Blake Warren – ON THE HOOK

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Thursday, June 22, 2017
By George
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
Going Legend

Return of the littlest big bass pond on earth?
They're baaaa-aaacccckkkk!

Rainbow trout stockings are officially set to return to Castaic Lagoon after the lower lake has gone without since the 2010 season, in what is a major win for area anglers of all sorts.

The fishermen who are most likely to be most enthused by the news are those who hope the return of regular helpings of premium big-bass protein will in due time restore the Lagoon to its world-class status of its glory days in the ’80s and ’90s, when popping double-digit bucketmouths out of the lower pond was a far more frequent occurrence — along with having a realistic crack at sticking a potential top-25 largemouth going 19 pounds or better, and perhaps even a long shot at a world record. 



Castaic currently boasts the most of any in the world in regard to the biggest 25 officially recognized bass in the world, kicking out a half dozen of the behemoth fish on the list. All six of those largemouth were caught in a span of just 26 months' time between 1989 and 1991. Yep, you guessed it. Back when relatively generously sized stockings of rainbows were made at the lake as frequently as a busy office building's regular Sparklett's delivery arrives.

And in regard to the Lagoon in particular, it is local knowledge that many of the fattest Castaic bass caught during that golden era were taken on down to the then-Castaic Mobile Mini Mart to be weighed, and shortly thereafter safely released into the lower pond out of sheer convenience and for the sake of keeping the trophy fish alive and well. There were quite a few hogs transferred to the Lagoon in those days. Top sticks like Mike Arujo, Louie Murrieta, Frank King, Butch Brown and others catching double-digit donkeys like nobody's business, releasing many of those trophy largemouth gently into the Lagoon to freely pursue their next meal.

“Oh, no doubt there are some 15 and 16 pounders swimming around in the Lagoon right now,” said SoCal guide Rusty Brown on Sunday evening when providing WON with some local fishing reports. “I could almost guarantee you there are probably some even bigger ones in there too... 18s, 19s, maybe even a 20. You get a couple years of regular trout stocks at the lake and look out, you're going to be seeing some huge bass again like in the old days. It'll be game on for the big bass guys.”

There's one huge reason that 19 of the world's biggest 25 officially recognized black bass hail from California. Trout. And trout alone. With a climate that allows for the stocking of rainbows for maybe 4 to 7 months annually, that offers the fattest of the Golden State's biggest and laziest bass the opportunity for some massive and relatively easy protein intake each and every calendar year. A big largemouth gobbling up just 2 or 3 stocker rainbows each season can pack on an extra pound or so on top of the bulk it gains from its usual forage consumption, allowing for exponential growth rarely seen anywhere outside of California. Hence 10s becoming 11s or 12s and 15s becoming 16 or 17 pounders within as short as a 12-month span.

As Mark Twain once said, “The difference between the right word and the wrong word is like the difference between 'lightning' and ‘a lightning bug.’” Well, the difference between a 15-pound largemouth and a 19- to 20-pound world-class fish is the difference between three or four years of trout plants or three or four years of no trout plants. Simple as that. They ain't getting any bigger at that stage of the game by chasing 2-inch threadfin around a reservoir or feasting on their most recent fry production. It's basic physics.

No, stocker trout are pretty much the only way world-class bass are made. There really is no substitute for growing near-20-pound largemouth. Think about it for a minute. An obese bass going maybe 16 pounds isn't exactly looking to “chase” its next meal. That bass is jaded — been picking off easy meals for years now. At that point in its life, it requires its next meal to come to him, and more than likely, her. They may as well be scientifically labeled as “lazymouth” bass at that stage of the game, because those truly big 'uns aren't all that into putting in their disciplined, regular cardio to post about on their Instagram feeds.

Trout are the game changer. Sitting tight to a rock or brush pile and waiting for an unsuspecting 11-inch rainbow to fin its way by requires the trophy bass to merely wiggle its Jabba the Hut-esque body out from its cozy confines a few feet, open its mouth and digest whatever just swam right into it. Doesn't get much easier than that. Calories saved. Plenty of weight gained. Physics and biology's rules. Nobody else's. How many crawdads or threadfin must a bass hunt down to equal the rich protein gained from a clueless, farm-raised rainbow? And how many calories are spent doing it at that? This isn't any breaking news here. Just more of a reminder just what regular trout stocks can do for a fishery that is already flush with a good population of double-digit largemouth.

The return of trout to Castaic Lagoon is a major win for big bass hunters. No doubt about it. It's been a while since SoCal trophy hunters woke up in the morning with a super-optimistic outlook at potentially putting their name on the world's top-25 biggest bass board. But with the recent news, pulling one's head off the pillow at 4 a.m. with dreams of tying into a 20 pounder might be a whole lot more likely just a few years around the bend here. You never know. History does tend to usually repeat itself at some point. Let's hope it does for everyone's sake in this particular case.

As if Southern California big bass anglers needed yet another reason to wake up in the morning...

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