HORSESHOE BAY — While the 1950s and 1960s saw Lake LBJ earn a national reputation for angling, it hasn’t been known for producing “lunker” bass.
That may change now that Horseshoe Bay resident Lloyd Ward caught a 13.7-pound largemouth bass on the reservoir on March 7.
Horseshoe Bay angler Lloyd Ward shattered the Lake LBJ largemouth bass record March 7 when he landed this 13.7-pound fish. Ward turned the bass over to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for its Share-A-Lunker program. Once the spawning season is over, the department will return the fish to Ward or he can let the agency keep it for further use in its fishery program. Courtesy photo by Larry Hodge, TPWD
The fish set a new lake record, which broke the previous one in 1989 when Charles Sohne caught a 12.55-pound largemouth.
Ward donated the female bass to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Share-A-Lunker campaign, which will use the fish for its selective breeding program.
The angler told TPWD officials he saw the fish swimming in about 3 feet of water off the bank when he tossed his lure over to it.
“I pitched my jig in front of her, and she swam over and ate it,” he said.
TPWD spokesman Larry Hodge said the bass is the first from Lake LBJ to be accepted by the Share-A-Lunker program.
“We’ve had several from Lake Austin, but that’s the only one I know of from the Highland Lakes chain,” he said. “There have been some caught out of O.H. Ivie and E.V. Spence (reservoirs) who were entered in Share-A-Lunker, but those lakes are further up the Colorado River.”
In order for a largemouth bass to qualify for the selective breeding program, it must weigh more than 13 pounds and have been legally caught between Oct. 1 and April 30.
Hodge said fish turned over to the state under the program are used to produce offspring for stocking in Texas lakes in hopes of creating more large bass.
The program was established in 1986 — under the name Operation Share a Lone Star Lunker — to promote catch-and-release fishing. Anglers could also turn the qualifying bass over to the TPWD for the breeding program.
Hodge said it typically takes eight to 10 years for a bass to hit the 13-pound mark. And it may be even tougher for a Highland Lakes largemouth to get that size. In 2001 and 2002, the parks department stocked more than 650,000 Florida-strain fingerlings in the lake.
TPWD fishery biologist Carlos De Jesus said Lake LBJ and the other Hill Country lakes aren’t known for producing largemouth bass such as the one Ward landed.
“Obviously (Lake LBJ) can produce big fish,” De Jesus said. “It really comes down to habitat. And a lot of the land on Lake LBJ is developed, and the shore has a lot of those (berm) walls. Hill Country lake fish also tend to grow a little slower than in other parts of Texas, such as the lakes in East Texas.”
The Share-A-Lunker program gives TPWD the ability to use fish that grow to large sizes in a breeding program.
“A fish like the one just caught out of Lake LBJ either is a full Florida strain or has some in it,” he said. “The Florida strain were introduced because they grow faster and usually larger than the northern largemouth bass (which are also stocked in Texas lakes). So when we release the (Share-A-Lunker offspring) into a lake, we’re taking advantage of their genetics.”
The hope isn’t just that the stocked fish will grow to trophy size, but also breed with other largemouth bass already in the lake, he said.
Once the spawning season is over, the state will return the fish to Ward for release back into the lake, or the angler can let the TPWD keep it for further breeding. Either way, Ward will get a life-size Fiberglas replica of his trophy catch.
Other local lake records for largemouth include 9.94 pounds for Lake Marble Falls, 11.99 pounds for Inks Lake and 11.2 pounds for Lake Buchanan. The most productive lake in Texas for Share-A-Lunker is Lake Fork located east of Dallas. It accounts for 243 entries of the 485 fish in the program. It also is the home of the state record 18.18-pound largemouth caught by Barry St. Clair on Jan. 24, 1992.
De Jesus said Lake Fork has the combination of all the right ingredients — habitat, forage and lake size — to regularly produce trophy bass. Though Lake LBJ isn’t as famous for huge bass as in earlier years, it still has the potential to produce large fish.
Ward knows that all too well. The day after he landed the 13-plus-pounder, he told TPWD officials it wasn’t the only one.
“I saw two others today that were just as big,” he said.
He’s just not telling exactly where.
For more on Share-A-Lunker, go to www.tpwd.state.tx.us.