West Texas lake produces two Toyota ShareLunkers in less than a week

ATHENS, Texas — O.H. Ivie Reservoir sent another Toyota ShareLunker to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC) January 21, just five days after sending its first entry since 2002.

– Lake Mohave

Angler Wesley Pullig of Eden caught a 13.09-pound largemouth in 25 to 30 feet of 48-degree water using an X-Lock jig with Xcite Baits raptor tail craw. The fish, now Toyota ShareLunker 477, was 26.125 inches long and 19.75 inches in girth.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) inland fisheries biologist Mandy Scott saw the big fish explosion on O.H. Ivie coming years ago.

West Texas was coming off a drought that began in the late 1990s and continued after 2000. When rains did come in 2005, O.H. Ivie partially refilled, and that jumpstarted the largemouth bass population, Scott said. “We got about 15 feet of water that flooded saltcedar,” she said. “That benefited the spawns. We had bigger year classes, more bait fish and better habitat conditions overall.”

Before the rains came, Scott’s surveys and angler reports showed there were too many small fish in the lake, and they were growing slowly because of a lack of baitfish. “A lot of people thought we should have stocked bass after the lake rose, but it would have been a waste,” Scott said. “The water rise helped fish that were already there reproduce, and adding fingerlings might have hurt the growth of fish those fish. We decided to wait and let Mother Nature work. It’s hard to do that sometimes, especially when you are getting pressure from a lot of people to put something in.”

It’s also in human nature to want to help, and after the rains local bass clubs worked with Scott to take small fish caught in their tournaments on Ivie and release them into Twin Buttes Reservoir, which had gotten so low the bass population had dropped severely.

“The clubs were very cooperative and supportive,” she said. “It helped both lakes to do that.”

The proof that Scott’s strategy worked started coming in January 16, when Ben Blaine of Merkel caught Toyota ShareLunker 475, a 14.02-pound hog. Pullig’s fish confirms that was no fluke.

Pullig’s fish is the sixth to be entered into the Toyota ShareLunker program so far this season. Two have come from private lakes in East Texas, two from O.H. Ivie and two from Falcon International Reservoir.

Big bass seem to be everywhere in the state, and the traditional big bass lakes like Fork, Choke Canyon, Conroe and Amistad have yet to be heard from. ShareLunker program manager David Campbell isn’t given to making predictions, but he’s glad he has a new Toyota Tundra to pick up ShareLunkers. “It rides really well with a full tank of water,” he said.

By the time this season is over, Campbell will no doubt be happy to have a comfortable ride.

Anyone legally catching a 13-pound or bigger largemouth bass from Texas waters, public or private, between October 1 and April 30 may submit the fish to the Toyota ShareLunker program by calling program manager David Campbell at (903) 681-0550 or paging him at (888) 784-0600 and leaving a phone number including area code. Fish will be picked up by TPWD personnel within 12 hours.

For complete information and rules of the ShareLunker program, tips on caring for big bass and a recap of last year’s season, see http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/sharelunker. The site also includes a searchable database of all fish entered into the program along with pictures where available.

The Toyota ShareLunker Program is made possible by a grant to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation from Gulf States Toyota. Toyota is a long-time supporter of the Foundation and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, providing major funding for a wide variety of education, fish, parks and wildlife projects.

– Lake Mohave