, Port Arthur, Texas


February 23, 2013

Chester Moore column: Looking back at Big Bass writings

PORT ARTHUR — This writer rarely looks backward.

 However, in conducting some research on bass, I began to check out some of the things we have shared about truly big largemouth bass over the years and thought since bass seem to be on everyone’s minds it would be fun to look at some of the most interesting things we have published on giant largemouth bass.

 This first note comes from 2003 and deals with surveys conducted by state freshwater fisheries officials.

 “We do a lot of electroshock surveys to help determine bass population and the overall health of the fishery, but we generally get very few large specimens that way,” said Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) fisheries biologist in Jasper Todd Driscoll.

 “Most of the bigger fish hang out in deeper water and our electroshock surveys are really only effective at depths of eight feet of less. We shock lots of fish but when you get a really big one you hear about it.”

 That is why TPWD’s Lone Star Sharelunker program is so important to the department’s fisheries research.

 “The program has provided us with big fish we could never get on our own by electroshock, which not only help with our captive breeding program but research about the fish themselves,” said David Campbell, Sharelunker program leader.

 A year later, we quoted legendary bass expert Bill Dance who wrote about extra large largemouth’s love of deep cover and includes it as part of his Complete Bass Fishing Course.

 “In one study two scientists investigated the bass population in a lake in Illinois. The technique the employed was to cover the shoreline in a boat and using electrical shocking equipment, capture the bass on shoreline cover,” Dance said.

 “The fish were then marked for identification and returned to the water unharmed. Over the course of several months, the procedure was repeated a number of times and records kept of where each tagged bass was found. One of the more interesting facts to come from this study was that only 1.2 percent of the bass were on the shoreline at any one time, on the average.”

 “That means that most of the bass population, over 98 percent of it, was out from the shoreline, or in deeper water the majority of the time. Recaptures indicated that 96 percent of the fish that did invade the shallows or shoreline were recaptured within 300 feet of the spot where they were first captured and marked for identification.”

 Then in 2006, we spoke with Lake Fork guide Jeff Kirkwood who said beginning as early as the spawn anglers target trophy bass in too shallow of water.

 “When you start talking with a lot of the guys that catch the Sharelunkers and the really big fish during the spawn you find that most of those fish are caught out in a little deeper water. I mean during that time of year, they will not be out in as deep of water as they will during the summer, but they are usually out past the super shallow spawning beds a lot of the people target,” Kirkwood said.

 A typical fishing report put out by Kirkwood who is extremely detailed about all of his fishing is as follows.

 “The fish appear to be literally everywhere, not really, but the fish are relating to banks, points, main lake shorelines with absolutely no cover whatsoever, to areas with grass and no stumps, and areas with nothing but trees and stumps. One thing remains consistent though, the depth of water. Keep the boat in 17 to 20 feet (casting in) of water or 10 to 14 feet (casting on both sides of the boat) or six to eight feet casting out, towards deeper water.”

 Kirkwood emphasizes the importance of finding the break line, where one type of structure or depth breaks over into another.

 “There is usually a pattern to what the bass are doing. Sometimes it is hard to figure out but when you do is when you catch those elusive big fish,” he said.

 Lakes in West Texas like lunker hotspot Alan Henry require much fishing in deep water. There anglers think nothing of fishing in 20 to 30 feet of water for bass, where the water drops off steeply from the banks. Talking with anglers in that region, you see that catching fish using deep water methods is par for the course. In the eastern part of the state and in the southern corridor, it is simply not as common.

  I have a theory that while Alan Henry is obviously special for producing so many large fish, it probably would not be as well known if the anglers there were not proficient at fishing deep water. Say if you take a lake of the same size and magically put it in the Pineywoods, many of those big fish might never be caught simply because of the differences in style. Out West anglers have to fish deep water because there are not many shallows. On lakes like Rayburn and Fork, there are plenty of shallows and lots of fish there to keep anglers occupied.

 I hope you enjoyed this stroll down memory lane because I certainly did and it is the only one we will be taking this year.

 Oh and the other reason we looked back is we will be unveiling some new research in the next few weeks. It is very exciting and you need to look at some of these notes to get a complete picture.

 Now go out and catch a big one.

 (To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at You can hear him on “Moore Outdoors” Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI or online at


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     Summer is one of the best times to seek catfish in Southeast Texas and thankfully, for local anglers without a boat, there are catfish in just about every canal, drainage ditch and bayou in the area.
      Fishing from the bank has its disadvantages but there is a way around it. This involves making the fish come to you.
      European catfish and carp anglers who typically fish exclusively from the bank use a system called “ground baiting,” which involves putting chum out with the bait. They attach a small cylindrical device above their swivel, which holds chum and dispenses it as the water rushes by. The problem is these rigs are not readily available in our marketplace.
      However, with a little ingenuity, taking a 35-millimeter film canister, punching a hole in the bottom and on the lid and then punching more holes along the side can make a similar device. This acts as a perfect chumming device and is very inexpensive.
      Not everyone has film canisters these days so the softer plastic aspirin bottles will also get the job done.
      Rig this above your swivel and weight, and then fill it with your favorite chum. Now you will not only be chumming the area you fish in but also bringing fish directly to your bait.
      Any kind of chum will work, but a mixture I have had some success with was menhaden oil (available through many mail order offshore supply catalogs) mixed with soured milo. The oil creates a huge chum slick and when it mixes with the milo, the smell is almost unbearable, which means catfish love it. The best part is that a little bit goes a long way.
     Something else to consider is using jack mackerel as bait.
     This oily fish is available in larger supermarkets in a can for less than $1, and I can attest it will bring in fish. While fishing in the Gulf of Mexico and tagging sharks for the Mote Marine Laboratory, my partners and I were able to chum in and catch nearly 40 sharks while using less than two cans of the stuff. It is oily and stinks to high heaven, so catfish should love it.
      For anglers interested in using film canisters to chum their bait, something else to consider is the use of a popping cork. Even if your bait is on the bottom, you can rig a popping cork above it and attach a baited film canister below. This will allow you to do some extra chumming and use the cork to “pop” the chum out whenever you want to release more.
     Another great tip for land bound anglers is to use braided line. In talking with several anglers who pursue brackish blues from the bank, I have learned that loosing striking fish can be a problem.
      I am not sure as to the reason but a definitely solution is using a braided line because they have no stretch. When making long casts with monofilament from the bank you have the potential for lots of line stretch when can make a poor hookset.
     Sixty yards of line might have five or six feet of stretch and that is plenty for a big blue to undo. When using a braid like Fireline, Gorilla Braid or Spiderwire you can forego these problems and greatly enhance your chances of putting some catfish in the frying pan.
     (To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at You can hear him on the radio Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on “Moore Outdoors” on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI or online at and watch him Saturdays on on “God’s Outdoors with Chester Moore”.)

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  • Chester Moore column: Bank hot spots have great value

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  • Chester Moore column: Go deep, fish jigs to catch truly big bass

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