On September 1, 2009 the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will officially change the length requirement for largemouth bass on Lake Ray Roberts. Currently the regulation for retaining bass on the lake is under a 14 inch to 24 inch slot. Bass caught within these parameters have to be immediately released. Next week the law will be modified to the state wide 14 inch minimum. Five bass over 14 inches may be kept per licensed angler.
Lake Ray Roberts was opened to the public in January of 1990 and was first managed with the statewide 14 inch minimum. Hoping to increase the number of trophy sized bass, Texas Parks and Wildlife introduced a slot limit in 1998. This management technique had worked successfully on Lake Fork, where in 1992; Barry St. Clair caught the 18.18 pound state record. Lake Fork also produced seven of the top ten bass caught in Texas and 243 share-a-lunker fish (bass weighing over 13 pounds).
However, fishing records and biological studies over the past eleven years have shown that Ray Roberts was not generating similar results. Even though the lake record 14.59 pound bass (March 2000) was caught during the slot regulation, only three other bass weighing 13 pounds or better were recorded during this time.
Though most bass fishermen and women practice catch and release, the new management statute (14 in. Minimum) will allow tournament anglers to weigh-in bass that they previously had to release. Many club and tournament circuits shy away from slot lakes because so many of a lake's population of bass fall within the 14 to 24 inch window. According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife web-site, bass in this slot can weigh anywhere between 1.45 and 8.52 pounds.
Beginning this fall, however, more tournaments will be scheduled bringing with them added boats and fishing pressure to the 29,000 acre Lake Ray Roberts. Some local anglers are excited about the opportunity to fish these cast for cash events while others are disgruntled about the additional traffic. Last weekend most of the boat ramps were packed with fishermen and women trying to locate the perfect spot to cash in on these contests. On a positive note, local businesses should benefit from the extra tournaments as many anglers arrive days before the competition to practice.
Here is a look at some of the tournaments scheduled for this fall: Ray Hubbard Bass Club Sept. 5th; Bass Champs Sept. 12th; PBM Big Bass Bash Sept. 19th; Texoma Bass Club Sept. 19th; Texas Poorman's Bass Club Sept. 26th; Christian Angler's Bass Association Oct. 10-11. In addition to these events there are two weekly night tournaments on the lake: Tuesday nights Pond Creek boat ramp 6 pm-9pm; Wednesday nights Sanger access ramp 6 pm-9:30pm.
Next spring should be interesting if Media Bass, FLW, Bass Champs or any other circuits should host tournaments on Ray Roberts. Some anglers believe the lake can produce five fish limits of 30 pounds or better.
Remember that September 1st is also time to renew your fishing license unless you bought the year-from-purchase license that the state now offers. A Lake Texoma license is still valid as they run from January to through December. Good luck fishing and tight lines.