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Fishing has my heart, rivers my soul, but the Guadalupe Bass encompasses my being. There is a special connection that I hold with this fish that runs cleaner than the spring fed Texas Hill Country waters they haunt. Something extraordinary lives in catching a fish so gracefully guided in design for one specific environment that it fails to exist naturally anywhere outside of that remote corner of wilds. Of course, we as man often find a way to screw things up, and such is the plight of the Guadalupe Bass.
The Guadalupe Bass is a keystone black bass species native to the Hill Country Region of the Edwards Plateau in Texas, living in the headwaters of the San Antonio River, the Guadalupe River above Gonzalez, the Colorado River North of Austin, and portions of the Brazos River drainage. It has also since been introduced into the Nueces River system. They are perfectly adapted to life in the small streams and rivers that spring up through the limestone ground and meander through the ancient hills. They are typically smaller in size than most other black bass species, suited to life in the faster flowing currents, and use this to their advantage when on the end of a line. It is rare for a Guad to grow to over three pounds and they are typically caught around 12 inches in length. The world record Guadalupe Bass stands at 3.69 pounds (3 lbs, 11 oz.) and measured in at 18.25 inches. Other than the location it lives and its size, the Guadalupe bass is distinguished from other black species by its appearance. There are no vertical bars on the Guadalupe like you would find on a Smallmouth, the jaw does not extend beyond the eye as a Largemouth’s would, and the coloration on the fish is extended much lower on the body that that of a Spotted Bass. And since we Texans tend to be proud of things native to Texas, we have declared the Guadalupe Bass to be our State Fish.
I have been catching Guadalupe Bass for as long as I can remember. I grew up in this region of Texas, and it was in the Hill Country Rivers and streams where I learned to fish. Because of this, the Guad, sometimes called the Texas Trout for the fishes tendency to prefer cooler faster flowing waters and their willingness to be taken on the fly, has always been special to me. However, I, like most anglers I have spoken with, never realized the true uniqueness of this fish until the last ten years ago or so, when I really began to realize the beauty in fishing. I fished big power boat bass tournaments for a few years, doing well, before I was driven away from bass fishing all together for a short time due to the complete lack of sportsmanship and a disregard for the environment that many of my fellow tournament anglers possessed. It was truly disheartening. Quickly though, I was introduced to two different branches of fishing; Kayak fishing and Fly Fishing. Both revitalized my spirit and my faith that man might be able to do things without only themselves in mind! The cultures surrounding these two, and often connected sports, fit into my ideals of protecting the waters that God has provided (or if you do not believe that then what Nature has given us,) and a brotherhood of anglers who often worked with, not against, each other to grow the sport in a responsible way. I was back fishing again, and it felt good.
I got back to my roots and started to fish the rivers and creeks of my childhood again. These waters, though still touched by man, were much more rugged and closer to nature than the lakes of the bass tournaments I fished before. I started hooking into a few more Guads and doing a little research here and there. They quickly became my favorite fish, and I even had one tattooed on my right calf. I began to take trips specifically targeting Guadalupe Bass with both fly and conventional tackle. Every river trip I took, they became more and more important to me, and that is why I am writing this article; to share the story of the Guadalupe bass.
The Guadalupe Bass was first classified in 1870 as a “race of Largemouth Bass,” and was later re-classified as a type of Spotted Bass. In the 1950’s, Dr. Clark Hubbs of the University of Texas found that the Guadalupe Bass was a separate species altogether. Dr. Hubbs discovered this when he observed Guadalupe Bass and Spotted Bass living together in the same waterways without any hybridization. It has since been shown that the Guadalupe Bass is closely related to the Smallmouth Bass after hybridization occurred between the two species in rivers and streams where Smallmouths were introduced. This hybridization also proves to be the greatest threat to the survival of the Guadalupe Bass in their native habitat.
Several factors, along with the hybridization also threaten the species. Those factors include changes in the habitat, pollution and water quality. All three of which are caused by man. Pollution and habitat degradation are mainly caused by the rapid growth in human population in the Hill Country and the agriculture needed to support this growth. The greatest of these three issues has been habit loss, to which dams have had the largest impact. Guadalupe Bass are built for faster flowing water. The construction of dams has impeded the flow of rivers , creating several pools of water in place of the long flowing stretches that traditionally have been the domain of the Guads. There have been some Guads that survived the forced adjustment to living behind dams. The record Guadalupe was caught on Lake Travis, a dammed up segment of the Colorado River just North of Austin, on September 25, 1983, by Allen Christenson.
But, the main reason for the dramatic decline of Guadalupe Bass numbers in recent years remains hybridization with the introduced Smallmouth Bass. The stocking of Smallmouth in the Hill Country began in 1974 by Texas Parks and Wildlife in order to “improve the fishing in Central Texas.” The introduced Smallies began spawning with the native Guadalupes and produced a fertile hybrid that is much more aggressive and pushes the few remaining pure-strain Guadalupe Bass out. I have heard fellow fishermen discuss this issue with a few of them stating that these hybrids are a “Superior Species,” because they tend to grow slightly larger and their aggressive nature makes them much more readily willing to strike a lure. As you can probably tell from reading this article, I do not believe this at all and it hurts my heart to think that any “new species” that man has created in a few years is superior to any that has been created in nature over millennia. In rivers such as the Blanco River, which eventually drains into the Guadalupe River, the native Guadalupe Bass have been completely bred out. There were a few remaining strongholds of the Guadalupe Bass though. In 1973, before the natural habitat of the Guadalupe Bass was understood, a few fish were stocked and a population was established on the Nueces River. And in 1988, Texas Parks and Wildlife created a Guadalupe Bass sanctuary on the Sabinal at Lost Maples State Natural Area.
It appears that times may just beginning to take a turn for the better for the Guadalupe Bass, however. In 1992, Texas Parks and Wildlife began a pilot program hoping to counteract some of the damage they caused to the wild Guadalupe Bass populations. They began the stocking of pure strain Guads into Johnson Creek, a tributary of the Guadalupe River. The goal was to overwhelm and drive out the hybrids with large numbers of Guadalupe Bass. The program was successful, and Texas Parks and Wildlife is now working with local fly-anglers and the Guadalupe River Authority to expand this program.
In 2010, on the heels of the successful pure strain stocking programs, with 1.4 million dollars from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Texas Parks and Wildlife started the Guadalupe Bass Restoration Initiative. The Project plans to stock up to 225,000 pure strain Guadalupe Bass fingerlings a year over a five year period into waters that contain introduced Smallmouths and Hybrids. The stocking and breeding project is just one of twelve different ventures included in the Guadalupe Bass Restoration Initiative. Also included are educational and conservation projects aimed at the rivers and surrounding lands. Currently six of the twelve programs have been implemented.
The Guadalupe Bass Restoration Initiative is focused on improving more than just the Guadalupe Bass, it is “more than a one species program.” The aim of the Initiative is to preserve and protect habitat for all native species, and for the enjoyment of humans. The program is working with several landowners along sections of the Llano River to improve the surrounding habitat and make the river more concussive to our native species. If the program is successful at restoring Texas’ native Black Bass species, there are plans to expand throughout the Southeastern United States with help from the U.S. Native Black Bass Keystone Initiative and Anheuser Busch to restore all native keystone Black Bass Species. This is great news for anyone who enjoys fishing for not only Guadalupe Bass, but also Shoal Bass, Redeye Bass, Florida Bass, Alabama Bass, and Suwannee Bass.
I am also working toward protecting my favorite fish, the Guadalupe Bass. Slowly, as I find a little time here and there, I am starting a non-profit organization that will be called the Guadalupe Bass Foundation. This foundation will be dedicated to protecting, preserving, and restoring habitat for the Guadalupe Bass and other native species, as well as raising awareness for the dangers of introduced species. If you are interested in helping out, or just have any ideas and suggestions on how to get this going, please do not hesitate to contact me. I am looking forward to hearing from you.

If you would like to learn more about the Guadalupe Bass or any of the programs mentioned in this article, here are a few links to further readings:
1) A Business Plan for the Conservation of Native Black Bass Species in the Southeastern United States: A Ten Year Plan,, Feb 2010.
2) Guadalupe Bass,, Texas Parks and Wildlife
3) Guadalupe Bass: Working together to save our Texas State Fish and restore a viable population to the pristine Guadalupe River in Kerr County,
4) John Davis, “Texas Tech Llano Field Station Works With the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to Preserve State Fish,”
5) Texas Landowner Incentive Program: The Guadalupe Bass restoration Initiative – LIP Funding Series,