ATHENS—Perennial big-bass lakes Falcon and Fork each produced a Toyota ShareLunker over the weekend.
Falcon started the ball rolling March 16 with a 14.39-pounder, the biggest fish entered into the program so far this season. Gary Wingate of Amarillo caught the fish in 12 feet of water using a plastic worm. The fish was 26.5 inches long and 20.75 inches in girth. It was weighed at Robert’s Fish ‘n Tackle in Zapata.
Wingate’s catch boosted him into the front-runner spot for Angler of the Year. The person who catches the season’s largest entry will be named Angler of the Year and will receive a prize package from G. Loomis valued at $818. The package includes a G. Loomis NRX854C jig and worm rod, a Shimano ChronarchD1007 casting reel and 150 yards of moss green Power Pro super-braid fishing line. If a Texas angler catches the largest entry of the season, that person also receives a lifetime fishing license.
Lake Fork chimed in Sunday with a 13.1-pounder caught in a JC Outdoors individual tournament. Michael Justus of Garland was fishing alone when the big bass took his finesse worm on a dropshot rig in six to seven feet of water.
This weekend’s fish are the eighth and ninth entries of the season.
“It was a battle,” Justus said. “I got the net after her five times before I finally netted her. Then I realized how big she was. It was awesome. It’s something I’ll cherish forever, that’s for sure.”
Anyone legally catching a 13-pound or bigger largemouth bass from Texas waters, public or private, between October 1 and April 30 may submit the fish to the Toyota ShareLunker program by calling the ShareLunker hotline at (903) 681-0550 or paging (888) 784-0600 and leaving a phone number including area code. Fish will be picked up by TPWD personnel within 12 hours.
ShareLunker entries are used in a selective breeding program at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC) in Athens. Some of the offspring from these fish are stocked back into the water body from which they were caught. Other ShareLunker offspring are stocked in public waters around the state in an attempt to increase the overall size and growth rate of largemouth bass in Texas.
Anglers entering fish into the Toyota ShareLunker program receive a free replica of their fish, a certificate and ShareLunker clothing and are recognized at a banquet at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens.
For complete information and rules of the ShareLunker program, tips on caring for big bass, a list of official Toyota ShareLunker weigh and holding stations and a recap of last year’s season, see http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/sharelunker. The site also includes a searchable database of all fish entered into the program along with pictures where available.
Information on current catches, including short videos of interviews with anglers when available, is posted on www.facebook.com/sharelunkerprogram.
The Toyota ShareLunker Program is made possible by a grant to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation from Gulf States Toyota. Toyota is a long-time supporter of the Foundation and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, providing major funding for a wide variety of education, fish, parks and wildlife projects.