On the night of July Fourth, Ken Chambers took his family out on Stillhouse Hollow Lake by boat to watch the fireworks from the water.
With Chambers was his wife Lisa, his daughter Brenna, his son Alex and Alex’s girlfriend, Tiffany Cavin.
Chambers launched out of Stillhouse Park near Stillhouse Marina around 8 p.m., and he and his son did some fishing along the shore near the dam as the family waited for night to fall and the fireworks displays to begin.
Chambers and his son located a band of hydrilla growing in 10-15 feet of water adjacent to much deeper water and which extended for quite some distance running parallel to the shoreline. The pair worked back and forth along it for about two hours picking up nine smallish largemouth bass.
After returning to fishing after taking a break to watch some fireworks, Alex made a cast into about 10 feet of water as the boat sat in over 30 feet of water. His first cast went unnoticed, but, on his second cast he detected a very light tap and suspected a sunfish had grabbed the tail of his soft plastic bait.
Alex was working a modified dropshot rig with a spinning outfit consisting of an Abu Garcia Vengeance spinning rod and a Mitchell 300 spinning reel.
The reel was loaded with Seaguar AbrazX 12-pound test fluorocarbon line. The same line was used to make the short dropper line between the hook and the lead bell sinker which weighted the rig.
An Owner 4/0 hook and Texas rigged 7-inch black Zoom Trick Worm completed the rig.
After sensing the soft tap, Alex set the hook and instantly knew what he had hooked into was not a sunfish. The hooked fish leapt from the water and, despite the darkness, Alex suspected the fish was a smallmouth bass, and a large one at that.
After the jump, the fish headed for deeper water and dove directly under the boat. After working the fish to boatside, Alex’s father lipped the fish and brought it aboard. Alex’s suspicions were confirmed — the fish was an outsized smallmouth.
The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department sets threshold lengths on a by-species basis for most freshwater and saltwater gamefish species. Fish exceeding these lengths are considered trophy class fish for this part of the country. The threshold length for smallmouth bass is 18 inches.
The Chambers family contacted me at my business in my capacity as a TPWD Official Weigh Station around 10:10 p.m. to inquire as to whether the fish would qualify as a record, and to ask for guidance on taking the steps necessary to qualify the fish as a record.
I quickly accessed the current Stillhouse Hollow lake-record fish list online and verified that the fish’s length exceeded that of the current record — a 19½-inch, 3.25-pound fish captured by Mathew Perry last Aug. 8. That fish was entered as a “by-weight” record, typically for fish that are kept, and as a Junior Angler record, as Perry was under the age of 17 when the fish was landed.
Alex’s father photographed the fish as Alex placed it on a measuring board with its mouth shut and tail lobes pinched together. Tiffany Cavin served as a witness to the measurement. Photographs were also taken of Alex holding the fish.
Alex entered his fish in the Junior Angler catch and release category which goes “by-length.”
The official, witnessed measurement of the fish, for which photographs were provided to TPWD, was 22¼ inches, thus qualifying this fish as the lake record. The fish was released in healthy condition less than an hour after capture, and after being held in an aerated livewell, within yards of where it was caught.
At age 16, Alex is no rookie angler. Last year, from June 27 to July 1, Lake Pickwick, Alabama, was home to the High School Fishing World Finals hosted by the Student Angler Federation. More than 300 two-angler teams from 33 states and Canada participated in that event based out of Florence, Alabama. Alex and his fishing partner, Preston Pittman, were one of those teams.
He and Pittman also fish the Central Texas High School Tournament Trail together, representing Team Tightlines, sponsored by Tightlines Premium Fishing Tackle in Killeen.
Alex, who is heading into his senior year at Memorial Christian Academy in Killeen, plans on pursuing fishing scholarships and fishing for the Stephen F. Austin University fishing team. Chambers desires to fish the Elite or FLW professional circuit after college.