March Brings Another Run of ShareLunkers, Including a Triple Crown from O.H. Ivie and Milestone ShareLunker 600
ATHENS – The Legacy Lunkers continue to roll in with a run of five over last weekend, including three from O.H. Ivie, giving the lake nine during the 2021 Toyota ShareLunker season. The program had a run of eight in just over a week’s time to close out February, with six being landed at O.H. Ivie.
Additionally, Lake Fork got on the board for the first time this year, Coleman City Lake produced its first ever Legacy Lunker, and milestone “ShareLunker 600” was caught during this latest run. The 2021 season total now stands at 17 with time remaining in March for more.
Lake Fork was the site for No. 13 of the 2021 Toyota ShareLunker season Thursday night. It was the first time since the 2019 season for Lake Fork, when ShareLunker 579 was reeled in on Mar. 8 of that year.
Stan Tencza of Yantis, Texas has been fishing Lake Fork for about six years and logged “ShareLunker 598,” which tipped the scales at 13.06 pounds. Tencza used a white chatterbait to record his catch, setting a new personal best for largemouth bass. His previous personal record was a 10.7-pounder three years ago during the day. However, most of the fishing Tencza has done over the last four to five years has been at night.
“I live on the lake and unfortunately haven’t had much of a chance to fish so far this year, but finally got out Thursday night,” said Tencza. “It was my first night to night fish this year and I started the evening throwing out big swimbaits. We were about to give up, but then I heard some shad busting the water and switched over to a white chatterbait with a spin tail trailer. On the second cast I threw it out there, let it fall to the bottom and lifted up to get it up off the bottom. I think I got a reaction bite as she probably watched it fall before grabbing it. The excitement was overwhelming to say the least. Overall, I think it was the best night of my life.”
Barry Prince of Lindale, Texas caught the last Lunker to come out of legendary Lake Fork, which was in 2019. His weighed in at 13.73 pounds and at the time was the 264th Legacy Lunker from the lake. Tencza’s catch Thursday night became the 265th in the history of the program at Lake Fork. Similar to O.H. Ivie’s six Legacy Lunkers at the end of February, Lake Fork had an incredible run of eight consecutive Legacy Lunkers during February 1995 into early March of that year.
Angler Travis Gill of Amarillo, Texas put the seventh Legacy Lunker in the books for O.H. Ivie during the 2021 Toyota ShareLunker season Saturday evening. Gill’s “ShareLunker 599” registered on the scales at 14.4 pounds and helped Gill along with his father win big fish of the tournament and place first overall for the weekend.
“I’ve been fishing with my dad for as long as I can remember,” said Gill. “We started tournament fishing about 6 years ago with the Golden Spread Bassmasters Club out of Amarillo, Texas. Saturday morning, we were in a tournament at O.H. Ivie and pulled up to a spot we had picked out. Within 15 minutes, we caught a couple of good fish in the 4-5-pound range. We then moved on to our next spot on a point and that’s where it happened. I threw one of my favorite custom jigs into a tree and set the hook on the biggest bass I have ever seen! She came up to the top, danced around a little and went back down. She went from one side of the boat to the other and everywhere in the lake except the net! Finally, after what seemed like forever, we landed the fish and got her in the boat. We put the fish in the live well and took extra care of her until weigh in. It was a trip I will remember forever, and I’m glad I was able to share it with my dad and the good guys of Golden Spread.”
Jason Gaston of San Angelo, Texas pulled in the milestone “ShareLunker 600” on Sunday at O.H. Ivie. It was the first of two caught on Sunday at O.H. Ivie and second up to that point for the weekend. The Legacy Lunker weighed in at 13.76 pounds.
“I started off the day before meeting Josh Folks at Academy from Louisiana”, said Gaston. “We talked and he invited me to fish and show him around the lake. We were complete strangers going out on the lake to enjoy a windy day of fishing. We started off the morning pulling in 3-7-pound fish, but while sitting in the trees with a couple casts, landed this big girl with a Texas rig worm “Tequila Sunrise.” After a battle of her running back and forth, Josh broke the net trying to get her in. My heart was beating so fast when I set eyes on her in the boat.”
It wasn’t long before “ShareLunker 601” was safely into the boat of Jim Smith from Weatherford, Texas. The Legacy Lunker was the third caught by angler at O.H. Ivie over the weekend and checked in at 14.42-pounds, a personal record for Smith who had only ever fished O.H. Ivie for a couple of hours in 2007.
“We started off in Elm Creek and were looking for some deeper water coming next to the shoreline. We began with some moving baits and had some success bringing in smaller fish. My friend Rob hooked a fish that snapped his rod and he started hand lining the fish he had through three trees and brush into the boat. When he got it into the boat, I set the hook on the Lunker about the same time. Rob grabbed the net and we knew it was a big fish because it didn’t come up to the surface at all and the rod was bent pretty good. The battle lasted two to three minutes and Rob was able to get it in the net and then into the boat. Neither one of us had seen a fish of that size in person. We immediately provided fish care and handed it off to Texas Parks and Wildlife personnel who did an outstanding job of caring for the fish. Overall, it was a wonderful experience.”
The historic Sunday wrapped up when C.R. Stevenson III of Clyde, Texas recorded a new Coleman City Lake record with ShareLunker 602. The scales displayed a weight of 14.83-pounds, making it the first Legacy Lunker in the history of the lake. The previous lake record was 12.98 pounds, just shy of Legacy/Legend Lunker status. It was also a personal best for Stevenson in terms of weight for a largemouth bass.
“We got to the lake around noon and started fishing for crappie, but we weren’t having success with it,” said Stevenson. “I switched to a Texas rig with a pumpkin seed colored worm and was casting over towards the bank. As soon as I felt the bite, I tried to set the hook and missed her. I reset the bait, tossed it back out, let it sit there, and eventually she bit again. This time I was able to set the hook and the battle started. She ran under the boat and I thought I was going to lose her, but I didn’t and finally got her landed. This was certainly an experience and catch of a lifetime.”
After being notified by the anglers, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Inland Fisheries biologists quickly obtained and transported the ShareLunkers to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens, Texas. This spring, TPWD biologists will attempt to spawn it in an effort to make bigger, better bass that will enhance fishing in Texas lakes for years to come.
“The 2021 season is turning out to be a banner year for the ShareLunker Program,” said Kyle Brookshear, Toyota ShareLunker program coordinator. “Not only were we able to reach the milestone of 600 Legacy Class ShareLunkers, we also had three caught within a matter of a few hours of each other. With just under 2 weeks left in the collection season, we are eager to see what the final number of Legacy Lunkers will be.”
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, 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 TPWD, 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. For updates on the Toyota ShareLunker Program, visit facebook.com/sharelunkerprogram/ or TexasSharelunker.com .
For pictures of all of the Legacy Class ShareLunkers caught during the 2021 season, visit the TPWD Flickr album here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmTzg7fF.