Several ‘firsts’ highlight the 2016-2017 Toyota ShareLunker Season
Texas Parks and Wildlife
Special to the Leader-Press
ATHENS – Over the 31-year history of the Toyota ShareLunker program, few fish have made as many headlines as the five largemouth bass entered this season. With two landmark genetic connections, two reservoirs producing their first 13-pound or larger ShareLunker bass, and a new water body record set at a lake not often considered to be a largemouth bass fishery, the anglers who caught and donated these fish made their mark on Texas fishing this year.
“We consider this to be a very successful season, and it’s all thanks to the anglers who generously donated their fish,” said Kyle Brookshear, Toyota ShareLunker program coordinator. “By loaning the fish for spawning, providing TPWD with valuable data, and increasing the visibility of bass fishing in Texas, the anglers who participate in the Toyota ShareLunker Program are truly leaving a lasting impact in making bass fishing better for future Texas anglers.”
The season started off with a bang Feb. 10 when the first entry was confirmed to be the first ShareLunker offspring ever entered in the program. After angler Ryder Wicker caught 13.07-pound ShareLunker 566 from Marine Creek Lake, TPWD staff used genetic analysis to identify it as the daughter of ShareLunker 410, a 14.48 pound largemouth bass caught from Lake Conroe in March 2006 by angler Edward Reid.
Two weeks after Wicker’s historic catch, TPWD biologists were floored when 13.06 pound ShareLunker 567 – the second entry of the season – was also confirmed to be a ShareLunker offspring. The fish, caught out of Lake Naconiche Feb. 28 by angler Larry Mosby, was confirmed as the daughter of ShareLunker 446, caught out of Richland Chambers Reservoir in March 2008 by angler Jeremy Bruton.
“What’s really cool about the science of all this is this was the first year that not one, but two of the ShareLunkers were fish that we were able to trace back with genetics and confirm as the result of our selective breeding program,” said Dave Terre, chief of Inland Fisheries Management and Research. “We know their moms, we know what reservoirs they came from, we know which hatchery they came from – it’s like ‘CSI’ for bass. No other state has that science.”
ShareLunker 567 is also noteworthy for being the first ShareLunker ever entered from Lake Naconiche, a reservoir that was impounded only eight years ago. TPWD biologists considered the stocking of ShareLunker Florida bass offspring combined with the ‘new lake effect’ and special size regulations to be decisive factors in maximizing the reservoirs potential to produce big bass.
The third ShareLunker of the season made waves not only as the biggest bass of the season, but also as the second ShareLunker entered by the angler out of the same lake. Angler Ronnie Arnold caught 15.70 pound Sharelunker 568 March 10 out of Caddo Lake, earning him the title of Toyota ShareLunker Angler of the Year. In addition to a lifetime fishing license, Arnold will receive a prize package from G. Loomis.
Arnold has now entered two of the nine total ShareLunkers ever caught from Caddo Lake. His first was ShareLunker 463, a 15.1 pound largemouth bass caught in March 2009.
Not to be outshined by a fish in East Texas, West Texas produced ShareLunker 569 just weeks later at Alan Henry Reservoir. Angler John Vineyard caught the 13.34-pound largemouth bass March 21, making it the 27th ShareLunker entry from Alan Henry Reservoir, a water body that is well-known for yielding big bass to West Texas anglers.
The final ShareLunker entry of the season was caught outside of the spawning collection window, but ShareLunker 570 made headlines for being the largest largemouth bass ever submitted for a water body record from the Belton Lake and the first ever entry from the lake into the Toyota ShareLunker Program. Angler Kurt Luker caught the 13.97 pound bass during a Texas Team Trail tournament April 1 – just one day shy of the March 31 collection cutoff – so TPWD biologists verified the catch and took a fin clip for genetic analysis before releasing the fish back into the lake.
While most ShareLunkers are returned to anglers at the end of each spawning season for release back into the lake, Wicker chose to donate his fish to TPWD for education and outreach purposes. ShareLunker 566 is now on display to the public at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries center in Athens, and the rest of the entries were returned safe to their home lakes.
Although the season was memorable, next year may have even bigger surprises and successes in store for Texas bass anglers. According to Brookshear, plans are underway to expand the next Toyota ShareLunker season to be bigger than ever in the program’s 31 year history.
“Starting next season we will be implementing several exciting changes that will better engage the public in the promotion and enhancement of bass fishing in Texas public waters,” Brookshear said. “We will be unveiling those plans later this year, and we think anglers are going to be very excited about what we are planning to do. Ultimately our goal is to help more anglers catch lunker bass in Texas.”
Toyota ShareLunker anglers will be recognized June 3 at a banquet at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens.
For updates on the Toyota ShareLunker program and to view photos of all of the 13-pound-plus largemouth bass caught this season, visit www.facebook.com/ShareLunkerprogram.