January 14, 2021
All eyes in the bass-fishing world will be turning to Texas in 2021 as the Lone Star State hosts two of the biggest fishing tournaments in professional angling.
The first such event is the Feb. 21-25 REDCREST Championship, the championship derby for Major League Fishing's Bass Pro Tour where the Top 40 BPT pros from last season will compete for the $300,000 top prize. Originally scheduled or Oklahoma's Grand Lake until the COVID-19 pandemic forced a move, the event will now be held in East Texas on Lake Palestine.
The bass fishing world will also turn its attention to Texas for the 51st Bassmaster Classic, a June 11-13 event on Lake Ray Roberts near Denton. The Classic, which will have 54 pros competing for another huge cash prize (2020 Classic winner Hank Cherry collected $300,000), had been previously scheduled for March 19-21 until current coronavirus conditions in North Texas produced a move into the early summer months.
With two championship events coming to Texas the first half of this year—not to mention two Bassmaster Elite Series events in April (on Sabine River and Lake Fork)—the 2021 bass fishing season promises to be exciting.
The excitement is not just for the professional tournaments coming to town, mind you, since the next several weeks of late winter and early spring will bring pre-spawn and spawning activity close to the shoreline, giving many anglers maybe their best chance at a Lone Star State giant.
In fact, just two weeks into the New Year, the state's big bass season is off and running with the first 13-plus pound Legacy Class largemouth bass in the books for the 2021 Toyota ShareLunker season.
That fish came last Saturday, Jan. 9—on the eve of a heavy Texas snowstorm that would dump nearly 3 inches on Lufkin and 5 inches on Nacogdoches—when angler Travis Moore used a Carolina rig to haul in the 13.44-pound largemouth from Sam Rayburn Reservoir in the Pineywoods of East Texas.
Caught during a Bass Champs tournament, the fish was the first Legacy Class bass of the season, a fish of 13 pounds or more that is donated by the anglers for spawning purposes.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Inland Fisheries biologists transported the fish—ShareLunker #586 according to the agency—to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens. Like other donated Legacy Class bass—which are accepted from Jan. 1 through March 31—biologists are caring for the fish and attempting to spawn her.
"It was a great day on the water at Sam Rayburn," said Moore in a TPWD press release. "After about 15 or so casts and few good bites, I finally hooked into my first 2021 bass and it was a giant 13.44-pounder.
"We initially weighed her in the boat before taking her to the tournament weigh-in, where Chad with Bass Champs put her on the scale to get the official number. My heart started beating fast and I was so excited I could have jumped up and down, but I kept my composure."
While the SL program has fallen out'of favor with some Texas anglers in recent years, Moore was happy to participate.
"This was one of the best days of my life," he said. "I’ve caught a few 12-pounders and handful of 10-pounders, but this one here is special for me for sure. As a bass fisherman, this is what we fish for every time we go out on the water."
Moore’s bass is the first Legacy Class 13-plus pounder from Sam Rayburn since Stacy Spriggs caught ShareLunker #576, a 13.06-pounder caught on the final day of the 2018 ShareLunker season. It’s also the 27th Legacy Class entry from Big Sam as the East Texas lake continues to enjoy a resurgence after a battle with the largemouth bass virus earlier in this century.
"We are excited to start off the new year on such a positive note with having a ShareLunker so early in the spawning season," said SL Program Coordinator Kyle Brookshear. "Great management work has been happening at Rayburn and we feel that it's primed to keep producing these world-class-size fish.
"This fish along with the others to be donated for spawning this season will continue to help create our ShareLunker broodstock and produce bigger better bass in Texas fisheries."
TPWD reminds anglers that during the first three months of the season (Jan. 1 through March 31), any angler who catches a 13-pound bass can loan it to TPWD for the ShareLunker Program's selective breeding and stocking program.
Anglers wanting to do so can call the ShareLunker hotline at (903) 681-0550 to report their catch 24/7 until April 1, 2021.
What does Moore's early season big bass catch mean for other Texas anglers this spring? Well, after several years of above normal precipitation, good spawns and excellent habitat in the state's hallowed bass waters, the guess here is that the 2021 big bass season will be a top-notch one between the Red River and the Rio Grande. And that includes the next several weeks of winter, as well as the early spring months.
In fact, as I noted in recent story for BassFan.com, one could argue that the late winter is actually the best time of the year to catch a true Lone Star State giant.
Want proof? Well, consider that the 18.18-pound state record largemouth bass for Texas, caught by crappie angler Barry St. Clair as he sought a wintertime limit of slabs, was brought to hand on Jan. 24, 1992 at Lake Fork.
But that's not the only bass to suggest that the Lone Star State’s best big-fish-catching opportunity may not be during the springtime spawn, but instead when Old Man Winter has settled in for a spell.
A look at the Top 50 largemouth bass list maintained by TPWD shows that a total of five bass in the state's Top 10 (from 16.77 to 18.18 pounds) have been caught during January (1) and February (4). And there's a near-miss caught at the end of November and another caught on March 1.
Expanding that idea out to the Lone Star State's Top 20, three more lunkers (up to 16.13 pounds) have been caught in the dead of winter (1 in January and 2 in February). And looking at the rest of the Top 50 list, another 12 Texas lunkers have been caught in December (1), January (5) and February (6).
If you're doing the math at home, that's a total of 20 lunker bass ranging from 15.45 to 18.18 pounds, all caught at a time of the year when the water is at its absolute coldest.
What does all of this mean? That Texas will be the center of the bass-fishing world's focus in coming weeks, both for championship-level pro angling events as well as the chance at catching a bona fide bucketmouth.
But as Moore's catch at Sam Rayburn last weekend shows—along with evidence from the state's big-bass history books—don't wait for the weather to warm up before firing up the bass rig and heading for one of the Lone Star State's trophy bass producing water bodies.
Some of the best fishing of the year may still be yet to come, but right now in the dead of winter, the chance to catch a real record book giant is about as good as it gets, even in the largemouth rich state of Texas.