ATHENS – Five new ShareLunkers landed in angler boats during the first two weeks of March, continuing a hot stretch for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s (TPWD) 2022 Toyota ShareLunker collection season.
O.H. Ivie Lake’s unprecedented run of Legacy Class Lunkers powered forward with two more, followed by Lake Austin, with its first of 2022. Possum Kingdom racked up its fourth Legacy fish, and Lake Nacogdoches saw its first entry of the 2022 collection season. The March run comes on the heels of five in the final week of February.
O.H. Ivie registered its ninth and tenth Legacy fish in 2022, and 22nd in the past two seasons when 16.10-pound ShareLunker 624 landed March 1 in the boat of Kyle Hall. It also became the third fish to join the list of Top-50 Texas largemouth bass this season. Bo Cocannouer then delivered 14.82-pound ShareLunker 627 Thursday March 10 for O.H. Ivie in this current run of five.
Meanwhile, Lake Austin produced a Legacy Lunker for the second consecutive year thanks to angler Josh Irvine and his 13.96-pound ShareLunker 625 March 2. C.J. Oates of Lago Vista, Texas put Lake Austin back on the board last January with ShareLunker 587 after a gap in Legacy Class Lunkers. Jay Calvert of Coldspring, Texas capped week one of the month when he reeled in 14.34-pound ShareLunker 626 from Sam Rayburn March 6.
Kellie Renfro of Lufkin, Texas became the first female angler since 2018 to reel in a Legacy Class Lunker when she caught 13.27-pound ShareLunker 628 March 10 at Lake Nacogdoches. Stacy Spriggs of Huntsville, Texas caught 13.06-pound ShareLunker 576 at Sam Rayburn on the final day of the 2018 collection season. Renfro’s Legacy Lunker is the fifth overall from Lake Nacogdoches and first since 2020.
At this time, TPWD Inland Fisheries personnel have made the decision to halt the transport of ShareLunker’s across the state for the remainder of the 2022 season. However, Legacy Class ShareLunker submissions will still be processed on site by TPWD, meaning biologists will meet the angler to take measurements, record official weight and collect genetic samples for analysis. Anglers can then return their fish to the lake.
Anglers submitting Legacy class lunkers will still receive a catch kit filled with merchandise, a 13+ pound Legacy decal for their vehicle or boat, VIP access to the Toyota ShareLunker Annual Awards event and a high-quality replica mount of their Lunker fish from Lake Fork Taxidermy. 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.
“It’s been great to see the momentum of February carry over into March,” said Kyle Brookshear, Toyota ShareLunker Program Manager. “It’s exciting to witness O.H. Ivie’s run continue, but it’s equally rewarding to see other waterbodies like Sam Rayburn, Lake Austin, and Lake Nacogdoches be in the spotlight as well. With a little over two weeks left in the season, it’s looking like we will have another record-breaking collection season, possibly surpassing last year’s Legacy Class total.”
Hall, who hails from Granbury, Texas, fished at O.H. Ivie on Monday with an initial plan to leave Tuesday morning. However, when an eight- and nine-pound largemouth bass made their way into the boat, he shifted gears to stay and see if his catch of a lifetime was on the horizon. Hall’s decision to stick around certainly paid off.
“I figured that with the two fish I caught on Monday, if I stayed around long enough, I would get the 13-pound fish I’d been praying for over the last month,” said Hall. “Early on I wasn’t getting nearly the amount of bites or even follows that I had the previous day. There was a lot of pressure where I was fishing so around 11 a.m. I decided to find a spot in a more secluded area. I located three fish, and using an Alabama Rig, I caught all of them and the third was a 16-pounder. It still hasn’t quite set in for me yet.”
Hall fished O.H. Ivie for the first time last year and returned to fish the lake again about a month ago. This trip led to his first ShareLunker and personal best largemouth bass.
“Even though they aren’t taking any more fish from O.H. Ivie, my experience with TPWD personnel was outstanding,” added Hall. “They met me with the fish to take DNA samples along with measurements before allowing me to return the fish to the water. The fish care was exceptional, and they were able to get everything done quickly in order to get her back into her natural habitat.”
Irvine, from Leander, Texas has been an avid fisherman for more than 22 years and landed a previous personal best 7.11-pound largemouth bass almost 18 years ago. He has been on the search for a new one since, but never imagined it would be a 13.96-pound Legacy ShareLunker.
Irvine was initially fishing up in a creek arm, but as the sun was going down, he started moving out to the mouth of the creek channel and into the main river channel.
“I was getting ready to pack up and head home when I heard some schooling fish up around the point of the creek,” said Irvine. I threw a few baits and nothing, so I picked up my jig. I let it sit for a few seconds and started slow crawling it back to the boat when my pole was nearly jerked out of my hand. I set the hook and began the fight. After the initial hook set, the ole’ girl came to the top and showed herself. Once she got to the top of the water, I leaned into my rod and started reeling as fast as I could, keeping as much tension as possible. She came right to the boat and scooped her up in the net flawlessly. The fight lasted only 30 — 45 seconds but seemed like eternity. Once the fish was landed, I couldn’t even speak.”
Irvine knew immediately it was a huge fish and put her in the livewell, followed by a call to Kyle Brookshear the Toyota ShareLunker Program Manager. Brookshear guided him to the weigh station to certify the weight at the 360 Bridge.
“Once certified, the team from San Marcos headed my way,” added Irvine. “I must say that the experience with the biologists was as exciting as catching the fish, almost! The personnel who showed up promptly inspected the fish in my livewell and determined that she was in great shape. I was asked to remove her from the livewell and we took some photos and they placed her in the tank for transport. The biologists took some time to talk to us and it was a very unique experience that I will remember for a lifetime. TPWD and this program have become the envy of all other states across this nation. I firmly believe in it, and it was my honor to donate this Legacy so that future generations can have a shot at something even bigger.”
Calvert was on the water at Sam Rayburn, competing in a tournament, when he landed his fish of a lifetime. The day was even more special because one of his sons was with him on the boat and the catch helped lead the father-son duo to a tournament championship.
“I just don’t know how it could get much better than that,” said Calvert. “We were at our first spot waiting for the first cast when we started noticing fish activity around the boat. Our first few minutes were spent throwing several different rigs and lures to figure out what they wanted. My son, Shane, caught the first fish of the day on a Carolina rig while I continued to throw various other setups. Shane caught another fish, so I said to him, “ok, that’s the deal.” I picked up my Carolina rig and after just a few casts, I got the bite. My son didn’t believe it was a fish and thought I was hung up. I told him I had a monster and to get ready. The fight I will never forget came next.”
Additionally, Calvert thoroughly enjoyed getting to be a part of the ShareLunker program.
“Big thanks to Clint Wade of Outlaw Outdoors as he was very helpful through the whole process. Of course, a big thanks to the ShareLunker program as well. With the lunker bunker being full, they still came out and certified the fish and recognized it. We were able to release the fish back into Sam Rayburn, healthy and happy.”
Cocannouer, who resides in Tuttle, Oklahoma, arrived at O.H. Ivie Tuesday in search of his catch of a lifetime. Cocannouer and some friends began fishing O.H. Ivie last year and landed a couple of fish right at the 10-pound mark. Even though conditions were tough, he was able to locate the fish on a bed Wednesday before returning to that spot on the lake Thursday.
“She was a little more aggressive and after about 10 minutes of working with her I got her to bite,” said Cocannouer. “I was using a Nest Raider with a V and M J-bug trailer on it and ended up getting her into the boat. I only had two fish, including her, that I had caught, but it only takes the one bite, and you have a fish of a lifetime. I’ve fished all over the country for 20 years and never had a fish this big before.”
Cocannouer was also very impressed with the ShareLunker program.
“The TPWD personnel were awesome,” added Cocannouer. “They were out on the water doing some surveys and stopped what they were doing to come over to take care of certifying the fish. This is a great program and I wish every state had something like what Texas is doing. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is top notch. The fishing in the state was already great, but a program like this makes it even better.”
Renfro and her husband Brandon decided to go on a last-minute fishing trip Lake Nacogdoches. They had a couple of hours prior to their kid’s baseball practice and wanted to make the most of it.
“We stopped on a secondary point where my husband made a cast and caught a two-pounder, said Renfro. “My husband told me to come up to the front of the boat and cast, so I did. I felt a small bite, set the hook and thought that I was hung up, so I turned to my husband and said, I’ve hooked a stump. Seconds later that’s when she started pulling drag that’s when I realized I had just hooked into the largest fish I have ever felt, and the fight was on. After my husband scrambled getting the net out of the rod box, she took me around the boat once after jumping twice. She came up and that’s when my husband made the perfect scoop to get her in the boat. We were in shock I still cannot believe I’ve caught a fish of a lifetime.”
Renfro made the catch on a V & M baby swamp Hawg watermelon red, using 12-pound P- line Floroclear and my dobyns spinning rod paired with her Lews spinning reel. Once the fish was secured and weighed, a call to the Toyota ShareLunker program was made.
“A big thanks to Brandon Belt with the San Francisco giants and Brandon Belt fishing for being at the lake at the time she was caught and helping hoist her up on the dock for the official weight,” added Renfro. “We contacted the ShareLunker program and they sent down someone from TFFC to weigh and collect data from the fish. She was released back into the lake Nacogdoches for another fisherman to catch another day.”
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 TPWD 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.
The year-round Toyota ShareLunker program offers four levels of participation for catching bass over eight pounds or 24 inches in Texas. ShareLunker entry classes include the Lunker Class (8lb+), Elite Class (10lb+), and Legend Class (13lb+). The 2022 season offers an opportunity to join the special club of premier anglers who have submitted a Legacy Class ShareLunker.
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 the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation and TPWD, providing major funding for a wide variety of fisheries, state parks and wildlife projects.
Prize donors including Bass Pro Shops, Lake Fork Taxidermy, American Fishing Tackle Co., Stanley Jigs and Sixth Sense Lures also provide additional support for this program. For updates on the Toyota ShareLunker Program, visit facebook.com/sharelunkerprogram/ or TexasSharelunker.com.