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Entries in Texas (81)

Monday
Mar272017

Alabama's Jordan Lee Wins Bassmaster Classic

HOUSTON — In 2013, Jordan Lee was a member of the Auburn University fishing team.

Today, he’s on top of the professional bass fishing world.

The 25-year-old pro from Guntersville, Ala., stayed within striking distance all week at the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods. Then during Sunday’s final round at Minute Maid Park, he caught five bass from Lake Conroe that weighed 27 pounds, 4 ounces, pushing his three-day total to a tournament-best 56-10.

Lee earned $300,000 and the most coveted trophy in the sport, while Steve Kennedy — a resident of Auburn, Ala. — finished second with 55-1.

“To all of the guys fishing the college tournaments right now, this just says you can do it,” Lee said. “It’s hard work — and you’re going to have a lot of days out here that aren’t good.

“On this lake, I wasn’t sure there was any way I could do it. But you’re never out of it here.”

Lee had every reason to fold after Friday’s first round when he caught only three fish that weighed 8-6. But Saturday provided a revelation that would ultimately lead to his first B.A.S.S. victory.

He was fishing a point with a hard bottom that he found during practice, and he believed it would pay off during the tournament. After failing to catch a fish there in windy, cloudy conditions on Friday, he returned to the spot in calmer weather on the following day.

“With zero fish in the box at noon on the second day, I went back to that spot and caught a 7 1/2-pounder on the first cast,” Lee said. “When I was landing that fish, there was a whole school of 5- and 6-pounders that came with it.

“Right then, I knew something was about to happen — and I caught two more that were both big.”

Lee still didn’t manage a five-bass limit on Saturday, but the four fish he brought to the scales weighed 21-0.

That moved Lee into 15th place with 29-6 and guaranteed him a spot in Sunday’s Top 25. But he still didn’t feel good about his chances of catching California angler Brent Ehrler, who had led the first two rounds of the event and entered Championship Sunday with 43-4.

Sunday began with Lee planning to fish his magic point all day — even if the fishing had fizzled. As it turns out, he didn’t have much of a choice.

Engine troubles left him without the ability to run from spot to spot and forced him to milk every possible bite out of the point. He eventually had to hitch a ride back to the weigh-in with a spectator that he knew from Cullman, Ala. — a legal ploy in the Classic, as long as no fishing takes place in the spectator’s boat.

Lee’s main baits were a Strike King 5XD crankbait in the citrus shad color pattern, a football jig with a Rage Craw and a Space Monkey for a trailer and a Bullworm on a magnum shaky head.

“I stuck with it all day and caught fish on a football jig with a Rage Craw and a Space Monkey,” Lee said. “I threw the 5XD and the Bullworm and didn’t really get any bites on them. I caught all 27 pounds on that football jig.”

Of the hundreds of points on Conroe, Lee said it was one section of hard bottom that seemed to make his point special. Casting across the point — rather than parallel to it — was the better play all week.

“I never caught any shells or anything, so I think it was a gravel or a rock bottom,” he said. “It was really subtle. There was no brush. It was just kind of a flat point, and I was fishing probably 100 yards offshore.”

Lee had to sweat through the final few anglers, including Kennedy who weighed in 21-15 and fell just 1-9 short of the title. The final angler with a chance to unseat Lee from the top of the leaderboard was Ehrler, who weighed in just 11-10 and finished third with 54-14.

Ehrler was trying to become just the sixth angler in Classic history to lead the event from wire-to-wire and the first since Cliff Pace in 2013. Instead, he became the second angler in a row to lead the first two days, only to fall short in the end.

“I’m disappointed,” Ehrler said. “But what I really wanted to do coming in was be in position to win on the final day. I did that, but things just didn’t work out today.”

Ehrler earned the Berkley Big Bass Award of $2,500 for the largest fish of the event with a 9-12 largemouth he caught on Friday.

Ehrler also earned the GEICO Everyday Leader Award of $1,000 and the $1,500 GEICO Everyday Leader Bonus for leading both Friday and Saturday.

The event itself drew thousands of people to morning takeoffs at Lake Conroe Park, the Outdoors Expo presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods and the daily weigh-ins at Minute Maid Park, home of Major League Baseball’s Houston Astros.


Friday
Mar172017

New Kids' Program Set for Bassmaster Classic in Houston

Children attending this year’s GEICO Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods will be in for a special treat March 24-26 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston
 
Fishing, games, competitions, seminars, special guests, raffles, giveaways and more await them at the Shell Bassmaster Get Hooked on Fishing presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors. Kids can get in on the fun from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday, while 52 of the world’s best bass anglers compete at nearby Lake Conroe. All activities are free and open to the public.
 
“Shell takes great pride in our partnerships and in the events we support throughout the year that are nationally respected, help protect our environment and have a positive impact on local communities,” said Bruce Culpepper, Shell Oil Company president.
 
“The Bassmaster Classic and Get Hooked on Fishing are both prime examples of getting people personally involved with the outdoors and understanding how important conservation and caring for our environment is for all of us.”
 
While children of all backgrounds and ages will enjoy Get Hooked on Fishing, special emphasis will be on introducing multicultural youth and their families to the joys of fishing and instructing them in the basics, as well as teaching them about nature, conservation, and stewardship. Kids in grades 2 through 6 will get to experience the real thing too, angling in a pond filled with catfish. Nine hundred students from the Houston Independent School District will test their luck on Friday.
 
Activities also will include interactive exhibits and presentations by Coastal Conservation Association, Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Additionally, renowned anglers like Pedro Sors and Billy Murray will share their knowledge, while the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Paw Patrol characters will entertain at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., on Saturday and Sunday. Those who want to test their skills can compete in Casting Kids events, while attendees can sharpen their casting and catching skills in Learn From the Pros seminars.
 
Dogs on the Dock, meanwhile, will feature long-jumping competitions by retrievers, with many local canines expected to compete.

For more information, go here.

Friday
Feb172017

Will Anglers Land a ShareLunker on Conroe in 2017 Bassmaster Classic?

Renee Linderoth caught this 13.8-pound largemouth in 2009 on Lake Conroe. Seventeen Conroe bass weighing 13 pounds or more have been entered in Texas' Toyota ShareLunker program. The largest weighed 15.93.

Will crowds at Minute Maid Park witness a double-digit bass weighed in during the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods? Considering the trophy potential of nearby Lake Conroe, where 52 of the nation’s best bass anglers will compete March 24-26, they might be treated to more than just a 10- or 11-pound bass — or two or three.
 
“I think we are going to see very big bass come weigh-in time in Houston, maybe a ShareLunker,” said Dave Terre, management/research chief of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD). “At Conroe, March is the prime month for that to occur. We’ll be ready.”
 
Established in 1986, the agency’s Toyota ShareLunker program encourages the catch and release of large fish and uses bass of 13 pounds or heavier for selective breeding, before being returned to the fishery from which they were caught. Of the 17 ShareLunkers caught at Conroe, five were taken during the month of March. The latest, a 13.14-pounder, was caught in early April 2015.
 
Terre explained that Conroe’s rise as a world-class fishery was no accident. “Making big bass and great fishing are products of good fisheries management and partners working together on fish habitat.”
 
B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director Gene Gilliland added, “For years, Lake Conroe was the poster child for grass carp gone bad. Back then, the bass fishermen thought the world was coming to an end. But a solid long-term management plan that married passionate B.A.S.S. club members with the expertise of Texas Parks and Wildlife biologists, turned Conroe into a top-tier fishery.”
 
Seven Coves Bass Club, a B.A.S.S. Nation club, took a leadership role among those partners, and for its efforts, received a 2013 Environmental Excellence Award from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. “This is probably the highest recognition our conservation program has received to date,” said Tim Cook, conservation director for the Texas B.A.S.S. Nation. “Every member should be proud to be part of an organization that gives so much back to the sport we all love.”
 
In 2008, following a second round of grass carp introductions to control invasive hydrilla, the club was awarded a grant for about $45,000 from B.A.S.S. and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to build a plant nursery on property owned by the San Jacinto River Authority. The latter and TPWD also helped finance the effort.

“With the assistance and advice of TPWD, the San Jacinto River Authority, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Lewisville Aquatic Ecosystem Research Facility, they started growing native aquatic plants to go into Lake Conroe,” said TPWD biologist Mark Webb. “More people all the time were getting excited about coming in and helping to grow ecologically appropriate native plants to provide the kind of habitat we need for fish and wildlife in Lake Conroe.”
 
The following summer, 150 plants grown in the nursery were placed in the lake; they were shielded from grass carp and turtles with protective cages. Many more were to follow, as Seven Coves expanded its alliances for the betterment of the fishery. In 2010, Seven Coves received an additional $20,000 from the Toyota Texas Bass Classic and Bass Pro Shops as part of the first ever Friends of Reservoirs Foundation grant.

“This project has brought a wide range of stakeholders closer together, which has been positive for the angling community,” said Ron Gunter, a club member and assistant conservation director for the Texas B.A.S.S. Nation.
 
Today, the nursery still produces plants for Conroe, but TPWD and the Corps have taken a larger role in that aspect of the alliance, while Seven Coves members are devoting more time to helping the agency with artificial cover for the fishery.
 
“The plant work is to help propagate the (bass) species, and that definitely has helped on Conroe,” Gunter said. “The attractors will help anglers find a place to fish.”
 
Webb estimates that about 10,000 mature native plants have been added to the 21,000-acre fishery since 2008, with some, particularly water willow, now expanding on their own.
 
Along with good water quality and improved habitat, Conroe’s trophy potential is enhanced by stockings of Florida-strain largemouth bass fingerlings. The introductions are intended to keep big-bass genes abundant, rather than simply increase numbers.
 
More than 500,000 Floridas were stocked annually in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2013, and some almost certainly have reached ShareLunker size.
 
Odds are improving that one of the Bassmaster Classic contenders will weigh in a ShareLunker during the world championship, as Terre predicted might happen. It would be the first 13-pounder in the Classic’s 47-year history and would easily eclipse the existing record, an 11-10 bass caught in Florida’s Kissimmee Chain in 2006.

For information about attending the 47th Bassmaster Classic in Houston, go to Bassmaster.com.

About the 2017 Bassmaster Classic

The 47th world championship of bass fishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods will host 52 of the world’s best bass anglers competing for more than $1 million, March 24-26 in Houston, Texas. Competition and takeoff will begin each day at Lake Conroe Park (146 TX-105, Montgomery, Texas) at 7:20 a.m. CT. There will be off-site parking and shuttles for fans wanting to attend the takeoff. Weigh-ins will be held daily March 24-26 at 3 p.m. in one of Major League Baseball’s Top 20 largest stadiums, the Houston Astros’ Minute Maid Park (501 Crawford Street, Houston, Texas). 


In conjunction, the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods will be open daily only a block from Minute Maid Park at George R. Brown Convention Center, (1001 Avenida de las Americas, Houston, Texas) the largest in Classic history. Expo hours are Friday, March 24, noon – 8 p.m.; Saturday, March 25, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Sunday, March 26, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. All events are free and open to the public.

Monday
Jan232017

Catch-and-Release Proposed for Stretch of of Texas' Devils River

Increasing angler pressure has prompted the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) to propose catch-and-release regulations for largemouth and smallmouth bass on a portion of the Devils River, which feeds into Lake Amistad from the north.

 “The pressure has increased over the last 10 to 15 years,” TPWD's Ken Kurzawski said.  “In 2013, we began requiring access permits from any TPWD property. In the first year, we had 780 permits. This year, we expect at least 1,300.”

“What we are proposing in January is to institute catch-and-release for largemouth and smallmouth bass on the Devils from Baker’s Crossing to Big Satan Creek, a distance of 38 miles,” he added. “This is where the river becomes wider and more lake-like. It is the downstream boundary of the state natural area.”

The biologist added that smallmouth have been increasing in the river, while the overall size of largemouth has declined.

If the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission approves the regulation, it then would be open for public comment, with implementation possible in September 2017.

One of the most remote and unspoiled waterways in Texas, the Devils is part of the Rio Grande drainage. It is fed by numerous clear springs in the region's karst topography, which includes rugged ridges, canyons, and grassy banks. While it features white water, a portion also flows underground, where gravel, sand, and limestone filter to help maintain high water quality.

TPWD's Devils River State Natural Area consists of 37,000 acres in two units, including the original 20,000-acre portion called Del Norte and newly acquired 17,000-acre Dan A. Hughes Unit. Del Norte offers primitive camping, mountain biking, horseback riding, hiking, and camping, as well as fishing. It also features a group barracks that can accommodate up to10 people.

Monday
Dec052016

Fisheries Management Is NOT Just About the Fish

Once upon a time, when harvest of bass was commonplace, wildlife agencies managed fisheries for sustainability. No matter where they fished in their state, anglers knew the bag and size limit regulations would be the same, typically 5 or 10 fish, with a minimum size of 12 inches.

But then in the 1970s along came Ray Scott, B.A.S.S., and a practice that bass anglers  embraced with open arms--- catch and release. Bass fishing became more about competitive sport and recreation than catching and keeping a limit.

As a consequence, today's fisheries manager must be two parts fisheries biologist and one part sociologist. Or maybe it's the other way around. In other words, it's not all about the fish anymore. It's also about the fishermen and what they want to catch.

"There are variables related to the biological side of things and then there is the social/people side of things," said Dave Terre, Management and Research Chief for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). "Both those things have to come together for success."

With Texas among the most innovative states for bass management, TPWD planners consider four regulation strategies to accommodate "diverse opportunities." They include harvest, high catch rate, quality-sized fish, and trophy fish.

Of course, the first  favors those who still want to keep and eat bass. The second is for those who enjoy catching numbers of fish but not keeping them, while the third and fourth are self-explanatory.

To gain reputations as trophy fisheries, some lakes don't require special regulations or other assistance, such as supplemental stockings of Florida-strain bass, if they have enough habitat and forage, as well as periodic high water to accommodate large years classes and survival.  But usually these are cyclical as opposed to long-term.

On the other hand, maintaining a trophy fishery typically involves special regulations, such as a protected slot of 18 to 22 inches or even catch and release only and/or periodic stockings of Florida or Florida-hybrid bass to stimulate faster and larger growth. For example, recent angler success suggests that Tennessee has created a trophy bass fishery at Lake Chickamauga by enhancing the genetics.

A trophy fishery also requires constant monitoring and altering of regulations to meet changing population dynamics. In Arkansas, managers want to encourage harvest of smaller fish by reducing the protected slot from 16-21 inches to 14-17 because of the high density of bass at Mallard Lake, which yielded the state record, 16-8, in 1976.

In Texas, meanwhile, biologists wanted to prevent harvest of too many small bass when O.H. Ivie was opened to fishing about 25 years ago. Thus, the five-fish bag could include no more than two bass under 18 inches. Now, they are considering regulation changes that would encourage harvest of smaller fish and increase abundance of larger ones.  

"The nice thing about these kinds of regulations, five-fish bag limits with no more than XX number of fish above or below a certain length, is that they are conducive to both tournament and non-tournament angling, unlike slot limits that are prohibitive to tournaments," said Brian Van Zee, TPWD Inland Fisheries Regional Director. 

Especially in states where bass are the No. 1 sport fish, managers have learned that "adaptive management"  is the best strategy to deal with ever-changing  environmental conditions in fisheries and to satisfy their constituencies. The latter often are surveyed on the water, online, by mail, and at public meetings as to their preferences regarding bag and size limits, both in general and for specific water bodies.

After listening to its resident fishermen, Florida decided to simplify regulations, with an emphasis on increasing the odds that anglers can catch and release larger bass. While the statewide limit remains at five, with no minimum length for largemouths, only one fish of 16 inches or longer can be kept. Forty-two site-specific regulations have been eliminated.

"While reducing harvest of large bass is beneficial, allowing more bass under 16 inches to be kept may improve some fisheries by reducing competition so other individuals grow faster and larger," said Tom Champeau, Fisheries Chief for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Still, "sometimes regulations have little to do with it (quality of a fishery)," reflected Terre, pointing out that just 57 of Texas' 1,100 reservoirs have special regulations. " Most anglers catch and release all the bass they catch. Now, we have to feel  the public will keep fish before putting on a slot.

"And we're constantly learning, experimenting, and managing according to conditions. We don't do things willy nilly."