Big bass bite on a full moon

Ryder Wicker caught this lake record 13.07-pound bass

Bass fishing on Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend continues to be good, with some pretty solid fish being caught on a variety of lures, from jigs to deep diving cranks. This past weekend, the Texas Team Trail held a tourney on Toledo Bend, and the first-place team weighed in five bass at 30.09 pounds. During the tourney, five bass weighing over 9 pounds were caught, with the heaviest going 10.58.

Fort Worth angler Ryder Wicker recently caught the first Toyota ShareLunker of the 2017 season at Marine Creek Lake. But this wasn’t the only “first” he checked off the list – this particular fish outweighs the former water body record holder by more than 2 pounds, and is the first ShareLunker caught from a group of selectively bred largemouth bass that were stocked by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department 11 years ago.

Ryder says he caught the big bass on his fourth cast of the day with a jerk-bait in roughly 10 feet of water. He called TPWD immediately, and within minutes a local biologist was on-site to verify the new catch.

When TPWD’s Tom Hungerford arrived at the lake, he heard a telling sound when he ran a wand over the bass. He said a tag could only mean one thing – this fish was stocked in 2006 as part of a research project to evaluate the growth of selectively-bred, faster growing Florida largemouth bass in public reservoirs.

“It takes a long time to see some of these results, but to start seeing them now is really exciting,” Hungerford said. “This was one of the goals of the research project.”

“At the time we thought, ‘Can we do this? Can we selectively breed these fish to make them grow bigger and faster?’” Hungerford added. “To see it come to fruition is very exciting.”

Michael Baird, a TPWD Inland Fisheries biologist from the Waco District who was also involved with the research project 11 years ago, said this catch is an important milestone in what has been a years long wait to see the results from the initial stocking of Marine Creek Lake and other locations in Texas.

“It’s pretty cool that 11 years later, an angler may have caught one of those fish,” Baird said. “That’s a milestone of its own – but it also could be the first one we’ve confirmed from any of the reservoirs we stocked in the state.”

The fin clip from the fish was sent to a lab at the A.E. Wood Laboratory in San Marcos, where biologists used genetic analysis to confirm parentage as well as the date and location it was originally stocked. The genetic link was confirmed Feb. 17 – this was a daughter produced by ShareLunker 410 and a male fish with a more esoteric name, 0LB-0504.

After collecting this latest fish from the lake, it was transported to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens by program coordinator Kyle Brookshear, where he said the staff would “get her comfortable, monitor her and ensure she’s healthy” before pairing her up to spawn.

TFFC staff who met with the angler on-site said he noted on a form that the program could keep the fish for spawning and possibly as an exhibit fish at the TFFC after spawning.

“We are extremely excited because this fish represents a long line of ShareLunker fish donors that have participated in the program over the past 30 years that have led to this catch and a lake record falling,” Brookshear said.

At 25.6 inches long and 21.6 inches in girth, the 13.07-pound fish would break the water body record at Marine Creek Lake, which is currently held by a 25 inch long, 10.78-pound bass caught in 2003 by angler Josh Sneed.

Meanwhile on Lake Conroe, many anglers are wondering if one of the Bass Classic contenders will luck into catching a 13-pound-plus bass for the TPWD ShareLunker Program. This is where 52 of the nation’s best bass anglers will compete March 24-26 in the Classic.

“I think we are going to see very big bass come weigh in time in Houston, maybe a ShareLunker,” said Dave Terre, with TPWD. “At Conroe, March is the prime month for that to occur.”

Established in 1986, the agency’s Toyota ShareLunker program encourages the catch and release of large fish and uses bass of 13 pounds or heavier for selective breeding, before being returned to the fishery from which they were caught. Of the 17 ShareLunkers caught at Conroe, five were taken during the month of March. The latest, a 13.14-pounder, was caught in early April 2015.

Terre explained that Conroe’s rise as a world-class fishery was no accident. “Making big bass and great fishing are products of good fisheries management and partners working together on fish habitat,” he said.