The 14.28-pound fish was 20.5 inches in girth and 27.25 inches long. Lake Austin has now produced 18 entries into the ShareLunker program, five of which weighed 14 pounds or more.
Cowan’s catch was also the earliest entry into the ShareLunker program from Lake Austin. The earliest previous entry into the program from the lake came on January 27, 2011. Two entries have come from the lake in January, seven each in February and March, and one in April.
The catch may be a signal that Lake Austin is poised to have a banner year. On Monday, October 1, an angler caught a 12.6-pound bass from Lake Austin that proved to have been entered into the program as ShareLunker 528 by Brett Ketchum in January 2012.
Lake Austin continues its rise to prominence as one of the top largemouth bass lakes in the state. Only Lakes Fork (249 entries into the ShareLunker program), Alan Henry (25), O.H. Ivie (25), Sam Rayburn (23) and Falcon (19) have produced more 13-pound or bigger bass.
Bennett was fishing a bluff with a hand-poured 17-inch worm when the fish bit. Anglers fishing for big bass at night often use large plastic worms on the theory that the big baits move a lot of water and are easier for the fish to detect.
The fish was picked up by Nathan Reynolds of the A.E. Wood State Fish Hatchery in San Marcos and taken there to await the results of DNA testing. If the bass is pure Florida, it will be moved to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens and held for spawning. If not, it will be returned to the lake as soon as possible.
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.
The person who catches the season’s largest entry will be named Angler of the Year. If a Texas angler catches the largest entry of the season, that person also receives a lifetime fishing license.
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 http://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.