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Entries in Sharelunker (15)


Behind the Scenes at the Lunker Bunker

ShareLunker 547. Texas Parks and Wildlife photo.

Check out the new 14-minute video at the Texas ShareLunker Facebook page. It shows what happened when ShareLunker No. 547 was taken into the Lunker Bunker at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens.

You also can see a video in which Donald Deville tells how he caught that 14.06-pound largemouth at Lake Fork.


Anglers Enter 13 Trophy Bass in 26th Season of ShareLunker Program 

This lunker from O.H. Ivie was the only mortality in the program this season. Photo by Larry D. Hodge, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Thirteen largemouth bass weighing 13 pounds or more were entered into the Texas ShareLunker program before it ended for the season on April 30.

Taken from O.H. Ivie on April 6, Ronald Johnson’s 13.36-pounder (in photo above) was the final entry for the 26th season of the program sponsored by Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW), with Toyota. Number of bass entered in the program now stands at 536.

Gary Wingate earned Angler of the Year honors with the biggest Sharelunker of the season, a 14.39-pound bass that he pulled from Falcon. (This Rio Grande impoundment recently was named the No. 1 bass lake in the nation by Bassmaster Magazine.)

TPW adds the following:

In addition to the replica of his catch and ShareLunker clothing received by all anglers in the program, Wingate 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 caught again by Landon Glass on Feb. 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 brood fish 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.”

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.

Information on catches, including short videos of interviews with anglers when available, is posted at Facebook.


From Egg to Trophy the Texas ShareLunker Way

Future lunker. (Texas Parks and Wildlife photo)

Want to watch some big bass being “cooked up” in Texas?

Check out the video on the Texas ShareLunker Facebook page. It takes you through the processing of eggs from ShareLunker 531.

That hefty bass was caught on March 16 from Lake Falcon and produced more than 44,000 eggs on March 29.

Hatchery staff at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC) removed the eggs from a spawning mat, counted them, and put them into a hatching jar. The eggs will hatch in three or four days, and the fry will be raised to about 1.5 inches in length before being stocked.

Texas Parks and Wildlife adds this:

ShareLunker 531 was caught by Gary Wingate of Amarillo and is the first ShareLunker to spawn this season. Multiple spawns from the same fish are not uncommon. Six of the current entries are pure Florida largemouth bass and are being held for spawning. Those fish came from Lakes Falcon, Austin (two fish), Fork, Ray Roberts and O.H. Ivie.

So far this season 12 ShareLunkers have been caught from six different lakes: Falcon, Austin, Fork, Toledo Bend, Ray Roberts and O.H. Ivie. Each lake producing an entry into the ShareLunker program during the season receives a portion of all the fingerlings produced.

Pure Florida ShareLunkers are paired at TFFC with pure Florida males that are themselves the offspring of ShareLunkers. This selective breeding process is intended to result in offspring that have the best possible genetics. Appropriate measures are taken to ensure that genetic diversity is maintained.

DNA testing allows Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to determine the parentage of and relatedness among ShareLunker offspring.

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.

To learn more about the ShareLunker Program, go here.


Toledo Bend Yields Biggest ShareLunker to Date

ShareLunker offspring are released into Texas waters. Photo of recent Toledo Bend ShareLunker was not available. (Photo courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife)

Imagine boating a double-digit bass during a tournament. That’s just what Ryan Pinkston did in catching a 14.2-pound largemouth, the biggest lunker so far in this Texas ShareLunker Season.

Here’s the report from Texas Parks and Wildlife:

Toledo Bend, the sprawling reservoir on the border between Texas and Louisiana, produced the sixth Toyota ShareLunker of the current season Saturday, a 14.20-pound largemouth bass that is the largest entered so far this season.

Ryan Pinkston of Center was fishing in a Bass ‘n Bucks tournament when he caught the fish about 2 p.m. while fishing in about five feet of 60-degree water.

“Fishing was fairly slow at first,” Ryan said. “I had about 20 pounds and knew I had to get my weight up, so I pulled out a Jewel Heavy Cover Football Jig and started throwing it. On about the second or third cast, I hung the big fish. The fish went under the boat and wrapped me up a little bit, and of course I thought that was the end of it.”

Pinkston had no idea how big the fish was until he actually got it in the boat. “I laid it in the floor, and that’s when I knew it was not a normal fish,” he said. “It was huge. I didn’t know if it was 11 or if it was 15.”

Pinkston’s luck continued: On the next cast, he caught an 8.5-pounder. He finished the tournament in first place with 36.06 pounds.

Following the tournament, Pinkston took the fish to Toledo Town and Tackle in Many, Louisiana, where it was weighed on certified scales at 14.20 pounds.

Pinkston’s catch makes him the frontrunner for Angler of the Year. The person who catches the largest entry of the season will be named Angler of the Year, and if that person is a Texas resident, he or she will receive a lifetime fishing license. The Angler of the Year will also receive a prize package from G. Loomis worth more than $700.

Anyone legally catching a 13-pound or bigger largemouth bass from Texas waters, public or private, between Oct. 1 and April 30, may submit the fish to the Toyota ShareLunker program by calling program manager David Campbell at (903) 681-0550 or paging him at (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.

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, go here. 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 the ShareLunker Facebook page.


States Hope Florida Genes Will Help Grow Bigger Bass

Dave Burkhardt caught this 13-8 Florida-strain largemouth at Mexico’s Lake El Salto. Florida bass grow quickly to trophy size south of the border, but can their genes help grow bigger bass in more northern states? (Photo by Robert Montgomery)

Can Tennessee biologists turn Chickamauga into another Lake Fork? 

Probably not.

That Texas lake is the gold standard for trophy bass fisheries, and duplicating the success there is not a reasonable expectation, especially for a state with a less hospitable climate.

But resource managers are hopeful that they can grow bigger bass in Chickamauga through the introduction of Florida-strain largemouths into the population.

“I’m convinced that Florida bass will grow big in Tennessee,” says Bobby Wilson, fisheries chief for the Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR). “I hope that can happen in Chickamauga. And, if it does, we’ll move to other lakes with it.”

So far, Wilson has one very persuasive piece of evidence to support his conviction: In October of 2009, biologists electroshocked a 16-15 largemouth at Browns Creek Lake, where Floridas also have been stocked.

By contrast, the existing state record is just 14-8 and was caught in 1954.

Bureaucratic complications delayed tests to determine the genetic makeup of that extraordinary bass, but results are expected soon. Meanwhile, limited sampling from Browns, Gibson County and other agency lakes where Florida bass have been stocked reveal that larger fish do have introduced genes.

“We’ve had a few 13-pounders reported by fishermen (from agency lakes),” Wilson adds. “They probably were Florida bass.”

But the verdict still is out on Chickamauga.

The same goes for Lake Guntersville, just to the south in Alabama.

“We’re in the process of finishing up the project right now,” says Keith Floyd, a fisheries supervisor for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

“We haven’t stocked them (Florida bass) on a regular basis,” he adds. “It’s been periodically in one or two embayments, to see if we can incorporate Florida genomes into the population.”

Tennessee, however, has been much more deliberate in its approach. After stocking 200,000 fry annually for five years throughout Chickamauga failed to show much of a genetic shift, biologists decided to focus on three creeks for the next five.

Norm Klayman also caught this 10-4 at Lake El Salto. Its bulging eyes indicate it is a fast-growing fish that is large for its age. (Photo by Robert Montgomery)

AS DWR waits for lab results, “anglers (at Chickamauga) are saying they are catching bigger bass,” Wilson explains. “And they say that the bass look different from what they are used to seeing.”

Anglers also are catching bigger bass at Lake Atkins in adjacent Arkansas, where the fishery was rehabilitated and then stocked with Floridas. This past spring, anglers caught at least three 12-pound bass in that 752-acre fishery.

Wilson says that his state used criteria from Arkansas and Oklahoma in deciding where Florida-strain bass could be stocked successfully in Tennessee. That turned out to be south of a line from Dyersburg in the west to Chattanooga in the east.

But as Virginia proved during the early 1990s, bass with Florida genes can do well even farther north than that. After being stocked in the late 1980s, Briery Creek Lake yielded a 13-4 trophy in 1992. It followed with a 16-3 (one ounce shy of the state record) in 1995 and 16-2 in 2002. And from 1994 to 2002, it produced the largest bass in the state annually.

“A lot of people are excited about this,” Wilson says about Tennessee’s Florida bass program. “But some don’t want them because they have heard that they are finicky than northern bass.”

And there’s the argument that native bass populations are weakened when Florida bass are added.  “But these aren’t native systems,” the Tennessee fisheries chief points out. “These are manmade impoundments.”

Texas’ long-term success with Florida bass in Lake Fork and other reservoirs provides a strong argument in support of Wilson. And the fact that more than 500 largemouth bass of 13 pounds and more have been entered in its Sharelunker program seems to dispel the “finicky” fear as well.

From my own decades of experience with Florida bass in Florida, Texas, and Mexico, I’ve noted that they can turn off when temperature drops just a degree or two. But I do not believe them more difficult to catch than northern bass. When cold and/or high pressure turns them off, you just have to slow down and adjust your tactics. Instead of throwing a spinnerbait, flip a soft plastic along the edge of a weedline.

Also, I’ve found Florida bass to be, pound for pound, much more challenging fighters than northern bass. A big Florida is like a mean smallmouth with a belly. And I’ve seen 12-pounders tail walk.

Count me as one who is not troubled by the occasional finickiness of Florida bass or the fact that they are being introduced into manmade fisheries in Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama, and perhaps other states outside their native range. I’ve been blessed to catch a few double-digit Floridas, and I’d like to see more opportunities for other anglers to do so as well.

Whether Chickamauga and Guntersville are two of the fisheries capable of growing those genetically enhanced big fish likely will be revealed soon.

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)