Choke Canyon Reservoir continued its big bass bonanza March 20 with another ShareLunker, a 13.12-pounder caught by Joseph B. Thoman, Jr., of Farmersville, Louisiana. The angler was fishing in the Texas Bass Club for the Deaf tournament when he caught the bass, which was 25.25 inches long and 21.25 inches in girth. At the same time, the Bass Champs South Region team tournament, also taking place on Choke Canyon on Saturday, weighed in two potential ShareLunkers at the Calliham Store. Store owner Brian W. Loy certified the weights as 14.47 and 15.27 pounds. Unfortunately, neither of those two fish survived.
No tournament has ever weighed in more than one 13-pound-plus fish, and the fact that two tournaments on the same lake produced three in two days is extremely good news for Texas fishing, especially Choke Canyon anglers. Big bass are there! However, the deaths of the two big fish has generated quite a bit of discussion both within Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the tournament industry about ways to avoid similar tragedies in the future.
Tim Cook, state conservation director for the Texas B.A.S.S. Federation Nation, fished the Choke Canyon tournament. “No one wants to see big fish like these survive more than a tournament angler. We want the opportunity to catch that fish again when she’s bigger, but a little extra help may be necessary such as the ability to weigh that fish early in a tournament,” he said “I am a big advocate for anglers policing themselves and not for government regulation. I believe that we can successfully work to reduce ShareLunker and tournament mortality.”
Brian W. Loy, himself a former tournament angler on the B.A.S.S. and FLW trails, established a ShareLunker holding station at the Calliham Store as a way of helping big fish survive. Sometimes the problem is getting fish to the store, and Loy is ready to help. “I will provide a boat and operator with the right gear to keep big fish alive to go pick up fish during any tournament with more than 100 boats,” he said. “We will bring the fish to the store, get a certified weight on them, and put them in a tank where they will have a better chance of surviving than in a livewell.”
Loy says the common perception that big bass are tougher than small bass is not true. “People don’t realize how delicate these big fish are,” he said. “They really need delicate handling.” David Campbell, ShareLunker program manager, encourages anglers to handle fish as little as possible, always support the head and tail when moving or photographing them, and getting them to a minnow tank at a marina or ShareLunker holding station as soon as possible after catching the fish.