EDITORS NOTE: PRESS RELEASE PROVIDE BY TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT
Despite cold temperatures and an unprecedented winter storm, February proved to be a banner month for the Texas ShareLunker program. From February 19th through the 28th, anglers reeled in eight Legacy Class largemouth bass. Six Lunkers were from O.H. Ivie, one from Conroe, and one from Lake Travis, bringing the season total to 12. February's flurry of activity has resulted in the 2021 Legacy Lunker season tripling last year's total with one month still remaining in the three-month collection season.
Angler Joe McKay of Bussey, Iowa kicked off the hot streak at O.H. Ivie Friday night Feb. 19 with a massive 16.40-pound Lunker (ShareLunker #590) which is a new lake record and ranks as the 16th largest largemouth bass ever caught in Texas.
"It was an extremely cold morning when we arrived on the lake," said McKay. "The water where we were fishing was about 22 feet deep out over the tops of brush. I was using an Alabama rig with 6th sense Divine Swimbaits on it. We had caught a couple of 12-pound largemouth bass earlier in the day, so we knew we were on some big fish. It was an amazing experience and the fish of a lifetime for sure."
Angler Josh Jones, of Sapulpa, Oklahoma kept things rolling with his 13.20-pound Legacy Lunker (ShareLunker #591) Sunday afternoon Feb. 22. Jones has been coming to fish in Texas for a few years, but this was his first ever visit to O.H. Ivie. In addition, to his 13.20 pounder, Jones caught a 10.5-pound largemouth bass on that Sunday as well.
"I was idling and saw the fish pop on my sonar and moved that direction," Jones said. "I caught her suspended 15 feet down using an Alabama rig at a spot on the lake measuring at a depth of 75 feet. Texas Parks and Wildlife and the ShareLunker program are top notch with how they do fish care and provide information to anglers. I always enjoy coming to Texas to fish."
However, Jones' story wasn't finished until Sunday when he brought in ShareLunker 596 to wrap up the magical run at O.H. Ivie. The Legacy Lunker tipped the scales at 15.40-pounds and became another new personal best.
"I got out a little late, but within 30 minutes of being on the water I landed my second Lunker of the week," added Jones. "It was quite entertaining when she came to the surface, we thought it had a chance to be a state record it was so big. The fight lasted about two minutes and she was in the boat. She was in about the same spot as the one earlier in the week using the same bait on the Alabama rig. This is the best lake in the world and I have never seen any kind of run like this before. This should be a destination on anyone's radar."
Angler Donald Burks of Weatherford, Texas logged the third fish with his 13.40-pound Legacy Lunker (ShareLunker #592) on Tuesday. Burks made the trip with his son Brandon, which began on Monday. Burks caught the Legacy Lunker after only an hour on the water using an Alabama rig. It was a personal best for Burks.
Once the fish was secured by TPWD biologists for the ShareLunker program and began its trip to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens, the father son duo returned to fishing. About 20 minutes later Brandon caught a 12.40-pound Elite Class Lunker, which was also a personal best for him.
"We were about an hour into the day, sitting in about 40 feet of water using an A-rig," said Burks. "We were casting up to 20 feet of water when the fish bit and I reeled in a catch of a lifetime. I had only ever been to O.H. Ivie one time in my life and that was for a club fishing tournament in 1999. I heard about these fish being caught and I told my son let's go. It was phenomenal fishing and we caught over 100 bass in the two days we were there, including several 6 and 7 pounders in addition to the two big ones. It's a great lake and Texas Parks and Wildlife has done a tremendous job in making it into an outstanding fishery through the ShareLunker program. It was a trip to remember and great to experience it with my son there as well."
Angler Brett Cannon of Willis, Texas landed the fourth Legacy Lunker (ShareLunker 593) of the week Thursday. His trip started on Choke Canyon and was slow going there, but when his friend Joe McKay, who kicked off the week with the 16.40 pounder, had success at O.H. Ivie they decided to give it a shot. Persistence paid off for Cannon when he latched on to the 14.40 pounder.
"The evening before I caught the giant, I scanned an area that wasn't getting much pressure and saw some big fish," said Cannon. "Around 10:30, I hooked into the giant and I knew it was big but didn't know how big until it got next to the boat. She didn't fight much until she saw the boat. When I first saw the fish, I thought it was 20lbs and she took 4-5 big runs and wore herself out. When I got the fish in the boat, I lost it, shaking, and screaming because I knew I caught a fish of many lifetimes. This trip will go down in history as the best week of fishing all times."
Casey Sobczak from The Woodlands, Texas is a Team 6 teammate with Cannon and reeled in a 14.20-pound Legacy Lunker (ShareLunker 594) for the fifth Legacy Lunker of the week at O.H. Ivie. Cannon had called Sobczak, president of 6th Sense Fishing and told him there were some big fish in the area. While Cannon was certifying his Legacy Lunker, Sobczak landed his in the same spot that Cannon caught his moments earlier. The crew ended up catching a 16 and two 14s during the week, all on 6th Sense Divine 3.2 and 3.8 swim baits.
"I am the President of 6th Sense Fishing and assembled our Pro Staff event at O.H. Ivie with 10 guys," said Sobczak. "Of those 10, we caught three ShareLunkers and broke the lake record four times between smallmouth and largemouth. All of us were using 6th Sense Divine Swimbaits, but my big fish was over deep bushes in 20-25' deep water. The same day, my fishing partner, Zach Kinart, caught a 7.47lb Smallmouth lake record using the same bait. We are still waiting to certify my scales to send the documentation to Texas Parks & Wildlife. Our Team 6 crew had the experience of a lifetime."
This is not the first time that the efforts of TPWD fisheries biologists have resulted in unbelievable bass fishing at O.H. Ivie. In the 2010 and 2011 seasons, a total of 18 ShareLunkers were submitted to the program from O.H. Ivie.
"Receiving 8 Legacy Lunkers in 8 days is phenomenal, especially on the heels of such a tough winter storm," said Kyle Brookshear, Toyota ShareLunker program coordinator. "Thanks to the anglers who have provided 12 fish this season, we are better able to enhance the genetics of our broodstock and further increase the potential for trophy class bass statewide."
Lake Conroe jumped into the mix Friday when angler Scott Stephens landed a personal best 14.25-pound ShareLunker 595 at the Cabela's Big Bass Tour Tournament, leading him to the tournament title. It was the first Legacy Lunker for Conroe going back to Mar. 9, 2019. The lake now claims 19 Legacy Lunkers in the history of the program.
"We had noticed there were a lot of fish suspended out in deeper water," said Stephens. "I didn't see the fish hit the Berkley Pitbull 7.5 crankbait I was using and she didn't really jump but made three surges under the boat where there's a danger of losing them, but this one worked out great. This was a fish of a lifetime and a bucket list item for me. To catch a fish like this on my home lake in a big bass tournament, is a dream come true. More important for me, is to be able to contribute a fish to the Texas Parks and Wildlife ShareLunker program. Texas Parks and Wildlife came in, treated the fish like a gold brick, and took care of that fish extremely well. They were thanking me for donating the fish to the program, but I said I want to thank you all. Because of the ShareLunker program and the Florida strain, my dream was able to come true. "
Trace Jansen of Buda, Texas wrapped up the month with a huge catch at Lake Travis Sunday. Jansen's 15.32-pound 28-inch ShareLunker 597 broke the lake record which was set in 1993. It was also the first Legacy Lunker entry for Lake Travis.
"I saw a big one and called my grandpa to tell him we were going to try and get her," said Jansen. "I thought she was a 7 at first, but when I stuck her, I knew I was wrong. The spot we caught her happened to be the last spot of the day, and man am I glad that we didn't decide to put the boat on the trailer. We worked on her for about an hour and knew if I could get the male off the brush then I could probably get her to start showing some interest. My friend, Riley, caught the male. We constantly changed colors to try to see what she wanted to bite. Ultimately, I caught her on a natural 5-inch wacky rigged stick bait. When I hooked her all I said was, 'I got her.' She was so big; she didn't even fit in the net, but we got her in and couldn't believe it. She was 28 inches long. I never could have dreamed that I would ever be in the ShareLunker program. It was thrilling to be honest. "
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Inland Fisheries biologists will conduct genetic analysis of the Legacy Lunkers and attempt to spawn them in an effort to make bigger, better bass that will enhance fishing in Texas lakes for years to come.
"Historically, this past week and the coming two weeks are some of the best days for anglers to have a chance at catching that fish of a lifetime," added Brookshear. "With the final month of the collection season upon us, we are eager to see just how many Legacy ShareLunkers will be collected in 2021."
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 the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department 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, 2021.
Anglers who catch and donate one of these 13+ lunkers earn Legacy Class status, receive a catch kit filled with merchandise, a 13lb+ Legacy decal for their vehicle or boat, VIP access to the Toyota ShareLunker Annual Awards event and a high-quality replica of their lunker fish. 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.
Anglers who enter data for any lunker they catch greater than 8 lbs. or 24 inches during the calendar year 2021 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 Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, providing major funding for a wide variety of fisheries, state parks and wildlife projects.
Prize donors Bass Pro Shops, Lake Fork Taxidermy, American Fishing Tackle Co. and Stanley Jigs also provide additional support for this program. For updates on the Toyota ShareLunker Program, visit facebook.com/sharelunkerprogram/ or TexasSharelunker.com.
To see all the ShareLunkers caught this year go to the ShareLunker Flickr Album at https://flic.kr/s/aHsmTzg7fF. Scroll up to see the catches from February.
Trace Jansen with ShareLunker No. 597
See all the 2021 TPWD ShareLunkers at https://flic.kr/s/aHsmTzg7fF.