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Three-Lunker Weekend Puts Race to Toyota ShareLunker 500 in High Gear
Only three fish to go to reach the 500 mark
ATHENS — Three more Toyota ShareLunkers have been added to the season’s tally, and spawning of the big bass is about to begin at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center.
The Race to 500 count reached 497 late Sunday with the entry of a fish from Lake Amistad. On Saturday O.H. Ivie Reservoir produced its fifth and sixth Toyota ShareLunkers of the season.
Steve Hand of Snyder kicked off the big weekend about 9:50 a.m. April 3 when he caught Toyota ShareLunker 495, a 13.22-pound largemouth, on O.H. Ivie. He was fishing in 10 feet of water using a Zoom six-inch lizard.
At three o’clock that afternoon Mark Worthington of Abilene landed Toyota ShareLunker 496. That fish bit a seven-inch red shad Senko in 10 feet of water on O.H. Ivie.
Both fish were weighed and held for pickup by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) ShareLunker program manager David Campbell at Concho Park Marina, an official ShareLunker weigh and holding station.
"It was an awesome feeling," Steve Hand said. "I never felt the bite. I just moved the worm a little bit, and she nudged it. I felt the weight and set the hook, and the fight was on."
Hand is an old hand at fishing Ivie. "I fish Ivie probably 15 to 20 times a year," he said. "I think everybody who fishes O.H. Ivie realizes that the fishing this year way exceeds anything in the past except the first two or three years when the lake was new. The last two or three years the lake has produced a lot of good fish. I think a lot of that is because of what you all [Texas Parks and Wildlife Department] do-spawning fish out, bringing them back, putting them back in the lake. And the bass fishermen all appreciate it. Without [TPWD], we wouldn’t have the fish we have."
Mark Worthington’s day ended up a lot more interesting than it started. "I didn’t have a whole lot of luck until the last cast of the day," he said. "We were fishing off the north island with a seven-inch red shad Senko. I tossed it in a tree, and I guess she was sitting in the top of the tree. She put up a real good fight. She swam out to deep water instead of staying in the tree and pulled drag several times. Then I had trouble getting her to fit in the net she was so big."
Worthington agreed with Hand that the fishing on O.H. Ivie is a bass angler’s dream. "The fishing has always been good here," he said. "It’s probably one of the best eight- to 10-pound lakes in the state. We fish Falcon and some of the other lakes, but I really like Ivie."
At about 7:30 p.m. April 4, Joseph Burgi of Del Rio was fishing in 20 feet of water at Marker 7 on Lake Amistad when he caught a 13.37-pounder on a pumpkinseed Berkley Power Worm. Burgi took his fish to Anglers Lodge, an official ShareLunker weigh and holding station, where it was picked up by TPWD staff from A.E. Wood Fish Hatchery in San Marcos. David Campbell picked the fish up there and arrived in Athens shortly before noon April 5.
Burgi’s fish is the third this season from Amistad. Lake Fork has also produced three fish this season.
The three big bass arrived at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens just as hatchery staff began pairing female ShareLunkers with males in preparation for spawning. A video of that process is at www.facebook.com/sharelunkerprogram.
ShareLunker offspring are stocked into lakes that produced entries into the ShareLunker program during the current season. So far this season 26 fish have come from 13 public lakes and two private ones, all of which will be receiving lunker offspring, assuming the big bass cooperate.
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.
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. In addition, if a Texas angler catches the largest entry of the year, that person receives a lifetime fishing license.
The angler who catches Toyota ShareLunker 500 will receive $500 a pound-a minimum of $6,500-for the catch. In addition, G. Loomis and Shimano will award the angler a rod and reel package worth $650.
Because of the value of the prize package, ShareLunker 500 will be X-rayed, and the angler will be required to take a polygraph test to prove that the fish was legally caught and entered according to program rules, which require that fish be turned over to TPWD within 12 hours of being caught.
For complete information and rules of the ShareLunker program, tips on caring for big bass 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, 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.
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