Dec. 28, 2023
ATHENS – New Year’s Day arrives on Monday and with it comes the kickoff of the 38th Toyota ShareLunker season. Anglers from across Texas and the nation will cast their lines in anticipation of landing a Legacy Lunker largemouth bass (13-plus pounds) in Texas’ world-class fisheries.
The Toyota ShareLunker program has played an integral part in making Texas a destination for hundreds of thousands of anglers in search of this prized sport fish. Grabbing a pole, hitting the water and hauling in a 13-pound plus largemouth bass would be a great way to jumpstart the new year. The cast of the line, the lure landing just right on the water and a strike from a possible fish of a lifetime is what many anglers strive to experience.
“ShareLunker season sparks excitement, not just for big bass catches, but for a shared commitment to conservation,” said Natalie Goldstrohm, Toyota ShareLunker program coordinator. “Anglers, scientists, and industry partners unite to gather vital data for trophy bass management, stocking of world-class offspring, and critical genetics data to make bass fishing bigger and better in Texas. The 2023 season was full of achievements, and we are enthusiastic about what unfolds in 2024.”
The 2023 season was another banner year for the program, with multiple milestones reached and memories made by anglers working with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Inland Fisheries Division staff that make the program a success. Key highlights from the 2023 Toyota ShareLunker collection season include:
- A record 15 Legacy Class ShareLunkers produced from O.H. Ivie.
- Five fish weighing more than 14 pounds.
- Angler Kyle Hall recorded a Legacy Lunker in back-to-back seasons.
- Anglers Dalton Smith and Caden Cowan reeled in Legacy Lunkers at O.H. Ivie on the same day (Feb. 2).
- Anglers from seven states, including Texas, etched their name into the program’s record book: Texas, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Mexico and Washington.
- Anglers have submitted 650 Legacy Lunkers in the first 37 years of the ShareLunker program and during the 2022 and 2023 collection seasons, all the loaned fish were healthy and returned to the lake where they were caught.
During the first three months of the season (Jan. 1 through March 31), anglers who reel in a 13-plus 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 through March 31, 2024.
Anglers who catch and loan one of these 13-plus pound 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, a high-quality replica mount of their fish from Lake Fork Taxidermy, and Bass University will provide a swag pack and annual subscription. 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.
The year-round Toyota ShareLunker program offers four levels of participation for catching bass over eight pounds or 24-inches in Texas.
Anglers who enter data for any lunker they catch greater than eight pounds or 24-inches during the 2024 calendar year also receive a catch kit, a decal for their vehicle or boat, a one-month subscription to Bass University and an entry into the year-end Grand Prize Drawing to win a $5,000 Bass Pro Shops shopping spree. ShareLunker entry classes include the Bass Pro Shops Lunker Class (8 lb.+), Strike King Elite Class (10 lb.+), and Lew’s Legend Class (13 lb.+).
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 have the option to send a DNA scale sample from their lunker bass to TPWD researchers for genetic analysis. Anglers who contribute a sample to the program in 2024 will receive a Lew’s baitcast reel valued at up to $200 while supplies last, with a limit of one reel per angler. Anglers that send in a genetic sample will also get a three-month subscription to Bass University. Instructions for submitting DNA samples are located on the Toyota ShareLunker website.
As a of Dec. 11, the program has added 488 ShareLunker catches by 340 anglers across all size categories from 88 public waterbodies. Anglers landed 30 fish that tipped the scales at 13-plus pounds this year, including 18 Legacy and 12 Legend Class entries.
Shawn Strength from Raymond, Miss. submitted a massive Legend Class Lunker Nov. 15 from O.H. Ivie. His fish weighed in at 16.65 pounds and joined Texas’ Top 50 biggest largemouth bass of all-time list. Strength also collected a genetic sample from his catch and sent it to TPWD for analysis.
O.H. Ivie leads all waterbodies with 75 approved entries during the 2023 season.
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.
Additional vital program support comes from Legend class category sponsor Lew’s, Elite class category sponsor Strike King, Lunker class category sponsor Bass Pro Shops, American Fishing Tackle Co., Bass Forecast, Bass University, Lake Fork Taxidermy and 6th Sense Fishing. For updates on the Toyota ShareLunker Program, visit facebook.com/sharelunkerprogram/, https://www.instagram.com/TexasShareLunker/ or TexasSharelunker.com.