ATHENS—April 30 marked the end of the 26th season of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s ShareLunker program.
Thirteen largemouth bass weighing 13 pounds or more were entered into the program during the season, bringing to 536 the number of big bass entered since the program’s inception in 1986.
The season also saw the end of an era with the retirement of David Campbell, who had guided the program since its beginning and personally picked up most of the fish. Campbell was “Mr. ShareLunker” to hundreds of anglers.
Campbell handed over responsibility for the program to TPWD fisheries biologist Juan Martinez at the end of March.
The largest fish entered into the program this season was a 14.39-pounder caught from Falcon International Reservoir by Gary Wingate of Amarillo. Falcon was named the number one bass fishing lake in the nation by the editors of Bassmaster magazine.
Wingate’s catch earned him Angler of the Year honors. In addition to the replica of his catch and ShareLunker clothing received by all anglers in the program, Wingate also will receive a lifetime fishing license and 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.
The six lakes producing entries this season will also be winners. Each will receive a share of the offspring produced by the fish that spawned. To date Wingate’s fish and a fish caught by Stan Lawing from Ray Roberts have produced more than 132,000 fry. These fish will be divided among Lakes Fork, Falcon, Austin, Toledo Bend, Ray Roberts, and O.H. Ivie.
One fish, Toyota ShareLunker 528, was a repeat entry. Originally caught by Carl Adkins from Lake Austin in 2010, it was recaught by Landon Glass on February 14. ShareLunkers have an electronic tag injected so that they can be identified.
Lake Austin was the top-producing reservoir this season with five entries. Lakes Fork, Falcon and O.H. Ivie each had two. Ray Roberts and Toledo Bend each had one.
It is known that some bass grow larger than others, but why remains unknown. TPWD is planning to conduct research to try to identify the gene or genes that may influence size in Florida largemouth bass. This research has never been done before. If this effort is successful, TPWD will be able to use that information to guide its breeding and stocking of largemouth bass in the future.
“If we can identify the genetic markers that result in maximum growth, we can select broodfish that have those markers,” said Allen Forshage, director of the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center. “The goal of the ShareLunker selective breeding program is to increase the occurrence and size of eight-pound or larger bass, and this research is the next step in that process.”
Following is a chronological list of this season’s entries.
Toyota ShareLunker 524 was caught from Lake Fork December 27, 2011, by Andrew Watson of Highland Village. The fish weighed 13.51 pounds and was 25.5 inches long and 21.25 inches in girth. The top producer of big bass in Texas, Fork came in at number 26 on Bassmaster’s list of top trophy bass lakes.
Toyota ShareLunker 525 was caught December 28 from Falcon International Reservoir by Jason Brudnicki of Salt Lake City, Utah. The 13.36-pound fish was 26.25 inches long and 21 inches in girth.
Toyota ShareLunker 526 came from Lake Austin on January 29, 2012. It was caught by Brett Ketchum of Austin and weighed 13 pounds even. It was 25.75 inches long and 20.25 inches in girth.
Toyota ShareLunker 527 also came from Lake Austin. Wesley Hayden of Round Rock caught the 13.22-pounder on February 11. It was 26 inches long and 21.25 inches in girth.
Toyota ShareLunker 528 made it three in a row from Lake Austin on February 14. The Valentine’s Day fish was caught by Landon Glass of Jarrell; it weighed 13.03 pounds and was 25.75 inches long and 21.75 inches in girth.
Toyota ShareLunker 529 was caught by Ryan Pinkston of Center on February 25 from Toledo Bend Reservoir. The fish weighed 14.2 pounds. Due to an error the fish was released before it could be picked up, so length and girth are not known. Toledo Bend was named the number 15 bass lake in the U.S. by Bassmaster.
Toyota ShareLunker 530 came from Lake Ray Roberts. Caught by Stan Lawing of Poetry on March 3, the 13.06-pound fish was 25 inches long and 21 inches in girth. The pickup and care of this fish will be featured on the World Fishing Network’s Reel Fishy Jobs on May 31. The fish spawned and produced more than 39,000 offspring.
Toyota ShareLunker 531 was caught by Gary Wingate of Amarillo from Falcon International Reservoir on March 16. The 14.39-pound fish was 26.5 inches long and 20.75 inches in girth. ShareLunker 531 spawned twice and produced more than 93,000 offspring.
Toyota ShareLunker 532 was caught by Michael Justus of Garland from Lake Fork on March 18. It weighed 13.1 pounds and was 25.75 inches long and 21 inches in girth.
Toyota ShareLunker 533 took the ShareLunker flag back to Lake Austin. Corey Johnson of Cedar Park caught the 13.18-pound fish March 21. It was 26.5 inches long and 20 inches in girth.
Toyota ShareLunker 534 also came from Lake Austin on the same day as 533. The 13.59-pound fish was caught by Charles Whited of San Marcos and was 26.125 inches long and 20 inches in girth.
Toyota ShareLunker 535 marked O.H. Ivie’s return to the ShareLunker program. Stacy Brookings of Midland caught the 13.22-pounder on March 25. It was 26.5 inches long and 20 inches in girth. O.H. Ivie occupies the number 88 spot on the Bassmaster list of top bass lakes.
Toyota ShareLunker 536 brought the season to a close on April 6. Kyle Johnson of Abilene caught the 13.36-pounder from O.H. Ivie. It was 27.5 inches long and 20 inches in girth. This fish was the only mortality of the program this season.
Toyota ShareLunker anglers will be recognized at a banquet at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens on June 2.
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.
Anglers entering fish into the Toyota ShareLunker program receive a free replica of their fish, a certificate and ShareLunker clothing.
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 as well as answers to frequently asked questions about the program.
Information on 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.