EXTERIOR: Muscle Lakes | Sports
Bassmaster Magazine recently unveiled its annual ranking of the Top 100 American Bass Lakes and there are a few familiar names on the list. The ranking includes the top 10 overall picks and a breakdown of the top 25 lakes in the geographic regions of the central, southeast, western and northeastern United States.
Producing the list is an ambitious task that takes more than two months, according to Emily Harley, BASS communications manager. That means working hard on the tournament results, collecting surveys from dozens of the state’s fisheries biologists, examining data from the Big Bass program, and considering the contributions of BASS nation’s conservation directors across the board. country.
âThe rankings are debated by a panel of fishing industry insiders,â Harley said.
Not everyone will agree with the order of the rankings. They never do.
One thing that cannot be disputed is Texas’ reputation for world class bass fishing. There are a plethora of great places to play the game here.
It’s no surprise that Texas is well represented on the 2021 list of top-notch honeypots. Ten Lone Star Lakes, including four border lakes shared with neighboring states and Mexico, made the difference.
Among them are Lake Fork, Sam Rayburn, OH Ivie, Toledo Bend, Ray Roberts, Conroe, Falcon, Choke Canyon, Texoma and Caddo.
Fork: The best in America?
Lake Fork has a rich history in the big bass tradition in Texas. The lake has been touted as one of the best great bass lakes in America since the late 1980s and 1990s, when it developed a reputation for producing basses over 10 pounds like a chewing gum machine.
To date, the lake has produced 263 fish over 13 pounds for the Toyota ShareLunker program, two state records and 30 of the 50 largest bass on record statewide. Fork has been a regular on Bassmaster’s Top 100 list since the rankings began in 2012.
The lake landed the overall Top 10 twice between 2014 and 2019. The judges really liked what they saw in the legendary fishing near Quitman this year. He took first place on a heavy hitting list for the very first time.
According to James Hall, editor of Bassmaster Magazine, the results of two BASS Elite Series events held there over a six-month period weighed heavily on the rankings.
Hall says Fork hosts dozens of local / amateur tournaments over the course of the year, but the results of these derbies rarely reflect the true quality of the fishing. This is because of a restrictive slot limit that prohibits anglers from keeping 16 to 24 inch fish for weigh-ins at the lake. Gaining 9-11 pound weights on five fish is common at weekend events.
This is not the case when the pros come to town. BASS hosted two Elite Series events in Fork between November 2020 and April 2021. The Elites bypassed the slot limit by following a catch, weigh, and immediate release format that allowed multiple 3 to 9 lb. ‘enter the daily counts. .
Likewise, the weights at the top of the rankings have climbed in triple digits. Patrick Walters of South Carolina won the November event with 20 bars weighing 104-12, an average of 5.2 pounds per fish.
Longview’s Lee Livesay found the big guys bite even better this spring. The Texas pro recorded a four-day 112-5 total which was anchored by a massive 42-3 limit on the final round.
With a total average of 8.46 per bar, Livesay’s five fish limit is the third heaviest on record in the BASS event. In addition, three other anglers broke the 90-pound mark as Walters won his second Century Belt Trophy in six months with 102-5.
A month earlier, McKinney’s Tanner Spurgin won a boat with a 15.27 pound caught in a Bass Champs MegaBass event. Spurgin’s Bass is the largest fish reported from Fork Lake since March 2018 and the second largest fish ever to be weighed in at a Bass Champs tournament.
A special place
It takes an exceptional fishery to produce numbers like these, especially at 41 years old. While it certainly isn’t the lake it once was, Fork is still a very special place, indeed.
That’s the word of veteran fishing guide and former BASS pro David Vance of Winnsboro. Vance says he was pleasantly surprised to learn of Fork’s No.1 ranking, but stresses that anglers shouldn’t be misled into thinking they can go any day of the week. week, any time of year, and roll up in a 40 pound bag.
âIt’s not going to happen,â said Vance, a full-time guide since 1980. âFork is still a good lake, but it’s not what it used to be. The lake is under incredible pressure and the fish got used to it. It’s a difficult lake to fish and people are going to be disappointed if they don’t do their homework and come at the best time, which in my opinion is around the spawning.
Vance added that anglers should not travel to Fork with high expectations of the 2-3 pound number waiting to be caught at a bass factory like Sam Rayburn, who placed 6th in the standings. general this year.
âThere is no way Fork can compete with ‘Rayburn for numbers, but you can’t dispute his record for producing big fish,â he said. âIt consistently produces more fish in the 7-10 pound range throughout the year than other lakes. If you come here from late February to April your chances of catching big fish are really good.
TPWD Fisheries Biologist Jake Norman de Tyler agrees with Vance’s assessment.
âThe ability to catch multiple bars over eight pounds in a day is Fork’s biggest draw and asset,â he said. âThe reservoir is unlike any other in the country when the time is right, as evidenced by all the pro-level tournaments held there since 2014. However, there are some very temperamental times of the year that can make the world’s best anglers, questioning their own abilities.
An avid angler himself, Norman claims to have been humiliated by the lake more times than he remembers. The biologist says fishing in Fork can be like the ups and downs of golf.
âYou can be frustrated all day long and consider finding a new hobby, until a good blow (or a big fish for Fork) brings the addiction back immediately,â Norman said. âThere are a lot of guides and locals who will be surprised by the # 1 ranking because they see this phenomenon happening every week. The fire fishing days we get in Fork can set unrealistic expectations for many anglers. Catching a 40-pound bar bag doesn’t happen every time, but it does happen more in Fork than in most water bodies across the country. For most anglers, an eight pound bass is the fish of a lifetime. This is why Fork continues to be recognized nationally.
10 for Texas
As previously mentioned, 10 Texas lakes secured places in the 2021 Top 100 rankings. Three of them reached the overall Top 10 – Fork, Sam Rayburn (# 6) and OH Ivie (# 9). Texas has more Top 10 lakes than any other state and has tied California for the most Top 100 entries this year.
Sam Rayburn has been solid in the annual rankings since the start, only finishing outside the Top 10 three times in 10 years.
The lake was # 2 in 2017, # 1 in 2018, # 3 in 2019 and # 7 in 2020. After a record spring, I’m surprised it hasn’t passed # 6 this year.
In January, Lake produced a 13-pound pair for the Toyota ShareLunker program as well as notable back-to-back tournament weights that made Broaddus angler Derek Mundy famous.
Mundy, 32, won a Phoenix Bass Fishing League event on January 2 with a huge limit of five fish weighing 40-10. This is perhaps the heaviest daytime total on record at a Sam Rayburn tournament by a fisherman.
Three weeks later, Mundy won a three-day Toyota Series event with 70-11. The total was anchored by a limit of 39-7 which he weighed on Day 2.
In April, about 3,400 anglers participating in a three-day event at Sealy Outdoors big bass harvested 854 bar for a total of about 3,778 pounds, an average of 4.42 pounds each. The Top 5 ranged from 11.29 pounds to 9.47 pounds.
The very first Lake OH Ivie Top 10 ranking is not based on tournament weights; it’s built around the ShareLunker giants and epic recreational fishing recaps that read like fairy tales.
The 19,000-acre reservoir near Lubbock has had a hot hand for Toyota Legacy ShareLunkers this year with 12 entries, including a new lake record of 16.40 pounds, one 15 pounds, four 14 pounds and six 13 pounds.
On February 19, Joe McKay’s 16.40-pound weight from ‘Ivie triggered a remarkable burst of bass that saw six Toyota Legacy ShareLunkers captured at West Texas Lake over a 10-day period. McKay’s Fish is the # 16 heaviest Texas sea bass of all time. He anchored what is billed as the heaviest day-long catch of five fish ever documented on video – 60 pounds.
Matt Williams is a freelance writer based in Nacogdoches. He can be contacted by email, [email protected]
Here’s how 10 Texas lakes made it to the Central Region’s Top 25:
1. Fork of the lake
2. Sam Rayburn
3. OH Ivie
6. The Toledo bend
8. Ray Roberts
14. Lake Conroe
19. Choke Canyon