During 1950’s the state of Texas baked under one of the most severe droughts in recorded history. In fact, areas around Lubbock endured one whole year (1952) without a single drop of rain. This drought severely affected Texas agriculture and dropped lake levels to all time lows creating shortages and the strict rationing of water.
Because Texas had outgrown its water supply in the 1950’s, the next few decades saw the completion of numerous man-made reservoirs across the Lone Star State. However, the native species of bass in Texas, including the northern largemouth and the Guadalupe Bass, were more adapted to living in smaller rivers and streams than in these new, vast expanses of water. Texas needed a fish that would adapt well to large lakes and reservoirs.
Therefore in 1971, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) brought the first Florida strain largemouth bass to Texas and stocked them in our newly built reservoirs. Over the next few years the Florida strain worked its way into the bass population and the fish grew bigger. The first indication of the success of the stocking program was seen in 1980 when Jim Kimbell broke the 37 year-old largemouth record (13.5 lbs.) with a 14.1 pound fish that he caught from Lake Monticello. Over the next twelve years the record books frequently changed when in 1992 Barry St. Clair caught the current state record (18.18 lbs.) from Lake Fork.
During this time, research confirmed that the practice of catch and release was a leading contributor to the number of trophy bass being caught. For example, to reach a weight of 13 pounds, a bass must live within 8 to 10 years; thus, the proper management of our resources was a necessity. In 1986 T.P.W.D. began the ShareLunker program with two goals in mind; to promote conservation and to selectively breed trophy bass for stocking in Texas lakes.
To be eligible for the ShareLunker program, anglers must catch a largemouth bass from Texas waters (public or private) 13 pounds or over between October 1st and April 30th. The fish must be weighed on certified scales and kept alive until T.P.W.D. officials arrive to transport the fish to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens, TX.
After the fish is bred by T.P.W.D. biologists, the angler will have the option of returning the bass back to its original body of water or donating it permanently to the program. Those catching a ShareLunker will receive a free fiberglass replica of the fish, ShareLunker apparel and recognition at the annual banquet. The heaviest ShareLunker fish of the year will also receive a lifetime fishing license from the state of Texas.
Last Friday Sam Callaway caught the highly coveted 500th ShareLunker weighing 13.34 pounds from O.H. Ivie Reservoir located east of San Angelo. This 500th fish came with a $500 per pound bounty. For his effort Mr. Callaway received a total of $6670. The fish marked the 14th ShareLunker to be entered from O.H. Ivie however nine of them were caught in 2010.
Locally, Lake Nocona holds the most current ShareLunker as a 13.34 pound bass was caught on March 29 of this year. Lake Ray Roberts has had four bass entered; however, the last one was caught on March 6, 2005.