February 26, 2021
By now, you've undoubtedly heard about the historic arctic air invasion that plunged all the way through Texas last week.
The legendary cold wave brought widespread deep snow and subzero temperatures, left millions without power, and produced uncountable numbers of broken pipes and water mains. And, sadly, more than 20 people perished.
The winter weather in Texas also killed scores of wildlife and saltwater fish across the state.
The bitter weather, which brought lows as frigid as minus-20 in the Panhandle, also brought frowns to the faces of bass anglers across Texas who were hoping a late-February full moon would catch big sowbelly largemouths preparing to go shallow to spawn. Most bass anglers know Florida-strain largemouth bass and cold fronts don't mix, especially one of the most severe blue northers to hit the Lone Star State since the 1980s. Right?
Well, not so fast. Recent ultra-red-hot big bass action at O.H. Ivie Lake, located 55 miles east of San Angelo, proves that as springtime approaches, big bass are going to do what big bass are going to do. The sizzling parade of lunker action got its start on Friday, Feb. 19, at the tail end of the terrible stretch of winter weather.
According to the National Weather Service, 15.6 inches of snow has fallen in San Angelo this season, a new record, and the city also set a record for consecutive days of below-freezing temperatures at six. On Feb. 16, the low was minus-1 degrees, another record.
Sounds like the perfect recipe for some great springtime bass fishing, right?
Apparently so, because only a day or two after the cold wave began to fade away into the West Texas sun, the first fish in a sizzling week of big-bass headlines was pulled in. TPWD Fishing's Twitter announced the catch with this tweet:
- "O.H. Ivie produced the 5th Legacy Class ShareLunker of the 2021 season with this 16.40lbs tank caught by angler Joe McKay of Bussey, IA!! This fish is also the pending new lake record [current record, 16.08 pounds, April 30, 2010, Jerry Bales]! Congrats, Joe and thank you for helping make bass fishing bigger and better in TX!"
Pending certification by TPWD biologists, the McKay bass will move into the state's hallowed "Top 50" list, checking in at No. 16.
But while it appeared that the McKay bass would be a big enough story in and of itself, the hefty lunker was only the first entry in Ivie's February big-bass story, the first paragraph in a stunning week of red-hot fishing at the 19,149-acre impoundment.
Because on the same day—the SAME DAY!—a pending lake-record smallmouth bass was apparently caught on Ivie after a report and photo surfaced on TexasFishingForum.com that angler Joey Wynn had landed a big smallie that weighed 6.25 pounds. If that mark is certified, it will replace the lake's current bronzeback bass record of 5.86 pounds, caught Dec. 15, 2019 by angler David Markham.
Pretty amazing fish tales, right? Indeed, but Ivie was just getting warmed up, because less than 24 hours later, the reservoir on the Colorado and Concho rivers was making waves again.
Bass 'On a Roll’
On Saturday, Feb. 20, another ShareLunker was caught, according to TPWD Fishing's Twitter account:
- "O.H. Ivie is on a roll! Could this be another year like 2010? Congratulations to Josh Jones for his contribution of 13.20lbs ShareLunker#591! It's the 6th Legacy Lunker of the 2021 season! #BiggerBetterBass #TexasBassFishing #ShareLunker”
If the story stopped there, it would be amazing enough. But we're not quite at the halfway point yet.
On Tuesday, Feb. 23, the TPWD Fishing Twitter account lit up again with this post:
- "O.H. Ivie is at it again with another ShareLunker! Donald Burks 13.40 pound Lunker makes the 3rd Legacy class bass in the past 5 days from Ivie! Amazing! Congrats, Donald and thank you for your contribution to bigger better bass in Texas! #sharelunker #biggerbetterbass"
Three ShareLunkers from the same lake in five days, including one that is a top-20 all-time fish and a pending lake record? And a pending smallmouth lake record, too? Only a few days after severe winter weather gripped the region? Pretty exciting stuff, for sure.
But even then, the story wasn't over.
On Thursday, Feb. 25, a bookend pair of ShareLunkers would complete one of the most amazing runs in the ShareLunker history.
Here's how TPWD Fishing Twitter announced the 14-plus pound fish.
- "You get one guess for what Lake produced 2 ShareLunkers today! Oh yes, that's right, O.H. Ivie. SL#593 (14.4lbs) and SL#594 (14.2lbs) are headed to Athens. Congrats to Brett Cannon of Willis TX and Casey Sobczak of Spring TX. #BiggerBetterBass #ShareLunker #TexasBassFishing"
What a Week!
If you're keeping score at home, that's a 16.4-pounder lake record and top 20 all-time bass, a 13.20-pounder, a 13.40-pounder, a 14.4-pounder, and a 14.2-pounder, all five from the same West Texas lake during a seven-day stretch that followed hard on the heels of one of the worst arctic air invasions to hit Texas since December 1989. And that's not to even including the 6.25-pound lake record smallie.
That seven-day stretch marks one of the more memorable weeks in recent Texas bass-fishing history and pushes the ShareLunker seasonal tally to nine Legacy Class bass weighing 13 pounds or greater. In the ShareLunker program, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists try to get productive spawns out of these temporarily donated fish.
Given the history of bass fishing at O.H. Ivie, it's not surprising it has made a splash in the state's big-bass news cycle. From 2000 through 2012, the lake was one of the best in the state with a total of 25 ShareLunkers caught, including the state's 500th ShareLunker, when angler Sam Callaway landed a 13.34-pound bass on April 9, 2010.
But the searing drought of 2011 drastically impacted Ivie, which has limited rain-gathering capabilities, causing it to eventually shrink to below 20-percent capacity. However, heavy spring rainfall across Texas since 2015 has bumped the lake level back up, allowing it to currently sit at some 60.7-percent capacity as of this writing. As the water increased, a new lake effect has taken place, as fish move into flooded brush and have enjoyed several years of good spawns.
Ivie has seen its share of sizzling big-bass action in the past. Several fish in the 10-, 11-, and 12-pound classes have been caught, and while not a ShareLunker bass due to when it was caught, Curtis Duncan's October 2019 13.23-pounder would have been Legend Class.
In February 2000, three ShareLunkers were caught during a 15-day stretch, and in 2010, a total of 11 ShareLunkers were pulled from Ivie from mid-January to the end of April and included five ShareLunker bass in a seven-day period in April.
If the recent run of ShareLunker bass action is any indication, Ivie has turned the corner again and there should be some great fishing ahead in the months and years to come.
As long as another historic stretch of winter weather is waiting in the wings, right?