For nearly four decades, a 22-pound, 4-ounce largemouth bass reeled from Georgia’s Lake Montgomery stood as the highly coveted world record, and as the years passed that 1932 catch became increasingly special.
Bass anglers wondered if the record ever would be broken, and the more passionate among them strived to land a bigger bass to replace George Perry’s name with theirs in the record book. To beat Perry became the holy grail of bass fishing.
Then, in 2009, at Japan’s Lake Biwa, Manabu Kurita shocked the global bass-fishing community by tying Perry’s record. (Kurita’s fish was slightly heavier, but the International Game Fish Association lists the record as a tie, explaining that it requires that any record be beaten by at least 2 ounces.)
This inspired anglers new. Perry’s record can be beat, but is there an even bigger fish out there? Will a 23-pound bass someday become a reality?
Texas rancher Dr. Gary Schwarz assures that it will, and says that it will come from one of his private lakes on La Perla Ranch. He points to a large crustacean—a spindly freshwater prawn—as the food source that will push his bass over the top.
“It’s hard to believe that this crazy-looking creature will be responsible for growing the next world-record largemouth, but I can promise you, it will,” the rancher told James Hall of Bassmaster Magazine.
Hall profiled Schwarz in a piece titled “Building the world record bass.”
The author pointed out that others with private lakes have tried and failed, but added that Schwarz is more determined and already has proved doubters wrong once by raising extraordinarily large whitetail deer on his land.
Schwarz used unorthodox farming techniques and just the right types of forage. He also used reversible fences to protect certain forage from deer “until it offers optimum benefit to the herd.”
Hall writes, “And Schwarz is now laser focused to prove this very concept will also grow the biggest bass the world has ever seen.”
This attempt is occurring on two sprawling lakes being intensely managed as bass fisheries.
The first is La Perla Lake, which biologist John Jones helped transform from a muddy pond into a pristine fishery.
Jones, whose company constructs and manages thousands of lakes and ponds as fisheries, stocked a forage base of minnows, sunfish, shad, and shiners before stocking Florida-strain largemouth bass.
Schwarz uses large ponds to grow shad and sunfish until they’re just the right size to be released into the lake.
But bass growth did not occur as hoped until about four years ago, when he began experimenting with freshwater prawns, which grow quickly and are extremely high in protein.
To Jones, raising and stocking prawns seemed like a ridiculous idea at first. “Honestly, I thought it was a bad idea,” he said. “And honestly, I was wrong.”
In 2009, thanks to the prawns, extraordinary growth became noticeable. In 2010 the first 5-pounder was weighed. In 2012, an 11-pounder was caught and released.
In December 2013, seven bass were caught weighing 10 pounds or more. They were topped by a 13-pound, 15-ounce specimen that was named Pearl. All those bass remain in the lake.
Jones, now a believer, says of the prawns, “First off, you’re dealing with a dumb forage species. When these things are dumped in the lake, they don’t know to flee. So they are easy for bass to eat. Secondly, a bass gets a lot more protein out of one prawn than he does a shad or even bluegill, which enhances grout rates.”
But Schwarz’s project was not without blunders, and by far the largest was his decision to stock a hybrid-strain largemouth along the with the pure Florida strain. The hybrids are slowly deteriorating the pure Florida genetics to the point that a world-record bass probably will not be possible in La Perla, as hybrid bass simply do not grow as large.
To Schwarz, however, the solution was merely to build another lake.
Using earth movers and state-of-the-art aeration technology, he created Jalisco Lake, in which he plans “to fix all the mistakes I made with La Perla.”
Jalisco was designed from start to finish to grow the largest bass possible, and to serve as a bass-fishing haven for visiting anglers.
It’s already stocked with forage fish, and as the lake is being filled to its 60-acre capacity it will be stocked with many of the prime Florida-strain largemouth bass that remain in La Perla.
Schwarz has built enormous ponds alongside the lake in which to raise freshwater prawns, and has developed a feeder system inside the lake to keep its forage fish plump.
All of the habitat within the lake—rock piles, ridges, strategically placed boulders, etc.—are designed to help foster optimum bass growth.
Said Jones, “I do believe the plan for Jalisco offers 10 times the opportunity to grow not just a 23-pound bass, but to get an entire year-class of fish to that size.”
What will purists think if a 23-pound bass is landed at Jalisco?
Some might cringe, but most probably realize that wherever huge bass exist, it’s partly the result of manipulation of some sort.
In many lakes, for example, largemouth bass grow to ridiculous proportions by gorging on rainbow trout that are stocked for trout anglers. And many a world record has been set at privately run lakes.
Said Schwarz, “Deer biologists told me I couldn’t grow giant whitetails, but I did. Fisheries biologists said my bass food plots with prawns wouldn’t work, but they do. Can Jalisco grow the world record? I say absolutely. And I will continue to push the envelope of bass management until these questions are answered.”
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