Lake Fork fishing guide Mark Stevenson displays his 17.67 pound largemouth bass recorded on Thanksgiving eve, Nov. 26, 1986. Thirty-five year later, the previous state document still ranks together the greatest Texas base ever caught on an artificial lure.

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Nov. 26 significant a milestone in Texas base fishing history. It to be on the day — the night of Thanksgiving in 1986 — that Lake Fork fishing guide Mark Stevenson reeled in a state document largemouth enlarge than many anglers have ever before seen.

Students the the sport will certainly agree the 17.67-pounder is the solitary most essential fish captured from Texas freshwaters. “Ethel” additionally is the most famous.

Not only did Stevenson’s fish supplant the 16.9-pound Earl Crawford bass from Lake Pinkston together Texas’ heaviest in ~ the time, however it likewise kicked offtheTexas Parks and also WildlifeDepartment’s Toyota ShareLunker program with a bang.

Acquiring a state record as that is inaugural entry didn’t spell instant success for the program, but it provided organizers the jump-start they required to assist sell the concept to fishingenthusiastsat a time once “catch and release” was just beginning to obtain a toehold in Texas fishing circles.

Obviously, the sales pitch worked. The regimen has because taken in much more than 600 entries weighing increase of 13 pounds. Stevenson’s prize catch additionally helped attract millions of tourists to a lake that eventually ended up being known as the finest in America for heavyweight bass.

The huge bass explosion at Fork led to an economic boom if driving real estate sales through the roof. A 1996 financial survey indicated the lake generated about $26 million annually for regional economies.

Even despite Stevensons’ fat bass is no much longer the state record, that is still the greatest Texas bass ever caught by one angler who was in reality targeting bass v an fabricated lure.

Just so friend know, the present state record,weighing 18.18 pounds, was captured in January 1992 through Barry St. Clair. A cattle rancher in ~ the time, St. Clair reeled in his record record while crappie fishing through some buddies close to the Lake Fork dam. That was using a small hook baited through a live shiner.

I recently captured up through Stevenson come talk about the anniversary the his record catch. Currently 77 and also still guiding full time, he couldn’t help but chuckle when asked if the is surprised the his record-by-artificial is still standing 35 years under the road.

“Yep,” Stevenson said. “I yes, really can’t believe somebody hasn’t caught one yet. Personally, think us would have seen a completely different scenario on recording those really big fish had it no been for the largemouth base virus the hit Lake Fork in 1999. Somebody would have actually done that by now. Us still capture a lot of large fish in ~ Lake Fork, however those genes we had in the lake back then to be pretty special.”

Recollecting a record

Plenty the other huge bass have discovered their means into Stevenson’s boat over the last 31/2 decades. Even so, the still remembers the events of the fateful Thanksgiving eve prefer they occurred yesterday. He to be 42 in ~ the time.

According come Stevenson, a far-ranging cold front had actually pushed v eastern Texas two days earlier, leaving bluebird skies and high pressure in that wake.

“The lake was in an excellent late fall shape,” the recalled. “The water had around 21/2 feet of visibility and the surface ar temp was around 58 degrees.”

Stevenson said he had actually two guide clients in the boat that day — Galand Poe and also Hildi Westbrook, both that Dallas. External temperatures to be in the top 20s at an initial light, so they waited until about 8:30 a.m. Before leaving the watercraft ramp.

“The fish to be biting pretty an excellent that morning,” Stevensonsaid. “They to be holding tight to cover through the high pressure, so i felt prefer the ideal bet was to fish down, slow and easy.”

Stevenson said he to be fishing in Garrett Creek at about noon as soon as he pitched a half-ounce black/brown/pink Stanley Jig and also plum craw right into a submarine bush. The shrub was positioned on a little point that developed where the main creek channel intersected v a smaller an additional channel. The water was about 14 feet deep ~ above the creek bank and 22 feet deep in the channel bed.

“She to be on bottom and also she grabbed it top top the 2nd lift — there to be no concern it was a bite,” Stevenson said. “I was using 20-pound monofilament and luckily everything went just right. She swam out of the bush instead of ago into it and we put her in the boat. As soon as we netted her we knew she had to it is in a brand-new lake record. She was huge.”

The overview said he and also his client fished for a if longer and caught a few more heavy bass before curiosity took over. Poe to be the owner of a lakeside bait shop/convenience store dubbed Vals in ~ the time and also he had set of certified scale on the shelf.

“That’s wherein we take it it,” Stevenson said. “When we found out she was brand-new state record, that’s once things really obtained exciting.”


Just month after Ethel had been in a display screen tank in ~ TPWD’s now-defunct Tyler Fish Hatchery, Stevenson choose to send she to Bass pro Shops headquarters in Springfield, Mo., as part of a lease agreement. There, the monster base lived out the rest of its life finning roughly in a gigantic aquarium for numerous fishing fans to see. Ethel died at the period of 19. She weighed about 20 pounds.

An estimated 20 million visitors concerned see the fat fish native Lake Fork during its eight years at Bass agree Shops headquarters. Ethel was so famous with tourists that Bass pro felt compelled to give her a memorial company when she died there in 1994. Hundreds of civilization attended, including agency founder, Johnny Morris, and dozens of journalists.

Morris’ appreciation because that the large bass expanded well beyond the 1994 memorial service. In 2004, he listed a $650,000 challenge grant to help in the construction of a $2 million classroom/conservation center at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries facility in Athens.

Fittingly, the contribution was committed in Ethel’s name.

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Matt Williams is a freelance writer based in Nacogdoches. He have the right to be got to by e-mail, mattwillwrite4u