Gary Klein landed this Texas giant - his personal best - on a Berkley Powerbait MaxScent D-Worm. Photo courtesy Gary Klein

In case anyone wondered just how strong the big-fish genetics of the Lone Star State are, MLF pro Gary Klein answered that question on Thursday.

Klein, a 40-plus-year pro and member of the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, caught his lifetime personal-best largemouth during a day of research fishing with fellow MLF pros Kelly Jordan, Alton Jones, Alton Jones, Jr., and biologists from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Division.

Drop-shotting a green pumpkin Berkley Powerbait MaxScent D-Worm in 35 feet of water on a private East Texas lake that TWPD uses in its ShareLunker program, Klein connected with a 13.79-pound giant.

Klein is no stranger to trophy-sized largemouth (he estimates that he’s caught 30 fish over 10 pounds in his life), so he knew immediately that the fish was of a different class than the 3- and 4-pounders that he and the group had been catching for two days.

“Let’s just say that she didn’t come right to the boat,” Klein joked.

Klein eventually landed the big female on a Duckett Fishing White Ice II 7-foot-1 Medium spinning rod and a Duckett reel spooled with 10-pound Berkley x9 braid and a 6-pound Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon leader. He rigged the D-worm wacky style on a Berkley Fusion No. 1 drop-shot hook.

MLF angler Gary Klein landed his personal-best largemouth on a Berkley Powerbait MaxScent D-Worm. Photo courtesy Texas Parks & Wildlife Division

“We had fished all day the day before – caught lots and lots of fish, but nothing over 6 pounds,” Klein said. “(Thursday) nobody wanted to fish because it was 27 degrees and sleeting and the north wind was blowing hard, but I idled back out to the school of fish I’d been fishing on the day before. The water was 6 degrees colder, and I noticed that a lot of fish that were suspended in 25 feet had slid out to 30 feet. I tried to fish on the outside of those fish, because really big fish aren’t schoolers. I hooked that fish maybe 50 yards from where the big school was.”

Because it was over 13 pounds, Klein turned his big fish over to the TPWD’s Share Lunker Program for spawning. That fish’s genetics will now be incorporated into TPWD’s bass hatchery program, which provides big-fish DNA to lakes throughout the state

“The whole reason we were fishing was to try to catch fish with big genetics, so we could move them to the hatchery program,” Klein said. “This is a really cool program. Texas is known around the country as being the most engaged in the management of bass. It’s always been a big deal to Texas. The fact that they can take the genetics of fish like this one I caught and stock public lakes with those genetics is pretty awesome.”

More big fish coming at Conroe

Klein’s tussle with his PB puts the two-time B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year in a big-fish mood for next week’s MLF Bass Pro Tour Stage Two event on Lake Conroe (Feb. 12-17). A former resident of Conroe, Klein is well aware of the fishery’s reputation as a big-fish producer, and he admits that he expects the 80-man field to connect with a 10-pounder or two.

“We couldn’t pick a better time of year to be on Conroe than February,” Klein said. “If we get a little warming trend, I wouldn’t be surprised if my big fish isn’t the only 12- to 13-pounder we see. Conroe isn’t a lake known for number – it’s a big-fish fishery. I can tell you right now that I, for one, can’t wait to get out there.”