Wayne I just went through the same process of finding a dog to run hunt tests with, and if you're really serious about finding a test/trial dog it may take a little while to find the one thats right for you and your family...
I would look for upcoming litters where both dogs have field trial or hunt test experience and have earned titles (HRCH, GRHRCH, FC, AFC, NFC, MHR)... While most emphasis is placed on the Sire of the litter, I think equal concern should be given to the Dam, and if you can find a litter between two proven dogs then those puppies should turn out to be successful.
Not sure about dogs near Houston, but I'm sure some folks on here can point you in the right direction... you might also try emailing Bill Hillmann who is pretty close to Houston in Caldwell TX... he has raised some incredible dogs and has lots of connections, might be able to point you to a good breeder.
You increase your odds for a good dog if you buy from a good pedigree. Look for FC, AFC, NFC, MH in AKC papers; GRHRCH and HRCH in UKC. The dogs with those titles are bred for performance and you'll get the best chance for a great working retriever. If you're looking for a yellow female with a large head, they may have been bred to get that look but likely didn't care about performace (you may end up with a beautiful pup that just won't have what it takes to advance in hunt tests). I'd advise just looking into it and make sure the ones with the look you have are also good working retrievers. Get one from a responsible breeder with OFA certs, EIC and CNM status, and a written warranty and you're less likely to run into problems. Check the classified listing on here and call some guys up about their pups.
I'm not saying that it's how to get a great pup....it just increases your odds. When you pick a pup out of the litter, it's really a toss up so I wouldn't stress about it. Have the breeder help you out. Good luck
You increase your odds by not limiting yourself to the Houston area, not limiting yourself to yellow, not limiting yourself to big head. Although this pretty much describes the criteria I set for my 1st lab.
Understand health clearances before you start looking for a pup. High drive dogs are awesome but may not be suited for a 1st time do-it-yourselfer. Watch the dam and sire run or find a trusted friend who has seen the dogs run.
Do not buy any dog solely based on titles of dam and sire. Put more effort in researching it than that.
Wayne, there has been some GREAT advice given and here is my experience. I just went through this myself and it took much more time than I had anticipated but what a joy it was and really REALLY opened my eyes to just how many GREAT dogs are really out there and the avenues and possibilities are endless. And the more I looked, the more I noticed of what I started out looking for gradually changed. It was definitely an eye opening learning experience for me. I wanted to find local at first or at least within the same state, long story short I am completely on the opposite end of the spectrum now from when I started......LOL.
What helped me narrow the field down was finding a Sire that I really liked and who I thought had it all for what I was wanting and or looking for, then I followed him to who he was being bred to at that point it was easier for me to concentrate on the Dam and what she was able to bring to the table as well. I also talked to a bunch of different folks about said dogs and who have pups out of who. And with the health clearances that are available now a days pay close attention to those as well when making your decision. With whats available you would be crazy to ignore those.
This may not have been the best way, but its the way that I went and I am happy about my present decision.
Good luck on the journey, I found out its a helluva ride and am currently awaiting a new pup.....