Update 2/28/2022: Texas Parks and Wildlife have confirmed that Robert Bandy’s catch is officially the new Eagle Mountain Lake record largemouth bass!
What a week for Texas bass fishing!
Honestly, what a week for fishing in general!
Roughly 24 hours later, Eagle Mountain Lake saw angler Robert Bandy pull in what will be, upon confirmation, the new lake record largemouth by a healthy margin.
“It’s Been a Rough Two Months of Fishing. I Needed This.”
On Saturday, February 26, Robert Bandy was supposed to fish a local tournament on Eagle Mountain Lake with his friend Cody Heaton. The two had rode motorcross together in the past and have since linked up as fishing partners over the past year.
Due to inclement weather, the tournament was moved to Sunday, February 27th, so the duo pre-fished for about nine hours on the originally scheduled day.
“Honestly, we were using today as more of a relaxation fishing day than a tournament day,” Bandy said.
The morning got off to a rough start. First cast was around 6:30, but Bandy and Heaton waited until sunrise to hit the water. Heaton landed a 2 1/2 pounder early, but by noon, it was still the only fish in the boat.
Despite the slow start, Bandy remained optimistic.
“It was tough, typical winter fishing. 46 degrees, but kinda the perfect conditions for a big fish,” he said.
The sluggish morning, in a way, had mirrored his recent fishing trajectory.
“It’s been a rough two months of fishing. I needed this,” Bandy noted.
Having landed a trio of 9.7 pound personal best bass in his career, including two during a recent trip to O.H. Ivie, Bandy’s goal for the year was to land his first 12 pounder.
What came next not only met that goal, but shattered it!
Everything’s Bigger With a Texas Rig
Bandy, who works at Tri Lakes Tackle in Granbury, Texas, admits that he was having a rough morning.
“I broke off one earlier in the day. I was kinda frustrated, just having a tough time,” he recalled. “We ending up going back to the first place on the lake, back where we started. Figured ‘why not,’ and started swinging around in there.”
The decision to return to their previous location and switch up his approach ultimately paid off.
Bandy opted to throw a PB&J Strike King Cut R – a worm he admits to never really using, but decided to throw because he had seen a lot of pros use it with great success – proved to be a game changer.
“We knew there were rocks there and some kind of metal pilings, and just started fishing,” Bandy said.
And then, it happened…
“I flipped the Texas rig up, pulled slack out, started dragging. Came over a little piece of metal. Felt that tungsten tick over the metal. Then just felt pressure. I knew it,” Bandy said. “I told Cody, ‘big fish!’ He reeled in, got the net ready. He even asked if it was a catfish.”
After struggling with his drag, Bandy was able to work the fish close enough to the boat for Heaton to get her in the net.
When asked what his reaction was upon finally getting the fish into the boat, Bandy replied with two words: “complete panic!”
As if catching the largest fish of your life is not enough, the fact that a myriad of anglers were all watching made the moment even more intense.
“It was crazy because guys were getting ready in their boats. There were probably ten people who saw me catch it and they all busted out their phones. It all happened so fast and it was embarrassing,” Bandy recalled.
To make matters worse, the fish was so big that it didn’t fit in the livewell on Heaton’s boat. Fortunately, Bandy’s friends Barry and Bryanna “Fish” were on the lake that day.
“I called my buddy Barry and told him I caught a 15.9. He thought I was joking. I said ‘get here now, our livewell is too small. I’ve gotta call Texas Parks and Wildlife,’ and then I hung up.”
Luckily, Barry and his wife made it over in time so the fish could move to their livewell safely. After waiting about a minute to acclimate the livewell to the water, they made the transfer successfully. Overcome with emotion, Bandy wasn’t sure how to handle the moment.
“I felt like Ricky Bobby. Didn’t know what to do with my hands. Stripped my beanie off and my sweater and just looked at the sky. I didn’t know what to do,” he recalled.
“The Most Professional Thing I Could Ever Hope to Deal With“
After the catch, Bandy, Heaton, Barry and Bryanna continued to fish. While keeping the trophy fish safe was a priority, the spirit of competition was still important.
“We’re all still trying to fish. There’s obviously fish there,” Bandy said. “We honestly kept fishing because there are lots of really good fishermen out there on the water. We fished until the tournament was over, but I couldn’t really fish because my phone was blowing up.”
By the time they came off the water, there were about fifty people waiting with cameras. A video had spread across social media and anticipation to see the massive fish was high.
The official weight was then recorded by a representative from Texas Parks and Wildlife who arrived about two hours after Bandy’s call.
“They were on the money. Most professional thing I could ever hope to deal with,” he said.
With an official weight of 16 pounds even and a length of 25 inches, Bandy’s sharelunker should jump to the number 30 spot on the list on top fifty bass recorded in Texas. It ties the current number 29 –John Stanley’s July 1989 Lake Fork catch – in weight, but Stanley’s was 27.5 inches in length.
Assuming the numbers become official, it will bump Wendell Atkinson’s March 1991 bass – a 15.95 pound Lake Fork lunker – down one spot.
It is also set to eclipse the previous Eagle Mountain Lake largemouth record by nearly three pounds!
Savoring the Moment, Looking to the Future
During the interview, Bandy noted that his phone had been going off non-stop for about nine hours straight. Still savoring the unforgettable moment, he was also not ready to rest on his laurels and accept that this would be the largest fish he would ever catch.
“For me, I’ve had a rough two months of fishing, so this catch really just boosted me,” he said. “It’s what I needed.”
Bandy joked that other anglers had asked him how he could continue fishing after landing such a monumental catch. Rather than dwell on what the future may (or, rather, what it may not) bring, he is looking to the next wave of his fishing journey with confidence.
“Catching this 16 (pound fish) with no Livescope, no A-rig, it made me feel like it’s obtainable to catch a 17 or 18.”
Bandy also expressed his gratitude for fishing partner Cody Heaton, Barry and Bryanna Fish, and the team at Tri Lakes Tackle for helping make this moment a reality.