In case you haven’t noticed, today is Valentine’s Day.
And if you’re married to a great woman like I am — Happy Valentine’s Day Honey! — you had better not forget today is the day for a little romance, a box of chocolates, a nice dinner, a dozen red roses and a card.
Especially if you have bass fishing plans later on this month, I might add.
And hopefully you do have bass fishing plans this month, because by mid-February, in many parts of Texas, it’s high time to get on the water to catch a sweetheart of a bass, a true scale-busting lunker and then some.
While March gets a lot of press as the spring season’s top bass fishing month in Texas, don’t overlook February when four of the state’s Top 10 all-time bass have been caught.
Ditto for 12 of the Lone Star State’s Top 50 largemouth bass that have been hauled in during this short month, a collection of days where that Pennsylvania groundhog has to deal with his shadow once again.
Likewise for 160 of the state’s 582 all-time Legacy Class ShareLunker bass, trophy largemouths tipping the scales at 13-pounds or better.
Such February bruiser bass include Larry Barnes’ sweet Lake Fork lunker, a 17.29-pound bass actually landed on Valentine’s Day in 1988. By the way, that bass still ranks as the state’s number five all-time largemouth.
Don’t forget Trey Coates’ 17.08-pounder caught at Lake Fork on February 26, a bass that still ranks sixth in the Lone State. Or Earl Crawford’s 16.9-pounder, a current No. 7 all-time bass that is a former state record pulled from Lake Pinkston on Feb. 16, 1981. And then there’s Bryan Turner’s 16.89-pounder, pulled from Lake Fork on Feb. 8, 1993, a fish that still ranks eighth on Texas’ all-time list.
There’s also Don Allison’s 15.38-pound hawg pulled from Possum Kingdom Reservoir back on Feb. 14, 1991, a fish that at one time was ranked as high as No. 41 on the all time list although it’s no longer a member of the exclusive Top 50 club.
By the way, to even make the Lone Star State’s coveted top 50 largemouth bass list these days, a lunker largemouth has to tip the scales at 15.45-pounds — or better — to qualify.
Even in big bass rich Texas, those are huge numbers.
Staying on the subject of such giant February bass in Texas, there was a massive largemouth caught last Sunday, Feb. 9, a fish that was certainly trending in the Top 50 direction. It came from West Texas’ Alan Henry Reservoir, which coughed up the 2020 ShareLunker season’s first Legacy Class sized bass weighing 13-pounds or better.
Caught a few days after the West Texas region was blanketed with several inches of snow, Lubbock angler Blake Cockrell landed the 14.36-pound largemouth while probing an area for spotted bass. Measuring 26.25-inches in length, the fish struck a crankbait in five to 10-feet of water.
Cockrell knew immediately that he had caught one sweetheart of a West Texas bass.
“When I put my hands on her to lift her out of the water and land her in the boat, I was in disbelief,” he said in a TPWD news release. “I said out loud, ‘you’re something special.’ At that moment I knew this fish was bigger than anything I’ve ever caught.”
Like some 581 anglers before him, Cockrell was eager and willing to donate the huge lunker to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for ShareLunker Legacy Class spawning efforts. For the record, anglers like Cockrell who catch a 13 pound or larger Legacy Class bass through March 31 can enter their fish by calling the program directly — any time of the day or night — at 903-681-0550.
After doing just that and notifying the agency of his catch, TPWD biologists quickly dispatched personnel to collect and transport “ShareLunker 582” back to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens. That’s where Inland Fisheries biologists will attempt to spawn her and produce big bass offspring that can be stocked in Texas waters and make the state’s legendary bass fishing even better.
Cockrell said in the news release that he was more than willing to loan the fish to TPWD for its selective breeding program. He also said the effort is important to him because he’s seen first-hand what the stocking of ShareLunker offspring can do for bass fisheries.
“We have a lake by us called J.B. Thomas that has been stocked with ShareLunker bass, and they are growing 3-4 pounds a year,” he said. “I’ve seen what the program has done in the past and the things it has done for people.”
Although its obvious that East Texas typically produces the lion’s share of ShareLunkers, this particular bass is a great reminder that the Lone Star State’s passionate anglers don’t need to forget West Texas when considering where to launch their bass rigs this year.
In fact, last year in 2019, O.H. Ivie Reservoir near San Angelo was actually among the state’s top five ShareLunker producing lakes in TPWD’s revamped ShareLunker program that now accepts bass from 8 to 9.9-pounds and 10 to 12.99-pounds for angler recognition as well as 13.00-pound lunkers for spawning purposes.
And Alan Henry Reservoir remains very much in the West Texas mix with a long history of producing ShareLunker entries with a total of 28 being caught since 2000. For the record, those fish have ranged from 13.00-pounds even to Amarillo angler Billy Greeson’s 15.00-pound lake record caught on March 31, 2006.
“We are very excited that Alan Henry Reservoir has produced the first — and so far the biggest — Toyota ShareLunker entry of the year,” said Caleb Huber, TPWD Inland Fisheries District Supervisor for Amarillo, in the news release. “This proves you shouldn’t underestimate West Texas if you want to catch the fish of a lifetime.
“Although our lakes are prone to fluctuating water levels and drought, increased rainfall over the last few years has greatly improved water levels and the production of larger bass, and I’m hopeful of more good things to come.”
With the state’s big bass season off and running, keep in mind that after several years of good water and spawning conditions, there will likely be more ShareLunker class fish caught this month and next.
Almost certainly, some of those fish will come from famed East Texas bass waters like Lake Fork, Sam Rayburn, and Toledo Bend. And West Texas bass waters are obviously in the mix too with Alan Henry and O.H. Ivie topping the list. And don’t sleep on local waters in North Texas like Ray Roberts, Lake Texoma, and even Lake Lavon, the latter where a 10-pounder was caught several days ago.
Without a doubt, today’s celebration of Cupid and his annual February holiday serves notice that the sweetest time of the year is here to cash in some kitchen passes to go fishing. For the next several weeks, it’s time to get out and go fishing with the hope of catching a real Texas giant.
As long as you don’t forget to buy your sweetheart a box of chocolates, some roses, and a Valentine’s Day card today, that is.
If you do forget, then here’s hoping you’ve got a tackle box full of angling luck since you are probably going to need it.