The hunt continues across Texas for lunker bass and a pair of East Texas bodies of water produced Toyota ShareLunker entries last week, including a fish that was entered into the program last year.
Thomas Milam of Pittsburg kicked off the action March 17 about 2:20 p.m. when he caught a 14-pounder from Gilmer Reservoir on a pumpkinseed craw worm in 4 feet of water. The fish was 25 inches long and 21.75 inches in girth. It is the lake record, eclipsing the former mark of 11.41 pounds caught in 2009.
The next day, Sean Swank of De Berry caught Toyota ShareLunker 522 from Caddo Lake. When the fish was scanned for a PIT (Passive Integrated Transponder) tag at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center, it was found to be the same fish caught from Caddo last year by Keith Burns and entered into the ShareLunker program as No. 487. At 16.17 pounds, it became the lake record, which still stands, since the fish weighed 16.07 pounds when caught this year.
The Caddo fish is noteworthy since it was the biggest fish caught in Texas last season, and it moved into the lead again this year. At 16.07 pounds it tops a fish from Lake Austin that weighed 16.03 pounds. It takes over the No. 20 spot on the Top 50 list of biggest bass caught in Texas and also ranks No. 16 due to its previous catch, when it weighed 16.17 pounds.
Catches of 16-pound or larger fish are rare, and only 25 have been reported in Texas. Two of those came this season and two last season. Prior to last season, no 16-pound or bigger fish had been reported in Texas since the 2001-02 season. This is the sixth season that two or more 16-pound-plus fish have been caught. Three were caught in each of the 1990-91 and 1991-92 seasons; one of those was the state record 18.18-pounder caught from Lake Fork in 1992.
Since 1996 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has stocked about 450,000 Florida largemouth bass into Gilmer Reservoir. It is likely that Milam’s fish was stocked into the lake in 2000 or 2001.
Burns returned the fish to the lake last year, as most anglers choose to do once the spawning season is over. Since the fish is less than 90 percent Florida bass, it will not be used for spawning but will be returned to Caddo Lake as soon as possible.
Swank becomes the new leader for Angler of the Year honors. The person who catches the season’s largest entry will be named Angler of the Year and will receive a prize package from G. Loomis valued at $818. The package includes a G. Loomis NRX854C jig and worm rod, a Shimano ChronarchD1007 casting reel and 150 yards of moss green Power Pro super-braid fishing line. If a Texas angler catches the largest entry of the season, that person also receives a lifetime fishing license.
ShareLunker program records include at least six fish that have been caught and entered into the program again. One fish, from Lake Alan Henry, was caught and entered into the program three years in a row.
Anyone legally catching a 13-pound or bigger largemouth bass from Texas waters, public or private, through 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.
ShareLunker entries are used in a selective breeding program at the TFFC. 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.
Click here 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.
Will Leschper is an award-winning member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America and the Texas Outdoor Writers Association. Follow him on Twitter.