Private lake fun

This past week I got to spend some time over in east Texas on a private lake that I have a vested interest in; it was one of the lakes I grew up fishing. We — I and my friend Robert Mills along with his son, Cameron — fished about two hours on Saturday morning, and we caught about 30 bass. It was really an interesting day because of those 30, about 29 of them were in the first hour. It went from getting bit every cast to we couldn't get a strike! It was kind of weird, but a lot of fun.

Since Little Alton wasn't there, I got to watch Robert and Cameron bond on the water. It was great seeing them catching bass and having a good time with one another. It's been really neat seeing Cameron progress from catching bluegill with red wigglers, to catching crappie, to becoming a very accomplished bass fisherman.

There's no wrong way to spend time with your kids on the water, and I want to challenge all the parents out there to take your kids fishing. If you do already, do it more. It isn't all about catching fish, but that time spent out there. Being out there is about creating those memories that will last for both of your lifetimes.

Anyhow, a few years ago the largemouth bass virus came through and wiped everything out in these lakes. We've started from ground zero rebuilding that fishery. We have some real good management policies down there, and the fishing is rebounding. The fish that Cameron caught is almost 4 pounds, so that's an encouraging sign, considering we restocked the lake less than two years ago. It ate a Bomber BD4 Fat Free Shad.

When we restocked them, we put Tiger bass in there. Tiger bass are a specialty breed that Auburn University breeds. They're first-generation offspring of a pure-bred Florida-strain bass and pure-bred Northern-strain largemouth. When they're little, they feed them pellets. This makes them extremely aggressive. Also, genetically, they come from large parents. All the moms were 12 pounds or bigger.

It's been really fun playing with the fishery to try and grow big fish. We're doing things like putting additional fish feeders on the lake. I think we have 11 feeders on the 140-acre lake. We've also put in an aeration system so when we have long droughts they'll have oxygen. We're pouring the shad to them, as well as bream. We have a bream pound where we can raise bream on-site. There are tilapia in the bream pond right now. However, in that part of northeast Texas, tilapia don't survive the winter. But they're very prolific.

In April, we put 500 in and about 20,000 should come out in September. As the water gets colder, the tilapia slow down and they're easy for the bass to catch and provide a nice caloric treat to gorge on. Our goal is to have some really big fish down there in just a few years, and I think we're on the right path.

I'm having a major case of Falcon anticipation right now. We're still a week away but to me, one of the best parts of planning a trip is the anticipation. Especially to a place like Falcon. I'm taking two of my buddies from church down there with me, and I've given them a shopping list. Remember, I'm renewing my quest for my biggest bass ever. I'm tired of saying that my best is 11 1/2. There are a lot of guys who have caught fish bigger than that, and as a pro, you'd expect me to have a teenager in there somewhere! We'll see about that this year.

My No. 1 bait down there is a Fat Free Shad in Citrus Sparkle and Texas Red, so I'm having them get a bunch of those. You can lose them pretty easily in the tree rows. The other thing we're loading up on is soft plastics. Loading up on plastics for Falcon is different than doing it for any other lake. You have to get a lot more. When you get around fish, and figure out what they're biting, you'll go through 10 packs of a bait per day, per person. I'm having them get Mighty Bugs and Wooly Hawg Tails in green pumpkin and black neon.

The other thing I'm having them get is One Knocker Spooks in Foxy Momma. There is a great early morning topwater bite down there right now because the lake is full. It's probably not a way to get a personal best, but for fish up to 7 pounds, you can get some heart-stopping strikes on the Spook. What I'm doing is trying to match the prey that lives there.

There are three different food sources down there: shad, tilapia and crawfish. The shad are becoming more prevalent, but the crawfish are my favorite. Usually when you're throwing soft plastics, crawfish are what you're trying to match. These are some of the biggest crawfish you've ever seen, too. Some of the locals claim that they're a different species altogether, but I'm not sure. I'd like to find out from someone who knows. They get up to 8 inches long and look like they belong in a Red Lobster tank! They're so big that you catch 'em on your lures. If you're throwing a Wooly Hawg Tail and are getting bites but are missing them, look closely at your bait and you'll see it's missing pieces.

Next cast, gently pull it up and there will be a giant crawfish on. Once you get one of those big dogs in the boat, it can be scary because they're so big. They're a very dark green or black with some red and orange trim around them. That's why I like the colors I mentioned. For the plastics and topwater, we spool up with 65-pound braid, and for the Fat Free Shad, we use 20-pound-test fluorocarbon. We use such heavy line because the cover is so heavy there. 

In other news, Little Alton is starting his college routine. He's at Welcome Week where all the freshmen meet and learn all the school traditions. He is overjoyed about the prospects of now fishing from our new Skeeter FX rather than the Skeeter 20i, which is now sold and gone. When he read my column last week, he was overwhelmed and couldn't believe it. He's super-excited about it. Next week we'll get fully ramped up for Falcon as I go for a 12, though an 11-9 will suffice. Hopefully I can get into the mindset of a big bass fisherman and out of the tournament mindset.

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