Toyota Sharelunker Program
The roots of the ShareLunker program can be traced to the drought of the 1950s. That 10-year dry spell brought home to Texans the fact that the state’s burgeoning population had outgrown its water supply. A few reservoirs had been built previously, but the 1960s and 1970s witnessed the completion of many more. Texas had only one natural lake — Caddo — and the native species of Texas bass, the northern, was adapted to live in streams.
Fish adapted to live in large lakes were needed to take advantage of the new reservoirs, and in 1971 TPWD brought the first Florida strain largemouth bass to Texas. They were housed at the Tyler Fish Hatchery (now closed), and the first Florida strain bass were stocked into Texas waters the following year.
Over the next several years bass from Florida, California and Cuba were brought to Texas to improve the genetics of the Texas bass population. The Cuban fish were obtained by sheer daring. Joe Bob Wells, a Levelland resident who fished in Cuba frequently, flew to Cuba in December 1984 and brought bass back to Texas via Mexico, since travel between the United States and Cuba was prohibited.
As the Florida strain genes worked their way into the bass population, fish grew bigger. In 1980 a 14.1-pound bass broke the state record of 13.5 pounds that had stood for 43 years. The record increased again and again, to the current 18.18-pound fish caught in 1992. Interest in bass fishing burgeoned along with the size of the fish.