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Pike on the Edge by Doug Pike | TF&G Senior Contributing Editor

A 20-Year Wait for 20 Pounds


or 20 years now, without good excuse, we Texans have lived with a constant reminder that not everything is bigger here. Somebody get the Compound W; I am ready to see this wart removed from the Lone Star’s backside. It was that long ago exactly this past Jan. 24 that Barry St. Clair caught what, at the time, was considered just another great bass in what seemed almost like a parade of new state records. Fifteen pounds, 16, 17, and then St. Clair’s 18.18-pound behemoth, all 25.5 inches of it. Around the newspaper at which I worked then, the three of us who wrote about this state’s natural resources wondered when St. Clair’s benchmark would be bettered. Bets at the time were that a bigger fish would be caught within months, too, not years, and certainly not decades. Lake Fork already had spit out a few dozen fish almost in that class. Smart money was and still is on that reservoir near Dallas to produce a new record, something worthy of Texas, but it hasn’t happened. Not in 20 years. Even today, a half-dozen presidents or so later, the same reservoir accounts for 12 of the state’s top 15 largemouths – all of which weighed more than 16 pounds. If our state-record bass were bigger, even by 10 percent, I might not be so glum about its lengthy stay atop the heap. What Texas needs to reestablish itself as having the best bass water on the planet is one fish. Just one. And it’s got to weigh 20 pounds plus whatever more it wants to weigh. There’s no arguing that Lake Fork produces more double-digit bass – on average more than 500 annually – but not a single one of those fish ever weighed 20 pounds.

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Texas, my home state, with its sophisticated hatchery system, its Sharelunker program that accepts monster bass and then breeds them to other monsters, and its elaborate network of forage-rich reservoirs, can’t manage to cough up a single 20-pound bass. California has more than a handful. Florida and Georgia each has certified 20s on its books. And we, since gas cost $1.05 a gallon and Time magazine named Bill Clinton its Man of the Year, have aspired to beat 18.

When Barry St. Clair caught the last State Record Largemouth, gas was $1.05 a gallon and Bill Clinton was Time’s Man of the Year.

There could (and should) be a fair good number of 20-pound bass swimming in Texas lakes. Most any impoundment that’s produced a largemouth weighing more than 15 pounds, and that covers a lot of Texas water, is capable of supporting a fish 30 percent heavier. We feed them well, too, but not like the Californians feed their fish. There, into its F i s h


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curious network of small, deep lakes, the state stocks tens of thousands of rainbow trout annually. Those fish are intended for recreational fishermen, but largemouths respond to the hatchery trucks like kids to the ting-a-ling of the ice-cream man’s bell. How Florida and Georgia did it I don’t know or care. I just want someone here in Texas to catch a bigger bass, and I’ve waited 20 years to see that happen. The fish is out there. Someone please catch it. The trouble with 20 pounders, of course, is that they don’t wear bells around their necks or electronic location devices on their tails. Which brings Texas’ legions of bass fishermen into question. We spend millions of hours slinging baited hooks into premium water. We know when, where and how to catch big bass. Odds are, if a 20-pound bass truly swims in Texas, that somebody would have caught one fish by now. Maybe that fish, in our state anyway, is something like Bigfoot (no offense, Chester.) Maybe 18 is our top end. Twenty years is time enough, after all, for the twin sister of St. Clair’s fish to have spawned in 1992 and, under absolutely ideal circumstances, for one or two fish from that nest to have reached 20 pounds. Lots of things would have to go absolutely right for such an event to occur, but that’s as plausible a theory as any just now for the existence of 20-pounders in Texas water. We’re flanked on both coasts by states with record bass that outweighed Texas’ best by a kilo – if you don’t recognize the weight, ask one of the guys who fish our side of Falcon. We have good water and plenty of it. We have great fishermen and more of them than any other state. For God, country and Lone Star pride, would someone please tie on a foot-long worm and bring us into the 21st century of bass fishing.

Email Doug Pike at


2/7/12 10:05 AM

March 2012  

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