Everything’s bigger in Texas, and whether or not that claim rings true as often as Texans claim it does, you can trust that one specific thing tends to be quite a bit larger when it’s lugged out of Texas’s many ponds and lakes, the largemouth bass.
Anglers from around the country, and even some international anglers, seek out ponds and lakes all over Texas to try to snag some of the absolute hogs the state is known for.
Texas has placed some of the most impressive records for bass, and whatever it is in the water that’s causing such massive catches to get pulled out of there, we’re not complaining.
We are, however, going to go over the top 7 Texas bass fishing records documented along with as many details as we can provide on each one. Who knows, you might be able to follow in some of these anglers’ footsteps and net your own world-record bass in the Longhorn State.
First, we’re going to start off with what is probably the most well-known bass, not just in Texas, but in the country, as well.
Ethel was a massive hog coming in at 17.67 pounds. She was the 1986 world-record breaker when Mark Stevenson pulled her out of Lake Fork, but her tremendous size wasn’t the only thing unique about her.
Mark caught Ethel during Bass Pro’s inaugural ShareLunker tournament. Not only was Ethel big enough to break the state record, but she was also caught in the first iteration of a tournament that would become a big deal for the company. She put Texas on the map of anglers everywhere, and she brought a ton of revenue and patronage to Bass Pro.
In fact, this is because Bass Pro would become her home. She was moved to the Springfield, Missouri Bass Pro to live out her life in the retail location’s aquarium, a trademark feature of every Bass Pro, and she lived there until she died at the age of 19 in 1994.
She didn’t go out quietly, though. After drawing crowds for years, the owner of Bass Pro gave her a memorial service, and in 2004, he even helped fund the development of the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center via a $650,000 funding event that had its proceeds donated in Ethel’s name.
As you can guess, Ethel’s record hasn’t stood the test of time, but she has remained the most well-known catch in all of Texas and far beyond.
It’s also worth noting that Ethel is the only bass on this list that was caught by an angler actually targeting bass with lures. The rest were targeting other species and/or using live bait.
2: The Current Record
Ethel’s record couldn’t last forever, and honestly, it didn’t even last that long. It was broken in 1992 by Barry St. Clair when he pulled in a massive 18.18-pound bass in, you guessed it, the same part of Lake Fork where Mark Stevenson picked up Ethel.
Barry's fish wasn't given a fancy name, and it didn't end up garnering national praise and visitors at a Bass Pro halfway across the country, but it is still a unique catch.
Beyond its massive size, something else makes it stand out, it wasn’t caught by a bass angler.
Barry St. Clair wasn't much for bass fishing, and he was busy targeting crappie on traditional crappie gear with a live shiner weighed down deep into the water. You can imagine how surprised Barry was when, instead of 2-pound slab crappie, he had to fight a monstrous, 18-pound, bass on his crappie gear.
He did it, though. He also hasn’t been beaten within the state of Texas, yet. The record has held strong since 1992, and it might be a while before it gets shattered.
3: A Youth Angler Gets the Catch of a Lifetime
Think about where you were on your fishing journey at nine years old. You were probably happy just reeling in bluegill at the pier and occasionally wrestling in a 1-pound bass from time to time. For Jesse Roberson, that everyday childhood experience turned into something most folks spend their whole lives pursuing.
Jesse pulled in a 15.54-pound bass, the 42nd largest bass in the state, at just nine years old. He was fishing on a private lake near his home when the lunker bit down, and while it's not a state record in terms of sheer size, it is the state's record for the largest bass caught by a youth angler. Considering most adults can't even pull that off, it's one heck of a catch, size record or not.
Besides that, not much is known about the bass. It was simply documented like most Texas bass fishing records, and there isn’t information available on what Jesse was targeting or what he was using. With the lake being private property, it’s also not something our readers can try to emulate.
4: A Bank Fisherman’s Dream Catch
You’ve probably noticed something about record-breaking catches. Whenever someone makes headlines, they were typically far out into the water on a boat in places bank fishermen could only dream of reaching. That might be a bit disheartening if you’re a bank fisherman. Well, this record-setter should give you bank fishermen out there a bit of hope.
In 1991, Troy Coates pulled Texas’s 6th largest bass out of Lake Fork, and he didn’t need a boat to do it. From the bank of Lake Fork, Troy tossed a Texas-rigged Crawworm out, and he popped it back to shore, halfway through his retrieval, a massive, 17.08-pound, bass snapped onto the lure and started a fight.
Troy managed to pull it ashore and get its lip, and while it’s technically the smallest 17-pound bass Lake Fork has produced, it’s the only one that was caught from the bank in that size range. This TX bass fishing record still hasn’t been beaten to this day.
5: A Woman Joins the Record Books
Fishing is a sport that is open to everyone, and there isn’t any sort of line drawn between the sexes, but despite that, it doesn’t seem to have as widespread appeal with women as it does with men. So, women don’t tend to wind up in the record books nearly as much.
Flo O’Brain changed that up a bit in 1999 with an unusual bait. With the amphibious Waterdog on her hook bobbing around and stirring up the water, she hooked a massive 16.63-pound bass. That’s not in the 17-pound range that tops off the Lake Fork charts, but it is just beneath it, and Flo’s fish is still the 12th largest bass caught at Lake Fork. It’s also the largest recorded bass caught by a woman.
6: Largest Nighttime Catch
Catching bass during the day is a bit easier than catching one at night. Besides having to battle your natural inclination to want to go to sleep, you also have to contend with the mosquitos, lack of visibility, and inherent risks of navigating the water at night. Well, doing so on one August night in 1990 netted Jerry New the 4th largest bass ever caught at Lake Fork.
Jerry was fishing late at night when he hooked into a ridiculous 17.64-pound bass and managed to get it into his boat.
Being just shy of the state record, and nearly tied up with the two runners-up, that's a pretty impressive feat to pull off when you can barely see what you're doing.
Night fishing has its pros and cons, but for Jerry New, it paid off big time.
7: Two-Time Winner
This is the second fish to get on our list thanks to the same Sharelunker contest that brought Ethel, our number-1 record breaker, to country-wide popularity. However, this one isn’t for breaking the state’s size record.
The ShareLunker contest started placing transponders into the gut cavity of qualifying catches in each tournament to help identify whether or not the same fish were being caught year after year. A few of the fish have been spotted more than once, but this record goes to a fish that one the contest not just twice, but twice in a row.
In 2010, Keith Burns pulled in a contest-winning bass weighing a massive 16.17 pounds. The fish was the 16th largest bass caught in Texas, and besides winning the contest for Keith, it was surely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
However, that wouldn’t be the last time the fish was seen. ShareLunkers used a transponder on it, and in 2011, the same bass was caught by Sean Swank, winning the contest for a second time. Now, this fish seemed to have gone on a bit of a diet, as it only weighed 16.07 pounds when Sean caught it. Despite thinning out slightly, it was certainly just as fun for Sean as it was for Keith.
State, national, and even world records are broken all the time at random, but this is one record that is so odd and highly unlikely that we don’t think it’ll be broken for a very long time.
This bass probably isn’t around anymore in 2022, but we’re sure Lake Caddo has plenty of other tagged fish swimming in its depths.
Why Does All This Matter?
Unless you came here just for some fishing facts, you might be wondering what any of this even means. How can knowing about these Texas bass fishing records improve your fishing experience? Well, it can help in a couple of ways actually.
Let’s go over them before you start dismissing all of this as a simple compilation of documented state records.
We’ve highlighted the location of each catch on this list. That is, besides the one that was caught on a private lake.
You probably noticed that the biggest catches in the state were all caught in what is basically the same spot: Lake Fork.
Lake Fork is one of the best bass producers in the state of Texas, and even the US as a whole. That's why so many state records have come out of it. Knowing that you can reroute your tripping journey to a place known for producing massive fish, you might just increase your chances of not only catching more bass but also catching higher quality bass in general.
Did you notice something about the current Texas record holder? He wasn’t even bothering to target the bass. He was a crappie fisherman targeting crapping with a live shiner, and a lunker attacked it without warning, netting him a spot in the record books that most experienced bass fishermen will achieve while going after it intentionally.
This doesn't mean that you should drop the bass and target other things from now on, but it does mean that you can stray from the mainstream approach occasionally and see what happens.
Do you use the same lures every trip, fish at the same spots, and generally follow bass fishing patterns, every bass fishing guide and tip list out there to pick up the bass? Maybe, just maybe, you can do better by ignoring all that every once in a while, getting best bass fishing lures, and changing your approach completely.
3: Time of Year
If you didn't notice, all of the catches made on this list were made during the summer, a period that is usually pretty hot and sure to scare off lesser fishermen. Sometimes, if you want to catch the big fish, you need to get out of your comfort zone and put up with a bit of heavy sweating to nab those giant bass when they're more likely to bite. If you're only on the water during the spring and fall, you're cutting yourself short and limiting your potential.
Get Better and Join the Record Books with BassForecast
Understanding how record-breaking anglers made it to the top list of Texas bass fishing records can help you a lot, but it’s not the only information you need. Head over to BassForecast and sign up for the best guides on bass fishing, gear choice, solunar data, fishing maps, and more to up your game and cement your place among the best bass anglers out there.