The master and mistress of Texas trophy bass

Bobbie Gayle is back in the fishing news. Bobbie and her husband, Butch, made a significant splash in February 2000. You might say they put Lake O.H. Ivie on the big-bass map.Located west of Brownwood, Texas, O.H. Ivie has long had a reputation for producing quality bass. But quality bass and monster bass are two different things.A bit of background information is in order.On Feb. 3, 2000, Bobbie Gayle landed a trophy largemouth that weighed 13.05 pounds. It wasn't her first big fish - she set the lake record in 1999 with a 12.79-pounder. But that mark was subsequently topped by a fish weighing 13.72 pounds.On Feb. 9, 2000, however, Butch Gayle got the lake record back in the family with a 14.58-pounder. On Feb. 17, 2000, Barbara Sparks of Carlsbad, N.M., caught a 13.43-pounder while fishing with the Gayles.But the story didn't end there.On Feb. 7, 2002, Bobbie Gayle landed a personal best at Lake O.H. Ivie. The big fish weighed 13.69 pounds and it made Gayle a member of an exclusive club. Only eight other anglers have contributed more than one big bass to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's popular Bud ShareLunker Program. Three of those eight anglers have contributed three lunkers.

 Bobbie Gayle now has two lunkers to her credit. Last year, a slow year for big-bass action throughout the state, Gayle came close on a bass that weighed 12.80 pounds, just shy of the program's 13-pound minimum.

 To illustrate just how many trophy bass the Gayles regularly encounter on this Texas fishery, consider the following. Last year the husband-and-wife team entered a national big-bass competition. Competitors could fish for the entire year at any lake and were allowed to document their five biggest catches. Fishing entirely at O.H. Ivie, Bobbie Gayle won the Texas title. Her five fish composite included a pair of 12.80-pound giants, two 12.40-pounders and the "runt" of the bunch, which weighed only 11.60 pounds.The Gayles photograph every big bass they catch, and Bobbie has caught so many big fish that she has had to inventory her photos to jog her memory. On Feb. 1, 2001, for example, she caught a 12.80, a 10.20 and a 9.60. That was her best day of the year.

 When Gayle counted through the photos, she found 59 pictures of bass 10 pounds or heavier caught since 1999. For every double-digit bass they land, the Gayles catch four or five bass that weigh between 8 and 10 pounds.

 By comparison, Richard McCarty, one of the three anglers who contributed three lunkers to the program, figures he's caught between 55 and 60 double-digits in the past 19 years. That's how long McCarty has been guiding at Lake Fork. His best year produced seven double-digit fish, and his yearly average is three.

 Despite the Gayles' success, Lake Fork ranks way ahead of O.H. Ivie when it comes to producing big bass. Fork has produced 195 lunkers. Ivie has four, all of them caught from the Gayles' boat. Only two other 13-pounders have been reported at Ivie.We're the luckiest people on the lake as far as I'm concerned," said Bobbie. "It doesn't hurt having Butch as my personal guide. What a whirlwind I've been on, and I hope it doesn't stop."Butch and Bobbie Gayle are Yoakum County farmers. They fish whenever they can, concentrating on weekdays when O.H. Ivie is not crowded. The Gayles are so well-known on the lake that their every move is scrutinized. When Bobbie caught her latest lunker, the Gayles could not return to the big-fish spot because of other anglers shadowing them to learn their holes.

 Butch Gayle spends a lot of time studying electronics. This time of year, he concentrates on the drop-offs where deep-water ledges plummet into very deep water. He uses a GPS (global positioning system) to help him return to open-water hot spots smaller than a living room. Miss the spot by 10 feet and you'll never get a bite.

 The Gayles also use live waterdogs (tiger salamanders) for bait. Many serious bass anglers view live bait with disdain, but the 380 Bait Shop in San Angelo now sells waterdogs for as much as $2 apiece.

 "We've never killed a big fish," said Butch Gayle. "The secret is to use a circle hook, which hooks 99 percent of the fish in the corner of the mouth. The hardest thing about fishing with circle hooks is learning not to set the hook when you feel a bite. You just let the fish swim off with the bait and the fish hooks itself. If you set the hook with a circle hook, you'll lose half the fish. Just bring the rod straight up and start reeling when you feel the fish."

 Though he personally holds the lake record, Butch Gayle is convinced there's bigger bass in O.H. Ivie — maybe as big as 16 pounds. He'd like to catch another big fish himself, but he'd like it even better if his wife caught it.

 Given the Gayles' track record, they're not finished making waves in big-bass circles.