AUSTIN – Beginning in 2018, the Toyota ShareLunker program launched a new year-round participation season that encourages Texas anglers to share information about their big bass catches with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) in exchange for prizes and recognition. So far, anglers have entered nearly 300 largemouth bass ranging from 8 to 15.48 pounds from 64 water bodies across the state.
Of the fish entered so far, 194 qualified as “Lunker Class,” or 8 pounds or larger; 72 qualified as “Lunker Elite Class,” or 10 pounds or larger; three qualified as “Lunker Legend Class,” or 13 pounds or larger; and six qualified as “Lunker Legacy Class,” those over 13 pounds loaned to TPWD for the selective breeding and stocking program.
“Stocking offspring from the Lunker Legacy Class entries we collect during the spawning season is incredibly important to fulfill our mission of creating bigger, better bass in Texas, but the size and genetic data we collect from all of the entries 8 pounds and larger is another important piece of the puzzle,” said Kyle Brookshear, Toyota ShareLunker Program Coordinator. “In addition to helping us evaluate the impact of the ShareLunker offspring we’ve stocked since the beginning of the program, it allows our biologists to better understand the Lunker bass potential of a reservoir, as traditional population sampling methods do not collect consistent data on bass 8 pounds and larger.”
Anglers can enter Lunker bass in the program year-round using the Toyota ShareLunker app – available for free download from the Apple App Store and Google Play – or by using a form online. The digital entry forms on both platforms allow anglers to quickly and easily submit photos of the fish being properly measured, weighed and held. These forms also include simple instructions for anglers who would like to provide a sample of fish scales from their Lunker bass to TPWD researchers for genetic analysis.
Anglers receive a prize package for every certified Lunker bass they enter throughout the year. This package includes a Toyota ShareLunker Catch Kit containing branded merchandise, an achievement decal, merchandise and other giveaways; as well as an entry into the year-end ShareLunker Prize Drawing for an annual fishing license and $5,000 Bass Pro Shops shopping spree.
“All of the corporate sponsors that support our program help us greatly in our efforts to make the best bass fishing possible in Texas,” Brookshear said. “The Bass Pro Shops shopping spree is the icing on the cake – we are very grateful to be able to offer that and other exciting prizes to recognize bass anglers in Texas and encourage participation in our program.”
The six anglers who entered a Lunker Legacy Class fish through the entry cutoff date March 31 were eligible for an even bigger prize package that included a replica of their fish presented on stage at Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest in May. These anglers were also entered into a separate $5,000 Bass Pro Shops shopping spree drawing, won by ShareLunker 572 angler Michael Terrebonne of Cut Off, La.
Each of the six Lunker Legacy Class fish loaned to TPWD in 2018 have since been released back into their home lakes, which includes Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Kurth Reservoir, Twin Buttes Reservoir and Lake Fork. These lakes will receive a portion of the offspring produced from spawning the fish at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center hatchery based on the number of fish entered. Other pure Florida largemouth bass offspring from the Kurth Reservoir fish will be retained as hatchery broodstock so that TPWD can stock these big bass by the millions statewide in coming years.
The Toyota ShareLunker Program is made possible by a grant to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation from Gulf States Toyota. Toyota is a longtime supporter of the Foundation and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, providing major funding for a wide variety of education, fish, parks and wildlife projects.
For program updates, photos and to keep up with Texas Lunker catches, join the ShareLunker community online.