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 must be immediately released. Next week the law will be modified to the statewide 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 website, 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.