“I caught a 7, 7’6, 8, 9, 9’3, 10, and an 11 pounder in three days of fishing La Perla,” said Florida resident Vance McCullers after a recent trip. “The place is just amazing.”
Deep in the south Texas brush country, tucked within thousands of acres of prickly pears and mesquite flats, is a lake filled with some of the Lonestar’s biggest bass. Thirty minutes south of Laredo, the 5000 acre La Perla Ranch is home to a myriad of wildlife that includes huge whitetail bucks and hulking largemouth bass. With a relatively young bass population already reaching weights upwards of fifteen pounds, La Perla has quickly become a world class angling destination.
“I love it when a guest comes up to me at dinner and tells me this place is like Disneyland,” laughed owner Dr. Gary Schwarz. “Seeing people so happy after they’ve caught their fish of a lifetime is what I get the most enjoyment out of.”
While this land of lunkers is about as far from the Magic Kingdom as one could get, for big bass fanatics it’s as close to a fairytale as Walt could have ever imagined. Created solely for the purpose of growing giant bass, the 100 acre lake contains brush piles, ledges, beneficial vegetation, and over seven miles of shoreline to optimize the angling experience.
While La Perla was not directly modeled after Lake Dixon in California, which has produced several twenty pounders including Dottie, the 25 pound sowbelly which would have eclipsed both George Perry and Manabu Kurita’s world records of 22 pounds 4 ounces had it not been foul hooked, the two lakes share several key characteristics in growing huge bass. Both are manmade and benefit from supplemental forage. Dixon receives regular stockings of high protein hatchery raised rainbow trout courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Game, while La Perla bass feast on a regular diet of giant freshwater prawns grown on site in a series of ponds. While Dixon has already produced dozens of 15 pound fish and several twenty pounders, it was created in the early seventies giving it a 40 year head start over La Perla, which at a little more than ten years old, is already producing 15 pounders.
A Shot at a Record
Several fisheries biologists have stated they believe the Texas state record largemouth may already be swimming somewhere in La Perla.
“The shocking surveys where we capture 13, 14, and 15 pound bass only reflect a fraction of the actual fish population we have in the lake as it doesn’t penetrate deep water,” explained Schwarz. But he is quick to remind that the record cannot be broken unless the fish is caught by conventional means. “To break the record, the fish has to be caught with a rod and reel,” he said.
He’s hopeful that a guest will soon have the honors of hooking the next record from his lake. So much so, La Perla is offering all-inclusive 3 day fishing packages.
“If you’re trying to catch a giant bass at La Perla, focus on the brush piles and docks,” said McCullers.
Located around the perimeter of the lake are docks with timed feeders, which provide pelleted nutrition to the lake’s forage base at certain intervals of the day. Large concentrations of shad, bream, and bluegill, converge at each station while attracting huge bass that in turn feed on them.
“I caught the eleven pounder from under one of the docks, then later hooked a giant I couldn’t even turn while jigging a brush pile,” said McCullers.
Sunken in specific areas are organic brush piles that hold large fish as indicative during the lakes shocking surveys which always seem to yield at least one thirteen or fourteen pounder. And don’t worry about coordinates, Schwarz is happy to tell you the exact location of each pile to ensure you have a shot at a monster fish.
“I want our guests to catch as many, and as big a fish as they can while they’re here,” said Schwarz.
Although his catch rate is lower than that of many guests enjoying the bounty of la Perla, who hook on average upwards of fifty fish in a single day with weights ranging anywhere from 3 to 8 pounds, McCullers employs a hefty dose of patience and the use of mega sized baits to weed out smaller fish.
“In my experience, the largest bass expend the least amount of energy to capture a meal,” he explained. “Generally they eat something big that will sustain them over a long period of time. So larger baits give them that one big offering while also serving as a deterrent to the smaller fish which can eat your lure before it ever reaches the big ones.”
For targeting La Perla sized bass, McCullers uses a 17 inch California Custom plastic worm in watermelon / brown, rigged on an out of this world Owner 11/0 oversized worm hook. His other choice for matching the la Perla hatch is a black/blue D&M Custom ½ ounce swim jig rigged with 5.5" D&M Flippin Craw trailer which mimics the lake’s giant freshwater prawns.
“I could catch three times the amount of fish at La Perla by using smaller swimbaits and jigs, but for a special lake like this where a giant sixteen pounder may be giving your bait a look, you have to go big.”
Book Your Next Trip
Three day fishing packages are limited to only 6 anglers per week, and fishing days are strictly limited to only a few times per month, which Schwarz even applies to his own family to reduce fishing pressure. The ranch also offers world class whitetail deer hunting, waterfowl and wing shooting, and several other outdoor activities that may be combined with the angling experience.
Written by Dustin Catrett
Dustin spent his childhood exploring the bass-rich orange grove ponds that once blanketed the central Florida landscape before heading east to hone his skills on redfish and sea trout in the famous Mosquito Lagoon. After high School he attended Columbia Southern University and graduated with a B.S. degree in environmental science and now works as a Senior Environmental Engineer in the electric utility industry. His works have been published in numerous well known outdoor publications throughout Florida, Georgia, Texas, the United Kingdom and Australia.