Jonney Smoldas from Crockett, Texas was doing some fishing on Saturday afternoon (February 19), and he managed to accomplish something that hasn't been done in over 30 years.  Smoldas landed a bass that was the first Legacy Class fish from Houston County Lake since 1990.  A fish weighing over 13 pounds is designated as a Legacy Lunker within the Toyota ShareLunker season.

Smoldas reeled in a 13.34-pound bass which was good to be designated as ShareLunker 618.  According to a report from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the East Texas angler headed to an area he found about four years ago that produced many eight-to-ten-pound bass. He always had in the back of his mind he would hold a bigger bass and that Saturday proved to be the day.

“I was cranking a Strike King 10xd chartreuse/blue bait and when I hooked her, she fought like a normal eight-to-ten-pounder,” said Smoldas. “The biggest problem was avoiding the oversized trebles in the bottom lip, because I never use a net. After my scales topped 13-pounds, I weighed her at the marina and their scale showed over 13-pounds as well. Immediately after, I contacted Kyle Brookshear with the Toyota ShareLunker program and waited on the lake for TPWD personnel to arrive.”

“The whole experience with the Lunker crew was worth the while and made us feel good. My wife Tammy arrived before they did and videoed the process. It was a good feeling knowing the fish will live and help to produce bigger, better, bass. The ShareLunker program is a way better option than taking the fish home or simply releasing the fish immediately back in the lake. In addition, I feel it was an early birthday present from my Dad who passed in March of 2021. Thanks to everyone who made this the catch of a lifetime!"

Prior to that Saturday, Dan Davis of Crockett, Texas was the last angler to bring in a Legacy Lunker from Houston County Lake. Davis landed 13.25-pound ShareLunker 67 on March 29, 1990, while earlier that year Gary Moore from Watauga, Texas caught a 14.00-pound ShareLunker 55 on February 22. However, Terry Walling of Tennessee Colony, Texas still owns the waterbody record thanks to 15.19-pound ShareLunker 14 which he caught on March 3, 1988. It was also the very first Legacy Lunker to come from Houston County.

Once Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Inland Fisheries biologists were notified, they quickly got on the road to collect and transport the bass that Smoldas caught to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens, where biologists are providing the fish top-notch care. Biologists plan to attempt to spawn her with a male offspring of a prior ShareLunker to make bigger, better bass to stock in and enhance fishing in Texas lakes.

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.

The year-round Toyota ShareLunker program offers four levels of participation for catching bass over eight pounds or 24 inches in Texas. The 2022 season offers an opportunity to join the special club of premier anglers who have submitted a Legacy Class ShareLunker.

Anglers who enter data for any lunker they catch greater than eight pounds or 24 inches during the calendar year 2022 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 the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation and TPWD, providing major funding for a wide variety of fisheries, state parks and wildlife projects.

For pictures of the Legacy Class ShareLunker’s caught during the 2022 season, visit the TPWD Flickr album at https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjzxNwz.

Here's a look at some big bass brought in during recent East Texas tournaments.

2021 Big Bass Splash on Lake Sam Rayburn

Here are pictures from some of the bigger fish brought to the weigh-in at the Big Bass Splash.

2022 Brandon Belt $100K Grand Slam Fishing Tournament

Here's a look at some of the action and huge fish brought in for this inaugural tournament which paid out over $400K to anglers and over $100K to charity.