March 01, 2021
By Lynn Burkhead
As the 2021 calendar flips to the third month of the year, it's time to start thinking about March madness, both in college basketball and spring bass fishing.
That's especially true in the state of Texas, which ended a torrid two-month streak of big-bass catches with an incredible February — all the way to the final weekend. Three bass weighing more than 14 pounds, including two over 15, were reported from three different waters Feb. 27-28.
Simply put, Texas bass fishing has been on fire, even with the state plunging into a historic deep freeze in February.
Angler Travis Moore got the party started on Jan. 10, not long after a rare snowfall blanketed the East Texas region, by catching a Texas ShareLunker weighing 13.44 pounds at Sam Rayburn.
Before January was through, three other ShareLunkers were landed: CJ Oates' 13.02-pounder from Lake Austin; Derek Mundy's 13.62-pounder from Sam Rayburn; and Daniel Ramsey's 13.07-pounder from Lake Palestine.
As it turned out, four caught Legacy Class ShareLunkers in a single month—such fish weigh 13 pounds or more and are loaned to TPWD for spawning purposes during Jan. 1-March 31—was merely the warm-up act.
February Bass Blitz
That's because in February, things got even hotter. Despite a record-setting invasion of arctic air and heavy snowfall that left behind human and wildlife death, power loss, and frozen lakes in its wake, Texas' bass fisheries produced eight reported ShareLunker bass.
O.H. Ivie Lake, a longtime West Texas big bass hotspot, grabbed the spotlight again after several years of less-than-stellar action due to drought conditions that reduced the lake to less than 20 percent of full pool at one point.
Now at 60-percent capacity, the lake churned out five ShareLunker catches in a row starting with the Feb. 19 catch of a new lake record weighing 16.4 pounds. Caught by Bussey, Iowa, angler Joe McKay, the bass is the 16th largest in Lone Star State history and came days after more than 10 inches of snowfall and below-zero cold blanketed parts of the region.
The sizzling week of action continued with Josh Jones' 13.20-pounder (keep his name in mind for later) and Donald Burks' 13.40-pounder. Two more ShareLunkers at Ivie included Brett Cannon's 14.40-pounder and Casey Sobczak's 14.20-pounder.
So good was the post-freeze big-bass action at O.H. Ivie that it was already making headlines.
3 More Giant Bass
The recently completed weekend was insanely good, even by Texas' lofty big bass standards. The three giants caught over the weekend had the state's Internet fishing forums and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's social media pages rocking.
The first came on Saturday, Feb. 27,
Here's how a TPWD Fishing tweet announced the catch:
- "After an amazing week running out west, east Texas jumps back in the action. Angler Scott Stephens lands his fish of a lifetime at Conroe, submitting 14.25lbs SL#595! Congratulations and thank you Scott! #BiggerBetterBass #ShareLunker #TexasBassFishing"
A 14-plus lunker is a pretty good way to end the month, right?
Not so fast. On Sunday, Feb. 28, TPWD tweeted about two catches weighing more than 15 pounds each.
- "Another Sunday another new personal best for angler Josh Jones. He has followed up his submission last week of SL591 with today's 15.40lbs SL596 from O.H.Ivie! That makes 6 this season from Ivie matching the 6 turned in from Ivie in 2011. Will Ivie produce 12 like it did in 2010? #ShareLunker #BiggerBetterBass #TexasBassFishing"
If you recall, that was Jones' second ShareLunker catch at O.H. Ivie … in a week. The 15.40-pounder followed a 13.20-pounder he caught at Ivie on Feb. 21. Angler Blake Cockrell completed a similar trick last year, catching two ShareLunkers from Alan Henry in the span of only 22 days.
Jones is now only the 19th angler in state history to record multiple ShareLunker catches.
O.H. Ivie Lake has now produced half of the 12 ShareLunkers so far this season, including the 16.4-pounder that is the 16th heaviest largemouth in state history and a new lake record.
Even Better Fishing Ahead?
With great spring fishing looming the rest of March, April, and May, why the recent wintertime surge of big-bass action across Texas?
For one thing, despite the recent thermometer readings, spring is coming quickly, and big bass are staging not far off the bank as the spawn nears.
Next, the state has a wealth of legendary fisheries, as evidenced by the numerous professional circuit tournaments held over the decades by B.A.S.S., FLW Tour (now the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit), and Major League Fishing's Bass Pro Tour. And when the 51st Bassmaster Classic visits Texas for the third time for this summer's derby at Lake Ray Roberts on June 11-13, there will be even more Lone Star State legend and lore to talk about in the bass-fishing world.
Another reason is the superb genetics of Florida-strain largemouths that TPWD inland fisheries biologists have planted in dozens of water bodies across the state. Those plantings—along with great nutrients, superb habitat and fishing regulations—have helped to pave the way for the ShareLunker program and its amazing success over the past 35 years.
While the ShareLunker program isn't always popular with local anglers who grumble when a particular lake's big sowbellies are transported to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens for spawning purposes, a state record of 18.18 pounds, nearly 600 ShareLunkers, and a Top 50 club that takes a 15.45-pound bass or better to gain entry, provide proof that the agency has a pretty good handle on what it's doing with bass fisheries.
Add in the recent surge in good fish habitat that has come about from heavy rainfall since the spring of 2015—precipitation that helps spur on a "new lake" effect as lake waters push into brush and vegetation that has grown up—and the result has been several good spawns in a row, good supplies of baitfish and nutrients, and big fish able to get even bigger.
The bottom line as March begins across Texas is that 2021 has already produced some epic big-bass fishing action across the Lone Star State.
And with arguably the year's best bass action still yet to come as largemouths push shallow for the coming spawn, who knows how much better it can get? Maybe an epic run of even more sizzling hot lunker catches is about to take center stage in Texas.
Hook up the bass rig, grab your rods and tackle bag, and keep the net handy. March Madness means something far more than basketball scores when you're out on a Texas bass water and casting toward the shoreline.