AUSTIN – If any superstitious anglers are wondering whether the Leap Day weekend is lucky or unlucky for catching the fish of a lifetime, two Texas bass anglers just made the answer very clear.
Angler Joe Castle caught the first Legacy Class Toyota ShareLunker entry of the weekend – a whopping 15.34 pound, 27.5 inch largemouth bass – on a Senko wacky rig in three feet of water at Lake Nacogdoches while fishing on his Leap Year birthday Feb. 29. ShareLunker 583 is the second Toyota ShareLunker Legacy Class entry of the year and the new pending water body record for the lake.
“My initial reaction was that it was a double-digit bass, but when I put it on the scale and realized just how big it is I about fell over,” Castle said. “After I put her in my live well and called someone to tell them what just happened, he thought I was lying. I sent him a picture of the scale and he said, ‘You need to call the ShareLunker program.”
Angler Blake Cockrell caught the second Legacy class fish of the weekend – a 13.28 pound, 26.5 inch largemouth bass – on a jig in 15 feet of water while fishing in a Lubbock BankLiners tournament at Lake Alan Henry March 1. If his name sounds familiar, it’s because ShareLunker 584 is now his second entry of the year from the same West Texas lake.
“I had only been fishing for five minutes on a single hook lure, and when she came up and turned, I knew it was a big fish,” Cockrell said. “I looked at the kid in the back of the boat with me and said ‘This is another ShareLunker…this really just happened again.’ After the first one, people had told me ‘you’re going to catch another one like this or you’ll never catch one again in your life’ – and I really wanted to catch one again.”
Now that he’s caught two in only a matter of weeks, Cockrell has some advice for anyone wanting to catch a ShareLunker: “You need to put your time in and learn from each and every trip…More time on the water and more knowledge will help get lucky.”
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Inland Fisheries biologists collected and transported both of the fish to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens, where biologists will attempt to spawn them and produce bigger, better bass to stock in and enhance fishing in Texas lakes.
ShareLunker 583 is the fourth Toyota ShareLunker Legacy Class entry from Lake Nacogdoches, but the first to be caught since it was stocked with thousands of selectively bred Toyota ShareLunker offspring in 2008. Among those fingerlings were the offspring of ShareLunker 446, a 13.05 pound bass caught on Richland Chambers Reservoir in March 9, 2008; and ShareLunker 450, a 14.50 pound bass caught at Tyler State Park just a week later.
“We will be performing genetic testing to determine if ShareLunker 583 is among those selectively-bred fingerlings that were stocked in Lake Nacogdoches in 2008,” said Kyle Brookshear, Toyota ShareLunker Program Coordinator. “We think the odds are pretty high that she is, considering that other Toyota ShareLunker entries have been produced by those fish in the last few years. She could be the sister to ShareLunker 567, a bass caught from Lake Naconiche in 2017 who was the daughter of ShareLunker 446.”
Anglers who catch a 13 pound or larger Legacy Class bass through March 31 can enter by calling the program directly – any time of day – at (903) 681-0550.
Every angler who loans a 13 pound or larger Legacy Class bass to the Toyota ShareLunker program during the spawning period Jan. 1 to March 31 will receive a Toyota ShareLunker Catch Kit containing branded merchandise and fishing tackle items, a 13lb+ Legacy decal, VIP access to awards programming at the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest, a replica of their fish, and an entry into the year-end ShareLunker Prize Drawing to win a $5,000 shopping spree and an annual fishing license. These anglers will also be entered into the Legacy Class Prize Drawing for a $5,000 shopping spree and an annual fishing license at the end of the spawning period March 31.
Anglers who catch a largemouth bass over 8 pounds or 24 inches can also enter their fish into the program year-round for recognition and prizes and to provide catch and genetic data that helps fisheries biologists better manage lunker bass in Texas lakes. These entries can be submitted on the Toyota ShareLunker app – available for free download from the Apple App Store and Google Play – or on the Toyota ShareLunker website, https://texassharelunker.com/.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Toyota ShareLunker Program has been selectively breeding and stocking angler-caught largemouth bass over 13 pounds since 1986 with the goal of increasing the production of trophy-sized fish in Texas reservoirs.
The Toyota ShareLunker Program is made possible in part by the generous sponsorship of Toyota. Toyota is a longtime supporter of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, providing major funding for a wide variety of education, fish, parks and wildlife projects.
Prize sponsors Bass Pro Shops, Lake Fork Taxidermy, American Fishing Tackle Co. and Stanley Jigs also provide additional support for this program.