Building the World Record Bass

THE LA PERLA EXPERIMENT

After only four years of feeding bass prawns, seven bass more than 10 pounds were shocked up, including these two over 10 pounds.James HallAfter only four years of feeding bass prawns, seven bass more than 10 pounds were shocked up, including these two over 10 pounds.
A few miles northwest of the El Tecomate Ranch near Laredo, Texas, sits La Perla Ranch. Schwarz decided to purchase it in 2005 as an investment property. Little did he know that the muddy lake (dug decades earlier for watering cattle) situated within the confines of this deer haven would capture his imagination and grow into one of the biggest private fishing projects the world has ever seen.

“I brought down John Jones, owner of Lochow Ranch Lake Management, to take a look at La Perla Lake. It was an ugly, milk-colored body of water and supershallow throughout, that wasn’t designed for fishing,” Schwarz explains.

Jones and his team of biologists shocked the lake and reported miserable results. The largest bass they found weighed maybe a pound.

So, Schwarz and Jones decided to completely rebuild La Perla for bass management, because he was an avid angler and liked the idea of having a private lake where he and guests could have fun catching bass.

“Gary completely redesigned the footprint. It went from a featureless pond to the most unique private body of water in the country, bar none,” Jones says. And he would know, as his company has managed more than 5,000 private ponds (www.lochowranch.com).

Once filled, La Perla Lake sprawled across 90 acres. But because islands, peninsulas, coves, fingers and canals were designed into it, the lake has more than seven miles of shoreline, which is equal to a lake five times larger than La Perla.

“The shoreline percentage on a small lake is very important,” Jones explains. “This not only gives bass more places to comfortably live and feed, but gives anglers more places to fish. So, the same areas don’t get over-pressured.”

Notice how much shoreline is designed into La Perla Lake, maximizing the usable space for both bass and anglers. Also note the forage ponds above the lake.Notice how much shoreline is designed into La Perla Lake, maximizing the usable space for both bass and anglers. Also note the forage ponds above the lake.
Initially, Jones stocked his standard mix of trophy forage in La Perla, including sunfish, minnows, shad and shiners. Once the forage base was established, pure Florida-strain largemouth were stocked. And the waiting game began.

One spring afternoon in 2007, as Schwarz was walking the hill that overlooks the lake, he looked in the distance and noticed one of his reversible deer fences and an interesting concept hit him.

“I realized standing on that hill that I could create food plots for bass. I could dig forage ponds on top of that hill, grow shad and sunfish until they were big enough to make a difference in bass growth, and then flush them down into La Perla Lake. These would be like reversible deer fences for bass.”

Jones didn’t like the idea. “I have seen people try this in the past. Usually, money is better spent on adding forage and feed to a private lake.”

But, Schwarz did it anyway. He had proved biologists wrong in the past and was confident in the concept. Using the same ratios that succeeded with whitetails, Schwarz constructed three forage ponds that equaled about 5 acres, or just over 5 percent of the size of La Perla.

Although the concept seemed sound, shocking data was less than impressive in 2008. The bass were still 10 percent below target weight for their length. Then a random idea popped into his head that would change the face of bass management on La Perla and put his sights on growing a world record largemouth.

“Freshwater prawns. How cool would it be to fill my bass food plots with creatures that grow fast, are very high in protein content — kind of like my Lablab for deer — and provide an easy target for largemouth?” Schwarz says.

He took the idea to Jones, who did not at all like the concept.

“Honestly, I thought it was a bad idea. And honestly, I was wrong,” Jones admits.

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