Budweiser Sharelunker Program Draws 15 Entries

Larry Hodge, 903-676-2277, larry.hodge@tpwd.texas.gov

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ATHENS, Texas — The Budweiser ShareLunker season ended April 30 with a total of 15 largemouth bass weighing 13 pounds or more entered into the program.

One fish was a repeat catch and was entered into the program for the second time. And another angler likely released his chance to become the first to submit four fish to the program in the same year.

Work continues with the fish at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center here. "We have not spawned the lunkers yet but we are trying," said program manager David Campbell.

Details about the fish entered into the program this year follow, in chronological order.

Jan. 14. Frank Hardy of Mineola was after a few crappie for the dinner table when he went fishing on Lake Fork. What he caught in addition to a half-dozen slabs was the first entry in the 2004 Budweiser ShareLunker program: a 13.32-pound largemouth bass.

Ironically, Hardy almost threw the fish back because he thought it was too small. "I didn’t think it was long enough to weigh 13 pounds," he said. However, the 24-inch-long fish was what anglers call a "football," with a girth-22 1/8 inches-almost equal to its length.

Jan. 29. Richard Mims of Laredo landed the second Budweiser ShareLunker of the 2004 season, a 13.08-pound largemouth bass pulled from Lake Casa Blanca. Mims’ fish easily surpassed the current lake record of 9.38 pounds, which was caught in 1989. The big fish was 25 inches long and measured 21.5 inches in girth.

Jan. 31. Richard Mims boasted his second Budweiser ShareLunker from Lake Casa Blanca in three days. Mims became the first person in the history of the ShareLunker program to land two fish bigger than 13 pounds so close together. His new lake record fish weighed 14.64 pounds and measured 26 inches long and 22 inches in girth.

Feb. 19. Jason Reyes of Humble landed a 15.1-pound largemouth bass while fishing in Quantum Lake, a private lake north of Houston. The fish was 25.75 inches long with a girth of 22.25 inches.

Feb. 20. Leroy Crawley, Sr., of Forsyth, Missouri, caught ShareLunker number five from Lake Fork. The 13.11-pound fish measured 24.25 inches long and 22.75 inches in girth.

Feb. 21. Alvin Helms of Wills Point landed a 13.02-pound lunker from Lake Fork. The fish was 24.5 inches long and 21.5 inches in girth.

March 2. Ross Allcorn of Burleson became the latest angler to prove that March is big bass month on Lake Fork when he caught Budweiser ShareLunker seven. Allcorn was fishing on the edge of a creek channel in eight feet of water with a 3/8-oz. black/blue Realistic jig when a 13.41-bass measuring 25.75 inches long and 20.75 inches around took the bait.

March 16. Budweiser ShareLunkers number eight and nine were caught the same day. Jeff Bassinger of Alvarado caught number eight from Lake Fork. Toby McDonald of Porter landed number nine from Lake Conroe.

Bassinger’s Lake Fork lunker weighed 13.125 pounds and was 25.5 inches long and 21.5 inches in girth. It was the fifth entry from Lake Fork this season. McDonald’s 13.2-pound Lake Conroe fish was 24.75 inches long and 21 inches around.

March 22. Tony Hill of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, tied last year’s tally of 10 ShareLunkers when he landed a 13.08-pound largemouth bass on Lake Fork. The lunker measures 25 inches long and 21.5 inches in girth.

March 29. A 13.63-pound Toledo Bend largemouth bass caught by John Martin of Buna, became Budweiser ShareLunker eleven. The fish is the second ShareLunker to come from the reservoir on the Texas-Louisiana border. It measured 24 inches long and 21.25 inches in girth.

April 2. Bruce Butler of Canyon brought in ShareLunker 12 from Lake Alan Henry near Lubbock. It was 25 inches long and 22 inches in girth and weighed 14.8 pounds. Butler caught the fish in three feet of water on a jig. This was the fourth ShareLunker to come from Lake Alan Henry and the first since 2002.

April 3. Lake Fork contributed 13, a 13.19-pound fish caught by Jeffrey Erpelding of Plainview. It was 25.5 inches long and 21 inches in girth. The fish hit a Wiggle Wort in three to four feet of water in Little Caney Creek. More than 200 Budweiser ShareLunkers have come from Lake Fork.

April 8. Lake Fork produced ShareLunker 14, but the fish wasn’t caught from the lake. On Nov. 23, 2002 Roy Greer of Alba caught a 14.17-pound fish from Lake Fork and entered it into the Budweiser ShareLunker program. The fish was injected with a passive integrated transponder (PIT) tag when it arrived at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens. Greer later released the fish into a private lake in Wood County.

On April 8 Greer caught a 13.43-pound lunker from the private lake and entered it into the ShareLunker program. When the fish was scanned, the PIT tag identified it as the fish Greer had originally caught in 2002.

April 13. T. J. Taylor of Lubbock caught Budweiser ShareLunker 15 from Lake Alan Henry. His personal scale showed the 13.85-pound bass to weigh 13.3 pounds.

That got Taylor thinking. "I’ve released three fish this year that my scales showed weighed 12.9 pounds," he said. "Since Jan. 1, I’ve caught 22 fish over 10 pounds."

If those three 12.9-pound fish did weigh more than 13 pounds, Taylor failed to set the hook on the chance to be the first person to catch four ShareLunkers in the same year.

Anglers who caught ShareLunkers will be invited to attend an invitation-only banquet in their honor at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center on May 29. Each will receive ShareLunker clothing and a fiberglass replica of their fish prepared by Lake Fork Taxidermy.

Jason Reyes of Humble will receive Angler of the Year honors and a lifetime fishing license for catching the largest fish entered into the program by a Texas resident.

Information on the ShareLunker program, including pictures of anglers with their fish, can be found at (http://tpwd.texas.gov/fish/infish/hatchery/tffc/sharelunker.htm).