Big largemounths are up shallow and spawning

April is ranked as one of the best months to go after trophy largemouth bass. Right about now, they are up shallow to spawn and easier to catch than at any other time of year. A good example about what I’m talking about can be found on Houston County Lake. Anglers there are catching bass to 9 pounds on worms and lizards in 4 to 5 feet of water. The water temperature on the lake is between 66 and 70 degrees.

The really good news is that Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend are just about back to being full after reaching historic lows during last year’s drought. Rayburn is just under 2 feet low. T-Bend is less than a foot low. Both are in great shape. Lake Livingston is just over a foot high.

The water temperature on most east Texas lakes right now is in the mid to upper 60s. That’s the magic mark for sending big largemouth bass to the shallows.

So far this year, the best place to find and catch a wall-class bass is nowhere near East Texas. Lake Austin in the Hill Country recently produced two more Toyota ShareLunkers, bringing its season total to five. The last two were caught on the same day, March 21, according to Larry Hodge with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

“Lake O.H. Ivie, which had a hot streak the past two seasons, produced its first entry of the current season March 25,” said Hodge. “O.H. Ivie now ranks No. 3 in total numbers of ShareLunkers produced, with 24. Lake Austin ranks sixth with 17.”

Other reservoirs that have produced double-digit numbers of ShareLunker entries include Lake Fork with 249; Alan Henry, 25; Sam Rayburn, 23; Falcon, 19; Conroe, 16; Choke Canyon, 13; and Amistad, 12.

“Corey Johnson started the latest big-bass flurry shortly after noon on March 21 with a 13.18-pound fish from Lake Austin,” said Hodge. “It was caught on a white jig in 4 feet of water. Just after 6 p.m. that same day, Charles Whited hooked Toyota ShareLunker 534, a 13.59-pounder in Lake Austin with a Senko in 8 feet of water.”

Stacy Brookings of Midland was fishing O.H. Ivie with a spinner bait when a 13.22-pound bass ate it in 8 feet of water. The fish, now Toyota ShareLunker 535, was 26.5 inches long and 20 inches in girth.

“DNA testing at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department laboratory at the A.E. Wood State Fish Hatchery in San Marcos showed Toyota ShareLunker 534 to be an intergrade, a mixture of Florida and northern largemouth bass,” says Hodge. “It was returned to Lake Austin March 23. Test results on the other two fish are not yet available.”

Toyota ShareLunker 531, caught from Falcon International Reservoir March 16, spawned a whopping 44,000 eggs on March 29.

“Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center hatchery staff removed the eggs from the spawning mat, counted them and put them into a hatching jar,” says Hodge. “The eggs will hatch in three or four days, and the fry will be raised to about 1.5 inches in length before being stocked.”

A video of the processing of ShareLunker 531’s eggs may be viewed on the ShareLunker program Facebook page.

“ShareLunker 531 was caught by Gary Wingate of Amarillo and is the first ShareLunker to spawn this season,” says Hodge. “Multiple spawns from the same fish are not uncommon. Six of the current entries are pure Florida largemouth bass and are being held for spawning. Those fish came from Lakes Falcon, Austin (two fish), Fork, Ray Roberts and O.H. Ivie.”

So far this season, 12 ShareLunkers have been caught from six different lakes: Falcon, Austin, Fork, Toledo Bend, Ray Roberts and O.H. Ivie. Each lake producing an entry into the ShareLunker program during the season receives a portion of all the fingerlings produced.

“Pure Florida ShareLunkers are paired at TFFC with pure Florida males that are themselves the offspring of ShareLunkers,” said Hodge. “This selective breeding process is intended to result in offspring that have the best possible genetics. Appropriate measures are taken to ensure that genetic diversity is maintained. DNA testing allows TPWD to determine the parentage of and relatedness among ShareLunker offspring.”

Robert Sloan can be reached by e-mail at sloan288 [at] aol [dot] com.