Interview with Texas Trophy Bass Hunter Richard McCarty
Story by Russ Bassdozer with Intro by Larry D. Hodge
Watching Richard McCarty fish for big bass is like being a kindergartner tying your shoes for the second time. You know there’s a right way to do it, and you know you’ve done it, but watching someone else do it with such expertise and ease is humbling.
McCarty fishes for big bass with the intensity of a Texas Hold'em poker champ going all-in with everything he's got on the River card. But there the resemblance ends. The gambler relies on luck. McCarty draws his hole card from a wealth of experience.
McCarty has boated three ShareLunkers, 13-pound or bigger bass, a record he shares with only two other anglers. “You have no idea how badly I want that fourth ShareLunker,” he says.
My guess is he’ll get it. McCarty guides on Lake Fork, which is the epicenter of big bass fishing in Texas- nearly 250 ShareLunkers weighing 13 pounds or more, and the 18.18-pound state record - have come from Lake Fork.
The old saying is, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” McCarty has plenty of both.
--Larry D. Hodge
Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center
Question #1: How long have you been fishing for trophy bass? How did you get started?
Richard: I started in 1981 on a lake in central Texas and once the big bass bug hit me, I moved to Lake Fork and started to guide. I figured I needed to be where lots of big bass lived to consistently catch big bass.
Question #2: Please tell us a brief "fishing bio" about yourself (200 words or less) such as: how many days do you fish, if you are pro tournament angler, if you are in the fishing tackle business, if you are sponsored by companies in the fishing tackle business, if you are a fishing guide, if you have written or been written about in trophy bass articles/books, on fishing TV shows or videos - none of those things are necessary, but just establishes who you are with the unfamiliar reader. Basically, please share 200 words or less "fishing bio" about yourself.
Richard: have been fishing for a living since 1983 as a guide on Lake Fork. I fished the B.A.S.S. circuit for four years, qualifying for the Bassmaster Classic two of those years. In the early years, I fished about 300 days a year and about 225 of those days were with clients.
Question #3: How many trophy bass have you caught (definition/size of a "trophy" is whatever you prefer)? What is the size of your biggest trophy bass?
Richard: I have caught between 75 and 80 fish over ten pounds from five different lakes with the majority of those fish being caught out of Lake Fork. Two of those fish were over fourteen pounds and two were over thirteen pounds. The largest to date weighed 14.20 pounds from Lake Fork.
Above: On 3/17/2000, Richard caught his third ShareLunker (14.20 lbs) on a plastic lizard in five feet of water at Lake Fork. The ShareLunker program is so anglers who land lunkers weighing 13 pounds or more may donate them to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to use as brood stock so their offspring may be stocked in Texas waters.
Question #4: What rod and reel combos do you use most often for trophy bass hunting? What line and pound test do you use most often (mono, fluoro, braid) for trophy bass hunting? We are not asking so much about brands and models, but about general features of the rods, reels, lines you most often use for trophy bass hunting. Also, we are not asking about every rod, reel, line you use - that can be many different outfits. We wish to give the reader (who may be unfamiliar with trophy bass hunting in Texas) a general feel for what you most often would prefer to use in terms of rod, reel, line - understanding it is not the only outfit you use - but the one you would prefer to use, or tend to use most often.
Richard: I use a 6’10” heavy action graphite rod for jigs and large plastic baits in heavy cover, Shimano reels spooled with 25 and 30 pound Berkley Big Game. For moving baits such as crankbaits and spinnerbaits, I use a 7’ fiberglass rod spooled with 20 and 25 pound Big Game on Shimano reels.
Question #5: What are your top three techniques for catching giant bass?
Richard: My first is pitching baits such as jigs and lizards. My second would be fishing spinnerbaits in heavy cover and my third would be fishing large crankbaits in deeper cover.
Question #6: What are your top three lures for attracting trophies?
Richard: The first is lizards and jigs, the second is spinnerbaits and third, large crankbaits (such as Norman DD22s).
Question #7. What is the best time of the year for trophies in Texas?
Richard: February and March are the prime months. Other months can be good for big bass, but the fish are not as heavy as they are in February and March.
Above: Richard's second ShareLunker (14.07 lbs) was landed on 12/07/94 from Lake Fork on a jigging spoon. He caught his first, a 13.56 lbs ShareLunker (not shown) on 2/25/89 from Lake Fork on a jig.
Question #8. What role do electronics play for you when hunting for trophy bass?
Richard: I really do not rely on electronics to locate big bass.
Question #9. Once you are on the water, how do you divide your fishing day trying to locate trophy bass?
Richard: Light conditions are the first clue as to how I’ll fish during the day, but if I had to pick the conditions, I would pick a rainy day with a north wind to really feel that the larger fish were active. The more wind, the faster I will fish using moving baits like crankbaits and spinnerbaits for example. Less wind will cause me to slow down and be more precise in my presentation, such as using lizards and jigs.
Question #10. What is the main trophy bass forage in Texas lakes?
Richard: We have gizzard and threadfin shad, but the larger bass will key on yellow bass (a smaller cousin to a white bass).
Question #11. Do you do any night fishing for trophy bass?
Richard: I rarely fish at night.
Question #12: Do you feel there is a particular time of day or night when it is best to catch trophy bass?
Richard: Low light (early and late day), but generally during any frontal passage.
Question #13: What do you feel that trophy bass do different, that ordinary size bass do not do?
Richard: Larger bass dominate the choicest piece of cover in a given area and due to the awareness developed over time, become increasingly harder to catch. Stealth and presentation are the keys to triggering a strike.
Question #14: What do you do different when hunting trophy bass, that you do not do when fishing for ordinary size bass?
Richard: I basically fish at all times knowing that my approach and presentation will be what generates a strike or spooks the fish. After realizing that big bass will mingle with other size bass, I am prepared for a big fish on EVERY cast, and by my staying prepared and vigilant, my hook-up and catch-to-bite ratio is very good. With the equipment I use, I lose very few big fish.