Athens, TX—Andrew Watson of Highland Village caught the first entry of the 26th Toyota ShareLunker season December 27, 2011, from Lake Fork.
Watson and his father were fishing under the Texas 154 bridge for crappie using live minnows when the 13.51-pound largemouth bass began taking their minnows. “She broke my 8-pound line twice, so we decided to try to catch her,” Watson said.
The third time she took a minnow, Watson was ready. He played her around the boat for several minutes before bringing her to the net.
The fish was held for pickup at The Minnow Bucket, an official Toyota ShareLunker weigh and holding station. The fish measured 25.5 inches long and 21.25 inches in girth. It is now Toyota ShareLunker 524.
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 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.
The person who catches the largest entry of the season will be named Angler of the Year. 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. The package will include a G.Loomis NRX 854C JWR casting rod, a 7’1”, fast-action, power-oriented casting and pitching stick designed specifically for fishing big bass in heavy cover. It’s rated for 14 to 20-pound test line and lures ranging from 5/16 to ¾ ounces.
Also included will be a Shimano Chronarch 200 E7 casting reel. The new Chronarch E reels feature a long list of proven Shimano features including high efficiency gearing, a lo-mass drilled spool system and super stopper. For smoothness and durability, each has a shielded A-RB ball bearing, five shielded SUS bearings, and a roller clutch. The 200 weighs in at 7.6 oz.; the amount of line retrieved per crank is 30-inches. A 150-yard spool of 30-pound green Power Pro braided line will also be included.
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.
Anglers entering fish into the Toyota ShareLunker program receive a free replica of their fish, a certificate and ShareLunker clothing and are recognized at a banquet at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens.
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, see www.tpwd.state.tx.us/sharelunker. 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 www.facebook.com/sharelunkerprogram.
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.