BALLINGER – O.H. Ivie Reservoir kick-started the second month of the 2023 Toyota ShareLunker collection season Thursday afternoon with a pair of Legacy Class Lunkers, followed by one on Friday and another on Sunday to close out the week. This run of Lunkers boosted O.H. Ivie’s season-leading total to six entries. With Lake Nacogdoches’ ShareLunker 634 from Jan. 23 added to the mix, the overall season total stands at seven.
Dalton Smith of Columbia, Kentucky, reeled in 14.76-pound ShareLunker 636 and Caden Cowan of Stephenville, Texas landed 13.31-pound ShareLunker 637 on Thursday. Brady Mabry of Crawford, Texas netted 14.01-pound ShareLunker 638 Friday and Yah-Tsheng Moua of Spokane, Washington, caught 13.05-pound ShareLunker 639 Sunday to close out the weekend.
“I received a call that Dalton had caught a potential Legacy Class ShareLunker and was bringing his catch to a certified scale,” said Natalie Goldstrohm, Toyota ShareLunker program coordinator. “Once we heard the certified weight, we started our trip to pick up Smith’s Lunker. Before we got out of the parking lot, another call came in about a second Legacy Class ShareLunker caught by Caden and his was at the same marina. To get two Legacy Class Lunkers from the same lake in one day within an hour of each other is hard to believe — to have four Legacy Lunkers caught in four days is incredible.”
Smith is no stranger to O.H. Ivie and catching fish over 14 pounds. Smith recorded not one, but two Legend Class Lunkers on Dec. 30, right before the 2023 collection season opened. The first fish of that preseason December event topped the scales a 14.69 pounds and 26.50 inches, followed by the second at 14.27 pounds and 25.50 inches. Smith’s trip to O.H. Ivie Thursday netted him his first Legacy Class Lunker.
“The lake has been fishing pretty tough due to some abnormally warm weather,” said Smith. “With the cold front coming in, I knew things could turn around, so when the ice melted this afternoon, I headed out to the lake. I immediately went to some spots where I knew Lunker-sized fish were that just weren’t biting. Today she bit on the first cast that I threw to her, she jumped, and I fought her for a good while before I netted her.”
Smith celebrated the catch and began making the necessary phone calls to officially weigh and submit the fish to the ShareLunker program.
“I’ve always thought highly of the ShareLunker program with everything they do for the genetics and conservation here in Texas,” said Smith. “I was really looking forward to catching a Legacy Class fish and have the experience of being a part of this program.”
Cowan, who is friends with Smith and fished against him in college, saw Smith at the boat ramp bringing in the Lunker. Cowan then carried in a Legacy Class fish of his own a few minutes later, a personal best, after battling elements of the ice storm since Monday afternoon.
“I arrived at the lake and there were six other guys there,” said Cowan. “We were iced in, so we fished all week together and each night we hung out and talked about catching a ShareLunker. The night before the catch, Dalton [Smith] and I spoke about how we were going to catch a ShareLunker — the next day we both got it done.”
Following his quick conversation with Smith on Thursday at the boat ramp, Cowan immediately headed towards his spot on the lake.
“Once I arrived at the location, I landed my fish on an A-Rig in 14-feet of water and quickly made my way back to the ramp,” said Cowan. “We both weighed our fish together, so it was an awesome experience and a great week fishing the elements. TPWD staff arrived less than an hour after I caught the fish to collect it. They were great to work with and it’s exciting to be able to participate in the ShareLunker program.”
The following morning, Mabry headed to the lake with a lot of confidence that it would be a good day to fish due to the cold front arriving earlier in the week. His hunch was correct. Mabry landed several fish that morning and then came his catch of a lifetime, ShareLunker 638.
“I found some new spots that I had never fished before and knew exactly where I wanted to go,” said Mabry. “Before I caught the Lunker, I was having an incredible morning and one of the better days I’ve ever had fishing. I moved 300–400 feet away from where I was fishing and stopped getting bites, so I went back to my original location — that’s when I caught it.”
Once Mabry boated the fish, he immediately thought of the ShareLunker program and keeping the fish healthy to submit it. He had entered a 10.01-pound Elite Class fish on Jan. 19 from O.H. Ivie and knew exactly what to do.
“From the time I started bass fishing, I really wanted to provide an entry into the ShareLunker program,” said Mabry. “My son and I went to the Bassmaster Classic and visited the ShareLunker booth. We were intrigued by the program and the genetics behind it, but the outreach and the resources that TPWD invests into the fishing community is really what caught our attention. It gives us something as a family, along with my best friend Cade Wilson, to chase.”
Mabry said there had been a lot of discussion about what it would take to catch a ShareLunker.
“I’m very excited to bring my family to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in a couple of weeks to see the fish there,” he said.
Moua and his friend began planning their trip to O.H. Ivie a few months ago, hoping for a catch of a lifetime. Moua ended up shattering his previous personal best record of 7.5 pounds with his catch on Sunday.
“We were seeing a lot of big fish suspended, roaming through a tree line,” said Moua. “I saw one sitting out there about 40-feet out and threw an A-rig over the top of her. It was the right cast and the right fish, and she turned and ate on it right away. I set the hook … everything seemed to happen so fast. The first thing I said when we got the fish in the boat was, ‘We got it done.’”
Moua and his friend made the trip to Texas because O.H. Ivie provided an opportunity for them to achieve personal bests.
“We wanted to give ourselves a shot to up our personal bests because we knew the potential here,” said Moua. “I went in with no expectations and just fished hard. I was blown away by the ShareLunker program and wish we had something like this in Washington. I appreciate the fact that the ShareLunker program takes really good care of the fish and was very impressed with how thorough TPWD staff is with every detail. Overall, this was a great experience.”
O.H. Ivie’s incredible run continues after producing two dozen combined ShareLunkers in the past two seasons, including a new waterbody record of 17.06 pounds in 2022. It was the biggest catch in 30 years and the seventh-largest largemouth bass ever verified in Texas in public or private waters.
During the first three months of the season (January through March), anglers who reel in a 13-plus pound bass can loan it to TPWD for the ShareLunker selective breeding and stocking program. These anglers call the ShareLunker hotline at (903) 681-0550 to report their catch 24/7 through March 31.
Anglers who catch and donate one of these 13-plus pound Lunkers earn Legacy Class status, a catch kit filled with merchandise, a 13-plus 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. These anglers will also receive entries into two separate contests — a Legacy Class drawing and the year-end Grand Prize drawing. First place in either wins a $5,000 Bass Pro Shops shopping spree and a resident (or non-resident) annual fishing license.
The year-round Toyota ShareLunker program offers four levels of participation for catching bass over eight pounds or 24 inches in Texas. In addition to Legacy Class (13-plus pounds between January and March), ShareLunker entry classes include the Lunker Class (8-plus pounds), Elite Class (10-plus pounds), and Legend Class (13-plus pounds from April to December).
Anglers who enter data for any Lunker they catch (greater than eight pounds or 24 inches) during the calendar year 2023 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.
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 basic catch information, anglers can also provide a DNA scale sample from their Lunker bass to TPWD researchers for genetic analysis.
A new procedure is in effect for the 2023 season. Legend Class ShareLunkers no longer need to be weighed on a certified scale for entry. Anglers must include a photo of their Lunker on a digital scale to qualify for Legend Class.
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.