With Toyota ShareLunkers popping up on Lake O'the Pines and Toledo Bend this year, I said this was starting to look like one of those years when just about any lake could produce a 13-pound bass.
It has. The latest being Lake Palestine.
Yes, that Lake Palestine. The one that just a decade or so ago was being referred to by local fishermen as the Dead Sea.
The 13.14-pound fish, Lake Palestine's first ShareLunker, came Saturday during a Media Bass Tournament. Flint's Sonny Booth caught the fish fishing with partner Billy Ferguson on a morning the two could do no wrong. They ended the tournament with five bass totaling 40.08, winning by a resounding 15.56 pounds.
“We had a great day. Actually, it was a great morning. It was pretty much over by 10,” Booth said.
Fishing on a miserably cold morning with the water temperature hovering in the upper 40s and facing a howling 20 mile per hour north wind, the two knew the place they wanted to fish.
“It is just a spot we know when it is cold they will hang in there. We just went fishing,” Booth said.
On this day the spot in Kickapoo Creek on the lake's northern end turned out to be at 200 yards long barely larger than a postage stamp, and they never expected the machine gun-like fishing action
“We had one 9 and the rest were about 6. I caught quite a few, but Billy had the other big fish,” Booth said. The fish came in 4- to 8-feet of water.
Fishing a green pumpkin-colored Brush Hawg bait, Booth said he caught his fish at about 7:30. It was the fourth bass of the morning, and by then the team already had 25 or 26 pounds of fish in their livewells. While ultimately pleased with its size, the actual fight with the big bass was a little anticlimactic.
“I was throwing into the wind and I felt a little tick like a big fish will do. She didn't move or anything. I just sat there and kind of did a double take, and then she finally started moving off. She only moved six or seven yards, and when she really started to move she came right to the boat. It probably last 30 seconds,” Booth recalled.
The only pressure on the fisherman might have come when Ferguson saw it about five yards out and said how big it was. Booth never actually saw the bass until it was in the net.
“That warmed everything up pretty quickly,” said Booth of the catch's affect on the late-winter morning fishing.
While most fishermen would probably call it a morning at this point, the two remembered a similar tournament a year or two ago on the lake in which a team brought 30 pounds to the ramp and finished second. So they continued to fish. They probably had enough weight in cull fish to finish well up in the money Saturday.
“We just kept chugging away until I said we can't get any more fish in these livewells. At the end we were culling 5-pound bass,” Booth said.
The biggest challenge of the morning may have actually been making the ride in rough waters from the creek to the tournament headquarters at The Villages.
Having grown up fishing Palestine since the mid-70s, Booth has seen the highs and lows of the lake. When he first started fishing the lake it was new and considered the best bass fishery in Texas. Under the state's old 10-bass, 10-inch regulation and the fact the Florida bass program was still years away, it didn't take long for the quality to decline.
For many years a lack of vegetation was considered the biggest culprit for the lack of consistent fishing.
With the improved fishing the last couple of years, Booth said catching a bass that big was not a complete surprise. He said his brother had caught several double-digit bass in the north end.
“We have been catching some good quality fish,” the fisherman noted.
The reason for the upsurge could start with one of two things, the stocking of a total of more than a million Florida bass in 2004 and 2005 or a super natural production year in 2007. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department stocked the lake again in 2008, 2009 and 2012, but those are too young to be double-digit size yet.
While Palestine has been getting hot in the spring, the bass fishing had been dropping off during the summer months. Booth said that wasn't so much the case last summer when fishing on the north end continued to be good past May.
If Booth's fish is a pure Florida bass it will remain at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center where the staff will attempt to spawn the fish. Otherwise it will be returned to Lake Palestine in the next few days.
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