Keith Burns of Linden boated this 16-pound largemouth bass on March 20 at Texas' Caddo Lake. The fish set a record for Caddo and put Burns in the top spot for Angler of the Year honors, which the Texas Wildlife and Parks Department awards annually to the state resident who catches the biggest bass between October and April.
A cypress swamp that straddles the Texas-Louisiana border in the Piney Woods of Harrison and Marion counties in northeast Texas, Caddo is the largest naturally formed freshwater lake in the Lone Star State.
The 25,000-acre lake’s jagged shoreline offers plenty of coves and shallow wetland areas that shelter big pre-spawn bass.
Among Caddo’s more picturesque features are vast stands of cypress trees draped in Spanish moss. One of these stands on the lake’s south side is where Burns hooked his catch, dead-sticking a Senko jerk-bait in five feet of water at the base of a cypress trunk at 11:30 a.m. (Photo by Chase Fountain, TPWD)
“We were about to leave the area, but I decided to cast to three or four trees we hadn’t tried yet,” Burns recalls. When he hooked the fish, he knew he was in to something special. “I told the guy I was fishing with, ‘Tony, reel in and get out of the way, because this is a good fish.'”
“As he was reeling in, his hook came across my line, ran up the line and hooked inside my rod tip. His rod is flopping on the end of mine, and the wind is pushing me into a tree. I’ve got limbs in my face; I’m holding my rod with one hand and holding the limbs with the other trying to pull the boat back.”
“I asked him to get on the trolling motor and get me out from under this tree, but he’s not an experienced fisherman and he doesn’t know how to run the motor. He stomps on it and all of a sudden I’m holding against the wind and the motor,” Burns says. “I finally got him to grab hold of some limbs and pull the boat back, and he gave me enough room to fight the fish. His rod was still dangling from mine, so I just reached up and grabbed his line and bit it in two.”
Burns wasn’t out of the woods yet. The fish wrapped his line around the outboard, but managed to work free without breaking off. “I told Tony this is the biggest fish I have ever had stuck, so if she comes up make sure you get that net on her. Don’t let her go back down. When she surfaced she turned and went right into the net, and he grabbed her.”
The bass weighed 16.17 pounds on a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department scale, topping the old Caddo Lake record of 16.01 set in 1992. It’s the 16th largest bass ever caught in Texas. The largest was an 18.18-pounder caught in 1992.
Burns’ bass measured 26.5 inches long and 23.125 inches in girth.
Most satisfying of all, Burns caught the trophy in a section of lake that was a favorite of his cousin, Scott Burns, a Texas State Trooper killed two years ago while making a traffic stop in Marion County. “To set the record on this lake where my family has so much history, I just couldn’t ask for anything better,” Burns says. “It just means the world to me.” (Photo by Chase Fountain, TPWD)
The timing was special, too. The second annual Trooper Scott Burns Memorial Fishing Tournament, which Keith Burns hosts to honor his cousin and raise money for the Marion County Dive Team, kicks off this weekend at Caddo.
Also on March 20, James Hollis of Longview set a new lake record 30 miles away at Lake O’ the Pines with this 13.2-pound bass while fishing in a tournament. Hollis’ fish blew away the old record of 12.74 pounds and helped him win the tournament.
Hollis caught his fish on a lizard in five feet of water at the nearly 17,000-acre reservoir on Big Cypress Bayou. The bass measured 25.5 inches long and 20.5 in girth.
The bass caught by Burns and Hollis are the 487th and 488th entered in the Toyota ShareLunkers program, which recognizes Texas bass 13 pounds and better. TPWD started the program in 1986 to promote catch-and-release of large bass and to selectively breed trophy largemouths. Fish entered in the program are turned over to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center, where they can be used to improve the genetics of the state’s bass population. The 500th ShareLunker fish will earn the angler $500 per pound, a minimum of $6,500.