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Toyota ShareLunker Season 24 Raises Bar
ATHENS — After 24 years, you might think the Toyota ShareLunker program would have accomplished everything possible.
On the contrary, the nationally known angler recognition and largemouth bass fishery enhancement program is still breaking new ground. Some examples:
- The season just closed saw the ShareLunker program reach the 500-fish milestone. Sam Callaway of Corpus Christi caught Toyota ShareLunker 500 from O.H. Ivie Reservoir and promptly donated the $500 per pound prize from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
- Six lakes set seven new water body records with ShareLunker entries: Livingston, LBJ, Caddo, Casa Blanca, O.H. Ivie and Lake O’ the Pines (twice).
- The ShareLunker program entered the social media age with its own Facebook page, collecting more than 1,600 fans who became the first to know about ShareLunker catches. www.facebook.com/sharelunkerprogram.
- The number of public water bodies producing ShareLunkers reached a new high. Sixty-one public lakes have now produced 13-pound-plus fish.
- Two new private lakes also produced ShareLunkers, bringing the total to 21.
- Three new official ShareLunker weigh and holding stations were added: The Minnow Bucket on Lake Fork and two on O.H. Ivie, Concho Park Marina and Elm Creek Village Marina. These stations improve the survival rate of ShareLunkers by providing the best possible holding environment for the fish until they are picked up. Additional stations are sought for lakes that frequently produce ShareLunkers.
- The program received a new sponsor-Toyota-and a new Toyota Tundra pickup truck as part of the sponsorship package. The Tundra rolled more than 8,000 miles in the month of April alone picking up ShareLunkers.
Additional season highlights include:
- Keith Burns of Jefferson won Angler of the Year honors for his catch of Toyota ShareLunker 487. The 16.17-pound fish was not only the biggest catch of the year, it also ranked 16 on the list of biggest bass ever caught in Texas. Burns will receive a lifetime fishing license in addition to other ShareLunker prizes furnished by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation.
- For the first time since the 1992-1993 season, two or more 16-pound-plus fish were entered into the program when Jerry Bales of Hico caught Toyota ShareLunker 503, a 16.08-pounder that now ranks 19 on the top 50 list.
- James Quisenberry of Emory also made the Big Bass Top 50 list with a 15.61-pound lunker that made the list at No. 34. Quisenberry’s fish also qualified for $11,000 in cash and prizes from the Lake Fork Area Chamber of Commerce and sponsors.
- The "Race to 500" countdown began with the catch of ShareLunker 490 and continued until Callaway’s catch, creating considerable media interest and angler community buzz. Field & Stream, ESPN and the World Fishing Network among others provided national coverage of the race.
Following is a chronological list of Toyota ShareLunker catches for the season just past.
Toyota ShareLunker 472 slipped in the back door of the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC) on September 28.
The fish wasn’t supposed to be a ShareLunker at all. When Lanny Smalley of Athens, Alabama, caught it from a private lake near Ben Wheeler, he did not have a certified scale to get a correct weight on the fish, but he called TFFC to see if they would like to have the big bass for display.
A couple of days after arriving at TFFC, the fish was showing signs of distress. "It developed an infection on its tail, I think from being handled," said fisheries technician Shane Carter, one of the main caregivers for fish in the Lunker Bunker at TFFC. "It became septic from an internal bacterial infection."
At that point the fish was not expected to live, but Carter and his coworkers don’t give up easily. After caring for nearly 500 big bass over the last 24 years, they’ve learned a lot about keeping big bass alive.
"We sedated the fish and treated the external infections, then put her back into the tank and began treatment for the internal infection," Carter said.
While they had her out of the tank, they decided they might as well weigh the fish. She weighed exactly 13 pounds, the minimum weight needed to be entered into the Toyota ShareLunker program. She was 26.75 inches long and 18.25 inches in girth.
"That’s the first time we knew she was big enough to be a ShareLunker," Carter said. Since the fish was caught before the official starting date of the season, October 1, TFFC director Allen Forshage had to decide whether to accept the fish into the program or not.
Toyota ShareLunker 473 had a short ride to its new quarters at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center: It was caught from a private lake in Anderson County only a few miles away.
Paul Detwiler of Tyler was fishing in five feet of water on November 16 when the big bass attacked his Strike King lipless crankbait. The fish weighed 14.43 pounds and was 27.5 inches long and 21.75 inches in girth.
Toyota ShareLunker 474 was caught December 20, 2009 by Debbie Baker of Wartrace, Tennessee. The fish weighed 13.26 pounds on the certified scale at Robert’s Tackle in Zapata, an official ShareLunker weigh and holding station. It was 25 inches long and 20.125 inches in girth.
Baker was fishing in 25 feet of water with a Brushhog.
According to TPWD Inland Fisheries biologist Randy Myers, Baker’s feat is sure to be repeated a number of times in the next three years. "We had a major habitat improvement in 2003 and 2004 due to rains," Myers said. "It takes seven to 10 years for a bass to reach 13 pounds, and fish in that lake can do it in seven. Falcon is going to pump out a bunch of big ones in the next few years."
Toyota ShareLunker 475 ended a big-fish drought at O.H. Ivie Reservoir and other West Texas lakes that suffered from low rainfall from the late 1990s until 2004, when rains came again.
The drought took two forms: low water and few big bass caught.
The fish drought ended January 16, when Ben Blaine of Merkel landed a 14.02-pound largemouth bass from O.H. Ivie.
"We’ve been expecting it," said Bobby Farquhar, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) inland fisheries regional director from San Angelo. "About six to seven years after the end of a drought you usually see the big fish start to come out."
Blaine caught his fish at 5:00 p.m. in 12 to 15 feet of 48-degree water on a DD-22. The fish was 25.5 inches long and 21.25 inches in girth.
Toyota ShareLunker 476 came from another West Texas reservoir rebounding from the drought of the late 1990s.
On January 19 Falcon International Reservoir produced a 14.4-pound Toyota ShareLunker for Bryan Aubin of Zapata.
Aubin was fishing in six feet of water with a watermelon red lizard. Water temperature was 60 degrees at the time of the catch, 9:00 a.m.
The fish was cared for until pickup at Robert’s Fish n’ Tackle, an official ShareLunker weigh and holding station.
Toyota ShareLunker 477 brought O.H. Ivie back into the limelight. Wesley Pullig of Eden caught the 13.09-pound fish January 21. The fish was 26.125 inches long and 19.75 inches in girth. Pullig was using a jig with an Xcite Baits raptor tail craw.
Toyota ShareLunker 478 came from yet another South Texas reservoir that benefited from rains several years ago and is now kicking out big bass.
On February 6 Richard Flores of Seguin pulled a 15.09-pound largemouth from Choke Canyon Reservoir while flipping a 10-inch plastic worm in 12 feet of 57-degree water.
Flores took his fish to the Calliham Store, an official ShareLunker weigh and holding station, to await pickup. The fish was 26.5 inches long and 21.75 inches in girth.
Toyota ShareLunkers 479 and 480 were both caught February 21, 10 minutes and 500 miles apart.
Fishing on Lake Amistad, Robert Robles of Del Rio caught Toyota ShareLunker 479, a 13.5-pound bass. At almost the same time, Robert Laird, Sr., of Livingston set the hook on a 13.19-pound fish that is now Toyota ShareLunker 480.
Robles was fishing in about 30 feet of water in Evans Creek using an Amistad Tackle Flutter Spoon. His fish was weighed and held for pickup at Angler’s Lodge, an official Toyota ShareLunker weigh and holding station.
Laird was fishing in six to eight feet of water beside the U.S. 190 bridge across Lake Livingston. He was using a Bagley crankbait. Laird’s fish is the first ShareLunker entered from Lake Livingston and is the new lake record.
Toyota ShareLunkers 481, 482 and 483 came from Lakes Austin, Amistad and O.H. Ivie on February 27, the day before the full moon.
Carl Adkins of San Marcos led off the action with Toyota ShareLunker 481, a 13.1-pounder from Lake Austin. Adkins was fishing near the Loop 360 bridge in seven to 12 feet of 51-degree water with a soft plastic lure. The catch came at 6:45 a.m.
TPWD personnel were on their way to pick up the fish when the phone rang at mid-morning with news of the Lake Amistad catch. Teddy Silcox of Del Rio landed a 13.02-pounder, Toyota ShareLunker 482, from 28 feet of 52-degree water. He was using a Boudreaux bait.
Randy Jackson of Mineral Wells caught the third lunker of the day, a 13.03-pounder, from O.H. Ivie Reservoir. He was fishing in three feet of 43-degree water with a black and blue Easy Jig.
Three or more ShareLunker catches on the same day have come in February only once before, in 1995. All three fish came from Lake Fork. From three to five fish have been caught on the same day seven other times, all in March.
Toyota ShareLunker 484 broke new ground-or perhaps water-with Lloyd Ward’s catch of a 13.7-pound fish from Lake LBJ. With the exception of Lake Austin, Colorado River lakes in the Texas Hill Country have never produced bass weighing 13 pounds.
Lloyd Ward, of Horseshoe Bay, saw a huge bass cruising near the bank in three feet of water. "I pitched my jig in front of her, and she swam over and ate it," he said. The previous record for Lake LBJ was a 12.55-pound fish caught in 1989.
Toyota ShareLunker 485 made a magical day off for Michael Banks of Jacksonville on March 9. "I was just looking for a day out," he said. "It would have been a great day if I had not caught a fish."
Fishing from his kayak, he only got one bite, but it turned out to be a 13.6-pound largemouth bass that is the fourth ShareLunker from the lake and is only a few hundredths of a pound under the lake record.
Toyota ShareLunker 486 was an ice-breaker for Randy Williams of Staunton, Illinois: He caught Lake Fork’s first Toyota ShareLunker of the season on Tuesday, March 16.
The fish weighed 13.0 pounds and was caught in three feet of water on a Senko.
The fish is the 244th fish from Lake Fork to be entered into the ShareLunker program. It was 25.5 inches long and 22 inches in girth.
Toyota ShareLunkers 487 and 488 defied a snowy blast chilling Spring’s debut in North Texas. Both Caddo Lake and Lake O’ the Pines produced new lake records March 20.
Keith Burns of Jefferson caught Toyota ShareLunker 487 from Caddo Lake, a 16.17-pound brute that ranks 16 on the list of the 50 largest bass ever caught in Texas. The previous record weighed 16.01. The fish bit a Senko in five feet of water.
The fish also won Burns Angler of the Year honors. The Texas resident who catches the biggest fish of the season receives a lifetime fishing license from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation in addition to other prizes awarded to all the anglers.
James E. Hollis of Longview caught a new record for Lake O’ the Pines-13.2 pounds-while fishing in a tournament. That fish was not only the new lake record but also the first ShareLunker from the lake.
Toyota ShareLunker 489 made a life-long dream come true for James Quisenberry of Emory. Quisenberry moved to the Lake Fork area in hopes of catching the bass of a lifetime.
That dream came true March 22 when he caught a 15.61-pound largemouth from Lake Fork, but when he weighed the fish at Lake Fork Marina, an official ShareLunker weigh and holding station, he got even better news.
The bass tied for the number 33 spot on the list of top 50 biggest largemouth bass caught in Texas, which qualified Quisenberry for $10,000 in cash from the Lake Fork Area Chamber of Commerce’s Lake Fork Bounty Bonanza tournament. Added to that was $500 for catching a bass weighing 13 pounds or more, $300 for the biggest bass weighed in during the month, $250 in tackle from Berkley and $500 in tackle from Lake Fork Marina.
Toyota ShareLunker 490 kicked off the "Race to 500" promotion. No. 490, came from Lake Casa Blanca, near Laredo, on March 24. Jesse Garcia-Perez of Laredo caught a new lake record 14.79-pound bass from eight to 10 feet of water using a seven-inch junebug PowerBait worm.
Toyota ShareLunker 490 became the fifth lake record entered into the ShareLunker program during the season. Three of those fish came from public lakes that had never produced a ShareLunker before: Lake O’ the Pines, Livingston and LBJ.
Toyota ShareLunker 491 bested the lake record for Lake O’ the Pines set by James Hollis just six days before Carl Clark of Marshall went fishing there.
The ink was still wet on Hollis’s record when Clark bested it by nearly two pounds with a fish weighing 15.13 pounds caught March 26. Clark was fishing with a red Rat-L-Trap in five feet of water. His catch was 22 inches in girth and 25.25 inches long.
Toyota ShareLunker 492 continued the March flurry of ShareLunker entries at O.H. Ivie Reservoir March 27. Brian Hall of Bronte weighed in a tournament-caught 14.22-pounder that missed becoming a new lake record by about a third of a pound. Hall was using a Zoom Brush Hog in nine feet of water.
Brian Hall was fishing in a Bassin’ Bunch tournament on a very windy day in West Texas when Toyota ShareLunker 492 picked up his bait. "I’ve caught a lot of big fish out of Ivie-it’s really coming on for big fish," he said. "I’ve caught a couple of 10s, but this is my biggest fish by far."
Hall’s fish was 21 inches in girth and 26.5 inches long.
Toyota ShareLunker 493 added Lake Nocona to the growing list of lakes that produced their first-ever Toyota ShareLunker during the season.
Don Wilborn of Sherman caught Toyota ShareLunker 493, a 13.34-pound largemouth bass, from Lake Nocona March 29. Wilborn was fishing in eight feet of water using a spinner bait.
Despite being the first ShareLunker from the lake, No. 493 is not a new lake record for Lake Nocona. A 13.4-pound fish caught in 1997 still holds the top spot. That fish was not entered into the ShareLunker program.
Toyota ShareLunker 494 took two days to catch. Jason Barnes of Yantis was fishing in two feet of water March 31 with a homemade jig when the big bass he’d been targeting for two days finally bit. The fish weighed 13.23 pounds when Barnes took it to The Minnow Bucket, an official ShareLunker weigh and holding station, to await the arrival of ShareLunker program manager David Campbell to confirm the fish as Toyota ShareLunker 494.
Barnes actually caught the fish twice-almost-on two successive days. "The first day she bent my hook straight," he said. "I went back the next day with a heavy rod, braided line and a heavier hook. I wasn’t going to lose her twice. I sat on her for about two hours before she finally bit. She just inhaled it."
Toyota ShareLunkers 495 and 496 brought The Race to 500 nearer to completion April 3 when O.H. Ivie Reservoir produced its fifth and sixth Toyota ShareLunkers of the season.
Steve Hand of Snyder kicked off the big weekend about 9:50 a.m. April 3 when he caught Toyota ShareLunker 495, a 13.22-pound largemouth. He was fishing in 10 feet of water using a Zoom six-inch lizard.
At three o’clock that afternoon Mark Worthington of Abilene landed Toyota ShareLunker 496. That fish bit a seven-inch red shad Senko in 10 feet of water on O.H. Ivie.
Both fish were weighed and held for pickup by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) ShareLunker program manager David Campbell at Concho Park Marina, an official ShareLunker weigh and holding station.
"I think everybody who fishes O.H. Ivie realizes that the fishing this year way exceeds anything in the past except the first two or three years when the lake was new," Hand said. "The last two or three years the lake has produced a lot of good fish. I think a lot of that is because of what you all [Texas Parks and Wildlife Department] do-spawning fish out, bringing them back, putting them back in the lake. And the bass fishermen all appreciate it. Without [TPWD], we wouldn’t have the fish we have."
Toyota ShareLunker 497 came from Lake Amistad at about 7:30 p.m. April 4. Joseph Burgi of Del Rio was fishing in 20 feet of water at Marker 7 when he caught a 13.34-pounder on a pumpkinseed Berkley Power Worm. Burgi took his fish to Anglers Lodge, an official ShareLunker weigh and holding station, where it was picked up by TPWD staff from A.E. Wood Fish Hatchery in San Marcos.
Toyota ShareLunker 498 made the day for Raymond Ivy of Brownwood April 5. The O.H. Ivie big bass weighed 13.06 pounds and was caught in seven feet of water on a Strike King swim bait.
Ivy’s fish was weighed and cared for until pickup at Elm Creek Village Marina, an official Toyota ShareLunker weigh and holding station.
Toyota ShareLunker 499 brought the Race to 500 to one fish short of the finish line. Bill Hunter III of Sweetwater caught No. 499 from O.H. Ivie Reservoir April 6. The fish was 20.5 inches in girth, 26.25 inches long and weighed 13.04 pounds.
Toyota ShareLunker 500 came as a surprise to Sam Callaway of Corpus Christi, who caught No. 500 from O.H. Ivie Reservoir at 9:20 a.m. April 9 using a Zoom Magnum eight-inch lizard in watermelon/red. The 13.34-pound fish was immediately taken to an official ShareLunker weigh and holding station, Concho Park Marina.
Callaway caught the landmark fish on the first day of the Permian Basin Oilman’s Bass Invitational, an annual event that raises money for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. The sixteen tournaments held to date have raised more than $1.5 million for the cause.
Callaway later announced he will donate the $6,670 prize from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation for Toyota ShareLunker 500 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Callaway will also receive a bass angler’s dream rod and reel package courtesy of G. Loomis and Shimano.
The G. Loomis BCR854 GLX Jig & Worm rod is a 7’1" casting rod designed specifically for fishing jigs and/or plastic worms in heavy cover. It’s rated for 14-20 pound monofilament and up to 30-pound Power Pro line, with a lure rating of 5/16-3/4 ounce. It features the highly touted RECOIL nickel-titanium guides that are virtually indestructible and super light. G.Loomis’ proprietary GLX graphite creates a rod that is lightweight and extremely sensitive.
Paired with the rod is a Curado 200E7 casting reel, a very compact, lightweight, smooth-casting reel that features a high-speed, 7.0:1 retrieve, lightweight graphite side-plates, recessed reel foot, aluminum "Magnumlite" spool, 7 bearings and HEG "High Efficiency Gearing," giving more fish-moving power and the added torque to retrieve a variety of different lures.
The reel is loaded with Power Pro 30-pound test, super tough, smooth-casting, no-stretch braided line that has the diameter of eight-pound monofilament
Toyota ShareLunker 501 came just two days late for Jim McDaniel of Cedar Park. He caught No. 501 from Lake Austin April 11. The fish weighed 13.01 pounds and was 20.5 inches in girth and 26.5 inches long.
Toyota ShareLunker 502 moved Lake Amistad into sole possession of second place in the number of Toyota ShareLunkers produced this season on April 21 when Marion Merritt from Florida caught No. 502.
Merritt’s 13.87-pound bass was the fourth to come from the border’s Big Friendly during the current season.
Merritt was fishing in 14 feet of water in the San Pedro Canyon area west of U.S. 277 when the fish took a 10-inch Berkley Power Worm in green pumpkin.
Toyota ShareLunkers 503 and 504 came from O.H. Ivie on the last day of the season, April 30. Jerry Bales of Hico pulled in his new lake record 16.08-pounder at 7:30 a.m. using a Berkley Power Worm. Wesley Pullig of Eden followed with No. 504 at 3:20 that afternoon. His 13.24-pound fish was his second ShareLunker of the season and was caught the same day he put his first, No. 477, back into the lake. Both fish were caught using an Xcite Baits raptor tail craw.
Toyota ShareLunker 504 brought the total number of fish entered into the program this season to 33, only three fish short of the record 36 entered during the 1994-1995 season.
Ironically, two 13-pound plus fish from Lake Amistad were reported released due to anglers’ scales weighing light, and another potential ShareLunker from O.H. Ivie Reservoir died before it could be entered.
By any measure, the 2009-2010 ShareLunker season was outstanding. Even better, most of the big bass were returned to the lakes where they were caught and are now swimming with all the ones that were not caught.
It might not seem possible for next season to be better than the one just past, but with all those big fish out there, it’s entirely possible.
All that’s needed to make it happen is you. Don’t just go fishin’ next year. Go ShareLunkin’.
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