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Entries in Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (4)


Lake Fork Gives Up Third 13-Pounder In Less Than Two Weeks

AUSTIN – For the third time in less than two weeks, Lake Fork has delivered what many anglers dream about for a lifetime – a 13-pound-plus Toyota ShareLunker largemouth bass. For angler Alex Finch, who landed the 13.06 pound Legacy Class largemouth bass during a solo fishing trip March 11, the catch checked off a “bucket list” item he’s been aiming at for years.

“This was one thing in my lifetime I said I wanted to do – catch a ShareLunker,” said Finch, of North Richland Hills. “I’ve accomplished a lot in the sport of fishing and I’ve caught a lot of big bass by most people’s standards, but I’ve never put one on the scale and had it read like that. My initial reaction was like “finally!”

After landing ShareLunker 573 on a bait he built himself – a Finch Nasty Thumper Gizzard Shad – Finch took the fish to be weighed and held at the Minnow Bucket Marina until Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Inland Fisheries staff arrived to verify the catch and transport it to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC) in Athens. The fish is now in the “Lunker Bunker” at the TFFC being monitored and cared for by hatchery staff to prepare for spawning as part of the program’s selective breeding program.

“Loaning the fish to the ShareLunker program for spawning was an easy decision for me,” Finch said. “My priorities were taking good care of the fish and the public purpose of the donation. The Toyota ShareLunker program has really helped make Texas fishing better than it is in any other state.”

ShareLunker 573’s roommates at the “Lunker Bunker” include Lake Fork’s two other Legacy Class entries for the season – Toyota ShareLunker 572, a 13.00 pound largemouth bass caught by angler Michael Terrebonne March 8; and Toyota ShareLunker 571, a 15.48 pound largemouth bass caught by angler John LaBove March 2.

Although Lake Fork is well known as a big bass hotspot, not every year yields Toyota ShareLunker entries. To have three caught and entered in less than two weeks was surprising to many local anglers, including Finch.

“I’ve been fishing at Lake Fork for 5 years and I’ve seen it cycle,” Finch said. “Last year we really started to see the population of fish coming back. We knew there were going to be some big fish caught here this year, but we had no idea we would be seeing three ShareLunkers in nine days – that’s incredible.”

Texas anglers who catch their “bucket list” 13 pound or larger largemouth bass can loan the fish to the Toyota ShareLunker program for spawning through March 31.

Every angler who loans a 13 pound or larger Legacy Class bass to the Toyota ShareLunker program during the spawning period Jan. 1 to March 31 will receive a Toyota ShareLunker Catch Kit containing branded merchandise and fishing tackle items, a 13lb+ Legacy decal, VIP access to awards programming at the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest, a replica of their fish, and an entry into the year-end ShareLunker Prize Drawing to win a $5,000 shopping spree and an annual fishing license. These anglers will also be entered into the Legacy Class Prize Drawing for a $5,000 shopping spree and an annual fishing license at the end of the spawning period March 31.

The Toyota ShareLunker Program is made possible by a grant to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation from Gulf States Toyota. Toyota is a longtime supporter of the Foundation and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, providing major funding for a wide variety of education, fish, parks and wildlife projects.

For updates on the Toyota ShareLunker program and to view photos of all of the 13-pound-plus largemouth bass caught this season, visit or


Future Bright for Trophy Bass in Florida, Texas

The best is yet to come for anglers who pursue big bass in Florida and Texas. Even though they have decidedly different approaches, each sponsors a program that optimizes opportunities provided by the Florida strain of largemouth.

Of course, it’s only logical that the two have differing strategies, since one manages for non-native fish in manmade impoundments, while the other focuses on native fish in natural lakes. As a consequence, Texas constantly researches methods for growing more and ever larger bass, while Florida has set up a system that both helps anglers find the state’s biggest fish and encourages catch-and-release.

Implemented just two years ago, the Sunshine State’s TrophyCatch still is in its “infancy stages,” according to Bill Pouder, a freshwater fisheries administrator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). It was borne out of the state’s Long-Term Black Bass Management Plan, with the intent of ensuring “Florida is the undisputed bass fishing capital of the world.”

Word of mouth, Pouder added, has helped considerably in motivating fishermen to report catches of 8 pounds and larger. “If I’m an angler who catches an 8-pound bass and all I have to do is provide a photo and measurements in exchange for $100 in gift cards and prizes, then I’d be very encouraged to do it,” he said.

Statistics certainly bear out that assessment, too. From Oct. 1, 2012, through September 2013, fishermen entered 206 fish in TrophyCatch. But 679 bass were logged in during the eight months that followed. Of those 885 fish, 244 weighed between 10 and 12.99 pounds and 5 weighed 13 pounds or more.

As possibly the biggest surprise of the program thus far, three of those latter fish, including the largest at 14-9, came from Kingsley Lake, a semi-private fishery in Clay County. That discovery goes to the heart of how TrophyCatch will enhance opportunities for Florida anglers to catch lunkers: It tells them where they are.

Not so surprising is that Lake Istokpoga tops the list of public waters, followed by Okeechobee, Toho, Kissimmee, and St. Johns River. But 235, or more than 25 percent, of those fish have been caught in small, unnamed waters, including private ponds, golf course ponds, retention ponds, and undisclosed public lakes.

“Those types of waters aren’t typically managed,” Pouder said. “But that suggests we might look into that for the future.”

Also worthy of note is that TrophyCatch has given lie to the notion that anglers must use shiners to catch big bass in Florida. More 60 percent of entries were caught on artificials.

More of that kind of helpful information will be available to anglers soon, as FWC develops a more in-depth website for TrophyCatch, which will allow each entrant to have his or her own page.

In Texas, meanwhile, managers continue to look for new ways to improve the state’s trophy bass fisheries through ShareLunker, a program built around stocking Florida strain largemouths. Before the Lonestar State introduced the larger variety of black bass, its state record of 13.5 remained unchallenged for 37 years. Since stocking began in the 1970s, the record has been broken six times, and three since ShareLunker began in 1986.

Current Texas record is 18.2, larger even than the biggest bass documented in Florida at 17.27.

Courtesy of ShareLunker, Florida bass now swim in 62 Texas impoundments. They are spawned in hatcheries from the ShareLunker entries of 13 pounds or more that Texas fishermen donate to the program.Incredibly, 51 percent of ShareLunker entries are pure Florida bass, with the rest being hybrids. Yet sampling reveals that Florida bass typically make up only about 7 percent of a fishery’s bass population.

“A real value of the program has been that it has convinced anglers that they do not have to kill their catch to get a trophy,” said Allen Forshage, director of the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center.

In exchange for donating their fish, anglers are given replica mounts.

Right now, focus is on DNA and how tracking it might help produce a fish that could rival the world record of 22-4. While breeding ShareLunker entries to male ShareLunker offspring, biologists have developed a technique to identify both parents in future trophy bass.

Tagging already has revealed that sometimes entries are caught more than once. In fact, one was caught three times.

“I was a pessimist when we first started this program,” Forshage said. “We had no idea that one day we’d have 62 lakes producing these lunker fish.”

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


Family Bluegill Tournament Planned for Sept. 28 in Texas

Photo by Robert Montgomery

A bluegill family fishing tournament is set for Sept. 28, sponsored by the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center. What a great way to remind adults how much fun they can have by fishing with children.

Participants can fish in adjacent Lake Athens or in the center’s ponds and streams, some of which have been stocked with bluegill.

More than $2,500 in prizes will be awarded.

Go here to learn more.



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.