Long, spindly arms protrude from behind the head of the freshwater prawn, looking like hinged blue coffee stirrers tipped with tiny pincers. Dr. Gary Schwarz walked through knee-deep mud to grab a big male that was drying in the south Texas sun to give me an up-close view of the little beast. “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,” Schwarz says.
Growing a largemouth to top Manabu Kurita’s 22-pound, 5-ounce behemoth from Japan’s Lake Biwa has been tried before. Bass expert Glen Lau tried in the ’80s. He even set up a corporation named World Record Bass Inc. Lau managed to grow a largemouth to 18 pounds in Central Florida before poachers raided his waters and killed the fish — which was also the death of his effort to top the record. Other private pond owners have tried, but all failed due to money problems, loss of interest or simple lack of results.
So, why should the bass fishing world take the promises of Schwarz seriously? His history and successes with growing whitetail deer when everyone said it was impossible are one reason. Marry that with his ingenuity, passion and commitment to the project, and you are left with a feeling that it is simply a matter of time before a 23-pound bass is lifted from one of the intensely managed lakes of Schwarz’s La Perla Ranch.
If you are a deer hunter, you likely have heard of Schwarz. In 1983, he pioneered the concept that food plots could improve the antler growth and body size of deer, which led to the development of a food plot seed mix called Lablab and eventually the creation of his Tecomate Seed Company.
“I was told that growing crops for deer would never improve the health of a herd. But, giant deer were coming out of the Midwest where woodlands coexisted with farming areas. I studied the areas where giant bucks were being harvested and noticed an ownership pattern of small farms broken up by woods. These farms were growing legume crops that were high in protein. I just felt that if you could recreate this situation, you could grow big deer anywhere.”
So, Schwarz built reversible deer fences to protect his food plots from deer until the plants were self-sustaining, and then he planted at least 5 percent of his ranch in food plots, which he determined is the minimum threshold for benefiting the deer. Once all this was in place at his El Tecomate Ranch, the biggest buck harvested went from 142 inches to 160 inches in one year. An almost 20-inch antler increase in a single year was unheard of in 1990. By 2000, Schwarz and the El Tecomate Ranch had grown world-record-class deer topping 200 inches.
Today, creating food plots to improve deer herds is common practice. And Schwarz is now laser focused to prove that this very concept will also grow the biggest bass the world has ever seen.