AUSTIN – In less than a week, the second Legacy Class largemouth bass of the 2021 Toyota ShareLunker season was reeled in at Lake Austin Thursday evening January 14. Angler CJ Oates, from Lago Vista, Texas, caught the 13.02-pounder just a few days after “ShareLunker 586” was claimed at Sam Rayburn.
“It was a last-minute decision whether to fish Lake Travis or Austin,” said Oates. “Luckily my good buddy John Davilla talked me into Austin. The bites started off very slow and at the first 5 spots we hit we had nothing. Around 9:30, BOOM, he catches a 11.30-pound giant on a glide bait swimming it next to a dock. We yelled, high-fived, took pictures, and then waited about 15 minutes before hitting that same dock. Low and behold, two casts later the fish of a lifetime. I then called Texas Parks and Wildlife, spoke to Kyle [Brookshear] and the rest is history! The ShareLunker program is truly a great program.”
After being notified on Thursday evening, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Inland Fisheries biologists quickly obtained and transported “ShareLunker 587” to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens. This spring, TPWD biologists will attempt to spawn her in an effort to make bigger, better bass that will enhance fishing in Texas lakes for years to come.
“ShareLunker is off to a great start for 2021,” said Toyota ShareLunker Program Coordinator, Kyle Brookshear. “The warmer than average weather patterns that we have had throughout the fall and winter seems to already have the bass looking towards spring. Lake Austin has historically been a very productive fishery for ShareLunker, and we are excited to see it produce the second entry of the 2021 collection season. Anglers and biologists are hoping to keep this pace throughout the remainder of the season and continue to make bigger, better bass fishing in Texas.”
Thursday’s catch by Oates was the first Legacy Class largemouth on Lake Austin since 2014. Robert Whitehead caught SL555 that weighed in at 13.19 pounds with a length of 27.28 inches on February 21 of the 2014 season. Lake Austin’s all-time Legacy Class total now stands at 21 bass over 13-pounds since the program started in 1986.
“Since the lake lost its submerged aquatic vegetation, bass fishing has been tougher as the fish adapted to changes in habitat, and they were harder to find,” said Patrick Ireland, a District Supervisor for the TPWD Inland Fisheries Division. “We see the capture of this 13.02-pound bass and the 11.30-pound bass caught the same night as a positive sign for the fishery. It is a work-in-progress, but we are committed to restoring the level of trophy bass production in this lake.”
During the first three months of the season (Jan. 1 through March 31), anglers who reel in a 13+ pound bass can loan it to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for the ShareLunker selective breeding and stocking program. These anglers can call the ShareLunker hotline at (903) 681-0550 to report their catch 24/7 until April 1, 2021.
Anglers who catch and donate one of these 13+ lunkers earn Legacy Class status, receive a catch kit filled with merchandise, a 13lb+ Legacy decal for their vehicle or boat, VIP access to the Toyota ShareLunker Annual Awards event and a high-quality replica of their lunker fish. These anglers will also receive entries into two separate drawings; a Legacy Class Drawing and the year-end Grand Prize Drawing. Both drawings will award the winner a $5,000 Bass Pro Shops shopping spree and an annual fishing license.
Anglers who enter data for any lunker they catch greater than 8 lbs. or 24 inches during the calendar year 2021 also receive a catch kit, a decal for their vehicle or boat and an entry into the year-end Grand Prize Drawing to win a $5,000 Bass Pro Shops shopping spree and annual fishing license. ShareLunker entry classes include the Lunker Class (8lb+), Elite Class (10lb+), and Legend Class (13lb+).
Once a lunker is reeled in, anglers need to enter the catch data on the Toyota ShareLunker mobile app – available for free from the Apple App Store and Google Play – or on the Toyota ShareLunker online app at TexasSharelunker.com. In addition to providing basic catch information, anglers can also provide a DNA scale sample from their lunker bass to TPWD researchers for genetic analysis.
The Toyota ShareLunker Program is made possible in part by the generous sponsorship of Toyota. Toyota is a longtime supporter of Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, providing major funding for a wide variety of fisheries, state parks and wildlife projects.
Prize donors Bass Pro Shops, Lake Fork Taxidermy, American Fishing Tackle Co. and Stanley Jigs also provide additional support for this program.