the prairies and ranch lands of south and west Texas, one can see a thunderstorm approach- ing from miles away, with spectacular flashes of lightning and sweeping curtains of rain. Another type of storm has been quietly brewing in these parts for the past decade - a storm not signi- fied by lightning and rain, rather a seemingly sudden outburst of big bass across multiple reservoirs in this arid region of the Lone Star state. Just as various ingredients within nature must come together for a violent thunderstorm to erupt; so, too do the right conditions need to come together to make the perfect storm for producing trophy bass.
Case study: O.H. Ivie
Perhaps no lake better exemplifies the melding of the key elements of the formation of a bass storm than Lake O.H. Ivie near the little west Texas town of Ballinger. Small by Texas reservoirs, the lake has produced more 13-plus pound bass in the past two years than any other reservoir in the state during that same period, which says a lot considering the competition from the state’s renowned big bass waters such as Lakes Fork and Sam Rayburn. To illustrate what this west Texas reservoir has produced, con- sider the following statistics from the 2009-10 Toyota ShareLunk- er season, a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) initia- tive to improve bass genetics in the state and a measuring stick of quality big bass waters. 11 bass weighing 13 pounds or more were entered into the program from O.H. Ivie, including a new lake record of 16.08 pounds. Additionally, Ivie produced 6 entries of at least 13 pounds for the 2010-11 season. Anglers from around the state have flocked to the small impoundment seeking to fulfill their own bass of a lifetime, but also wondering: “Why here, why now?” You see, prior to 2009, Ivie was just not a major contributor
to the state’s ShareLunker program, with five total entries of 13- plus pound bass since the lake was impounded in 1990. Just like a prairie thunderstorm, the conditions were right for Ivie to erupt. “I don’t think we can point to any one factor in particular that resulted in so many ShareLunkers being produced last season,” say TPWD Inland Fisheries biologist Mukhtar Farooqi. “It was prob- ably due to a lot of factors coming together at the right time. Some of these factors we can control, and others we can’t. Our job is to make sure we have the building blocks in place to take advantage of conditions that can lead to trophy fish production. In this part of the state, one of the most important environmental variables is fluctuating water levels, which can have a great ef- fect on the availability of fish habitat and forage.” Indeed, as a water supply reservoir for area communities, Ivie seldom receives replenishing rainfall to keep the lake anywhere near full pool, yet occasional spikes in water levels can be noted with a quick study of water tables over the lake’s relatively short history. Interestingly, the big bass storm now being witnessed on Ivie may correlate to a brief rise in water levels 8-10 years ago, as Farooqi indicates the current crop of 13# bass are all 8-10 years old. The flooded brush now standing dry along the rim of the reservoir would have provided a safe haven for bass fry, as well as an influx of nutrients for the forage base seeking refuge in the same habitat. Additionally, TPWD also contributed to the elements of Ivie’s success in two ways: providing good genetics and a change in length limits specific to O.H. Ivie, leading to the final element of the lake’s success: time. The lake was stocked with Florida-strain bass soon after impoundment in 1990, with periodic additions in subsequent years. The Florida strain fish have faster growth rates than the bass native to Texas waters, allowing the bass to reach the 13 pound mark in that 8-10 year window outlined by Farooqi. With a hungry population of bass, the forage supply had become a concern for Ivie prior to 2001, when bass less than 18-inches were not allowed to be harvested. Farooqi explains the