The 2020 Toyota ShareLunker season is underway and although it’s now a year-round program, the best chance of catching a 13+ pound bass is from now through April during the spawn season.
Since 1986 the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has given replicas for those larger Florida-strain bass that were 13 pounds or better so they could place the into their fishery to produce fry and fingerlings that would be put back into Texas lakes. Texas was the first state to try the program and its success has spilled over into other states who now do the same thing.
In 2018 they expanded the ShareLunker program into three categories based on weight.
The Lunker Legends are reserved for bass 13 pounds and over. The Lunker Elite recognizes bass 10 pounds or better. And the Lunker Class is a bass that is at least eight pounds or 24 inches long.
All confirmed ShareLunker participants will receive a Catch Kit corresponding to their fish’s weight class. Each Catch Kit includes an achievement decal, merchandise and other giveaways. Plus, everyone who enters will be included in a grand prize drawing to win a $5,000 shopping spree and other prizes! And, anglers who donate their 13 pounds. or larger bass for spawning will be entered in an additional drawing to win a $5,000 shopping spree, VIP access and awards programming at the 2019 Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest and other prizes.
There have been 581 bass over 13 pounds registered in the ShareLunker program as of 2019. And only 49 have been caught between May and December.
There were five Legends turned in last year, including one from BASS Hall of Famer and former Elite fisherman Gary Klein on a private pond.
It’s no surprise that Lake Fork is the leading body of water with 261 ShareLunkers entered. And the first ShareLunker ever donated came from Fork and is still the largest bass caught on an artificial bait in the program. Mark Stevenson of Dallas caught a 17.67 female in 1986 on a Stanley Jig. And the jig has been the most popular bait used to catch the “lunkers.”
The largest was caught on a minnow in 1992. Barry St. Clair of Klondike, Texas caught a record setting 18.18 bass, also on Fork. Forty-three ShareLunkers have been caught on live or natural bait. Most on a shiner or a waterdog, which is like a salamander. The last lunker caught using natural bait was in 2013 and it’s the only one caught on a goldfish.
We have one Orange Countian on the Fork list. David Ozio of Vidor weighed in a 13.13 largemouth in 1995 on a Sassy Shad.
Sam Rayburn is tied with Alan Henry for second with 27 ShareLunkers. But in the last 11 years only five have been registered. The last one was caught by Stacy Spriggs in 2018 at 13.06 pounds.
County is represented very well at Rayburn with six entries.
Mark LeBlanc (above) caught a 13.59 in 2005.
Pruitt Perkins, 13.03, 1998
Joe Stidham, 13.02, 1998
Dave Hargrave, 13.64, 1997
Tommy Park, 13.00, 1996
Jim McDonald, 13.09, 1995
Seven ShareLunkers have been turned in at Toledo Bend and the last one registered was in 2014. No one from Orange County has made that list…yet.
-Gary Stelly, KOGT-