ATHENS – Anglers landed five Lunkers in five days, in the process recording two new lake records and two Top-30 fish – including the seventh largest in Texas history – to close out an active February in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s (TPWD)’s 2022 Toyota ShareLunker season.
Overall, the season has produced 15 ShareLunkers, with nine of them coming in February. O.H. Ivie Lake added three more Legacy Class largemouth bass, bringing its total to a season-best eight, while Coleman City and Eagle Mountain got on the board for the first time in the collection season. Josh Jones of Sapulpa, Oklahoma became the first angler to submit four Legacy Class fish.
Jones reeled in 14.79-pound ShareLunker 619 Wednesday, Feb. 23 and 14.13-pound ShareLunker 612 Jan. 21, making Wednesday’s catch his second of the year after securing two during the 2021 collection season. To top it off, Jones caught a Legend Class ShareLunker that weighed 15.10-pounds back on December 17, 2021.
“There was definitely a lot of luck involved as it was the only fish I caught the whole day and it happened to be another Legacy ShareLunker” said Jones. “You see someone catch four Legacy Lunkers and say they are an amazing angler, but it still takes a lot of luck to be in the right place at the right time and throw in front of the right fish. However, when you are on the best lake in the world, the odds are much greater of landing one.”
Jones said he exceeded all of his expectations to get a fourth Legacy class ShareLunker.
“It’s what I came here to do, and it’s been an amazing 12 months, on an amazing fishery, and in an amazing state.” said Jones. “I would have never had a chance to catch the first ShareLunker if it weren’t for TPWD and the stocking program. It’s a great honor to be the only one with four, especially with some of the names on the list and how many millions of anglers there are in the state.”
Brodey Davis of Tuttle, Oklahoma made his way to O.H. Ivie Thursday Feb. 24, and submitted the seventh biggest largemouth bass in Texas history when he landed 17.06-pound ShareLunker 620. It’s a new O.H. Ivie waterbody record and the largest catch in 30 years, when Barry St. Clair of Klondike, Texas recorded the state record on Jan. 24, 1992. ShareLunker 105 came from Lake Fork and topped the scales at 18.18 pounds.
Davis arrived early Thursday and battled the cold temperatures and some ice on the boat ramp due to winter weather the night before. He got the boat in the water, but the fishing was slow in the morning until around noon, when Davis landed his catch of a lifetime.
“I told my nine-year old son, who made the trip with me, we were going to hit one last stretch before heading into lunch,” said Davis. “I rolled down the bank and noticed her suspended in about 17-18 feet of water. I threw at her twice and the first time she watched the bait go by but didn’t bite. On the second cast, I pitched 3-4 feet above her and she smoked it. Initially she didn’t budge at all when the hook was set, but when she saw the boat, she went on the first run.”
At that point, the battle was on.
“She took me towards the back of the boat and when she started coming up again, I had my son, Stetson, grab the net,” Davis said. “She then went on the second run, and I just took my time because I was in a good spot. After a bit, she started coming to the surface again and I brought her up nice and slow. My son got the net in the water and as soon as he had her, I grabbed the net too and flipped her in the boat. The rest is history.”
Davis was filled with excitement and knew it was the biggest bass he had ever caught. His previous personal best was an 8.3-pounder.
“Josh Jones is a friend of mine, so I called him and told him what it weighed,” said Davis. “I met Josh at the ramp, and he already had gotten everything in motion for TPWD personnel to come and get the fish. Once they arrived, they took her from there and updated me on where she was at on the way to TFFC. It was an awesome experience with the ShareLunker program, and I’m blessed to have been able to have my son with me on this trip because that made it even better.”
Zachary Reece of Albany, Texas immediately headed up the river at O.H. Ivie in the morning, where he started the day with a seven pounder. The fishing then slowed down until Reece and his friend decided to work the bank down river after visiting a couple of other spots.
“About 12:30 p.m., cloud cover came, and I told my buddy it’s time,” said Reece. “In my mind, I knew the cloud cover would make the fish move a little better. I eventually saw a small school of fish, casted to them and that’s when the magic happened. I knew it was big and as soon as I set the hook, we fought for a good 20 seconds. She got in a tree and my heart sank, but after just letting her get out she came up and Robert netted her. I saw that fish and immediately fell to the deck. My heart was beating so fast, and I could barely breathe. I knew I had finally caught the one I had been after. We took it to Elm Creek to weigh it and sure enough it was 14.15 pounds.”
Reece immediately picked up the phone to call the ShareLunker program and report the catch.
“They arrived to measure the fish and took the DNA samples they needed,” added Reece. “The TPWD personnel were very fast with the fish so we could get her back in the water. They were all super nice and this is a great thing they do for Texas lakes. If it wasn’t for what they do, I probably wouldn’t have had the chance to catch that bass.”
Tommy Law of Abilene, Texas became just the second angler to submit a Legacy Class Lunker from Coleman City. Law brought in 13.95-pound ShareLunker 622 Friday, Feb. 25 and joined C.R. Stevenson III from Clyde, Texas on the Coleman City list. Earlier this year, Law was with Tim Broadfoot when he caught ShareLunker 611 at Lake Daniel.
“It was a cold windy day, but I had taken note that is when the big fish have been biting,” said Law. “I talked a buddy of mine into braving the cold with me. We arrived at the lake around lunchtime, but it was still cold, so I headed to a protected bank where I have done well in the past. We were both using A-rigs and noticed a little rocky hump that had a few fish on it. I marked it with GPS and kept fishing down the bank before returning to that spot about 2 p.m. I made a cast with the A-rig and this monster slammed it.”
Law indicated that working with the ShareLunker program was an outstanding experience.
“All the TPWD personnel with the ShareLunker program have been great,” added Law. “I had another ShareLunker out of my boat in January at Lake Daniel as Tim was with me. The care they have for the fish is the main priority to them. It was the Abilene TPWD Inland fisheries team that handled both fish and I could not have asked for any better people to work with. The program is the best and I plan on a visit to see the operation at TFFC and check on the two Lunkers.”
Robert Bandy of Springtown, Texas also became only the second angler to retrieve a Legacy Lunker from Eagle Mountain Lake, with a 16.00-pound ShareLunker 623 Sunday Feb. 27. Donald Moore of Rhine, Texas got the fishery on the board last year with 13.08-pound ShareLunker 607. Bandy was fishing a tournament that had been postponed from Saturday to Sunday. Had the schedule not changed, Bandy would not have been able to participate, so everything lined up perfectly for his catch of a lifetime.
“My partner and I were fishing in our bow bass club tournament,” said Bandy. “We came onto a point near a marina and dropped the trolling motor. I made the cast in 12-feet of water with a Texas-rig and was dragging the bait when she grabbed it. I made a few cranks and told my tournament partner to get the net. He asked if it was a catfish and I said no, get the net. When she came up, he made the perfect scoop and we got her in the net. It still really hasn’t set in yet how big that fish really was.”
This was Bandy’s first experience with the ShareLunker program, and it proved to be a memorable one. The fish also brought him a tournament championship and broke the big bass tournament record.
“The ShareLunker program is definitely on the ball,” added Bandy. “They were very thorough with their instructions on what to do and what not to do. We got the fish transferred safely and I can’t say enough about the program. This was an unreal experience and I’m very thankful to have had this opportunity.”
Once TPWD Inland Fisheries biologists were notified, they quickly got on the road to collect and transport the ShareLunkers to TFFC in Athens, where biologists are providing the fish top-notch care. Biologists plan to attempt to spawn them with male offspring of a prior ShareLunker to make bigger, better bass to stock in and enhance fishing in Texas lakes.
“It’s been an exceptional two months of the 2022 Toyota ShareLunker collection season,” said Kyle Brookshear Toyota ShareLunker Program Manager. “In February alone, history was made with new lake records, a pair of Top-30 fish, and fisheries that got back on the board following a gap without producing a Legacy Class Lunker. In addition, O.H. Ivie has continued its incredible run that began a year ago and what’s even more exciting, is we still have a month to go in the collection season.”
Additionally, at this time TPWD Inland Fisheries personnel have made the decision to halt the collection of ShareLunkers from O.H. Ivie with the exception for lake records of 17.06-pounds or above, for the remainder of the 2022 season. This will enable TPWD to accommodate Legacy Class entries and highlight other waterbodies across the state.
Anglers who potentially reel in a Legacy Lunker from O.H. Ivie will still receive the catch kits, replica mount, and recognition for their catch. Biologists will meet the angler to take measurements, official weight, and collect genetics. The angler can then return their fish to the lake.
During the first three months of the season (Jan. 1 through March 31), anglers who reel in a 13+ pound bass can loan it to TPWD for the ShareLunker selective breeding and stocking program. These anglers can call the ShareLunker hotline at (903) 681-0550 to report their catch 24/7 until April 1.
Anglers who catch and donate one of these 13+ lunkers earn Legacy Class status, receive a catch kit filled with merchandise, a 13+ pound Legacy decal for their vehicle or boat, VIP access to the Toyota ShareLunker Annual Awards event and a high-quality replica mount of their Lunker fish from Lake Fork Taxidermy. These anglers will also receive entries into two separate drawings – a Legacy Class Drawing and the year-end Grand Prize Drawing. Both drawings will award the winner a $5,000 Bass Pro Shops shopping spree and an annual fishing license.
The year-round Toyota ShareLunker program offers four levels of participation for catching bass over eight pounds or 24 inches in Texas. The 2022 season offers an opportunity to join the special club of premier anglers who have submitted a Legacy Class ShareLunker.
Anglers who enter data for any lunker they catch greater than eight pounds or 24 inches during the calendar year 2022 also receive a catch kit, a decal for their vehicle or boat and an entry into the year-end Grand Prize Drawing to win a $5,000 Bass Pro Shops shopping spree and annual fishing license. ShareLunker entry classes include the Lunker Class (8lb+), Elite Class (10lb+), and Legend Class (13lb+).
Once a lunker is reeled in, anglers need to enter the catch data on the Toyota ShareLunker mobile app – available for free from the Apple App Store and Google Play – or on the Toyota ShareLunker online app at TexasSharelunker.com. In addition to providing basic catch information, anglers can also provide a DNA scale sample from their lunker bass to TPWD researchers for genetic analysis.
The Toyota ShareLunker Program is made possible in part by the generous sponsorship of Toyota. Toyota is a longtime supporter of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation and TPWD, providing major funding for a wide variety of fisheries, state parks and wildlife projects.
Prize donors including Bass Pro Shops, Lake Fork Taxidermy, American Fishing Tackle Co., Stanley Jigs and Sixth Sense Lures also provide additional support for this program. For updates on the Toyota ShareLunker Program, visit facebook.com/sharelunkerprogram/ or TexasSharelunker.com.
For pictures of the Legacy Class ShareLunkers caught during the 2022 season, visit the TPWD Flickr album at https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjzxNwz.