetail magazine founder David Morris.
The work to improve the quality of deer herds on their properties in South Texas eventually led to the formation of Tecomate Seed Company. Later on, Outdoor Channel television show The Bucks of Tecomate was born, a show that is now one of the most popular offerings on the network.
According to Shipley, Gary Schwarz began to turn his attention to bass approximately seven years ago and is on an ongoing quest to grow largemouth bass to giant proportions.
As noted above, what they are doing appears to be working as the Blair Schwarz bass attests to. Other proof was recently seen when Outdoor Channel TV show host Mark Zona, host of Zona's Awesome Fishing Show, aired a segment that he had filmed on one of the ranch's lakes.
And just a couple of weeks ago, fishing tackle manufacturers Shimano and G. Loomis hosted a group of more than a dozen outdoors communicators to test various new products on the ranch lakes. Before the gathering had concluded, three bass over 10 pounds had been caught including one giant sowbelly landed by Bassmaster magazine editor James Hall.
But none of those fish approached the size of the behemoth landed this past weekend by Blair Schwarz.
And while that 14.30-pound ShareLunker fish falls nearly a pound shy of the mark needed to crack the top-50 largemouth bass list in the state of Texas, it's further proof that the bass fishing at the South Texas property is moving in the right direction.
A direction that has George W. Perry's and Manabu Karita's shared world record largemouth bass benchmark of 22 pounds, 4 ounces sitting squarely in La Perla Ranch's crosshairs.
Editor's Note: For more information on TPWD's ShareLunker program, visit www.tpwd.texas.gov/spdest/visitorcenters/tffc/sharelunker. For more information on La Perla Ranch and its fishing activities, visit www.laperlaranchresort.com and/or www.tecomate.com.