How surprising was Cleveland, Texas angler Kurt Luker’s 13.97-pound ShareLunker bass — and lake record — from Belton Lake after he landed it during an April 1 Texas Team Trail tournament?
Pretty surprising, and then some.
“Belton Lake is the best smallmouth bass fishery in Central Texas — nothing else even comes close,” said TPWD inland fisheries district supervisor John Tibbs.
“But it’s not typically known as a big bass lake or a trophy lake like Lake Fork. So it’s impressive and somewhat unusual to see a fish of this quality come out of there.”
According to Tibbs, the 12,385-acre Belton Lake received a stocking of Florida-strain largemouth bass fingerlings in 2016. But prior to that, the central Texas reservoir had not been stocked since 1995.
So why such a large fish in an unusual place? Good habitat, nice water levels and plenty of baitfish according to the TPWD biologist.
“We had a huge amount of water in 2007 — it reached 630 feet and sustained that from June to the end of summer,” said Tibbs. “So that year we had a tremendous amount of habitat improvement, we probably had a great spawn and we had a fantastic amount of prey.
“That (ShareLunker) fish may have gotten a really good jump-start on growth, and if that’s the case, there may be some others out there.”
After having the huge bass certified by TPWD biologists as ShareLunker #570 and allowing them to take a fin clip for genetic analysis, Luker released the big female back into Belton.
According to TPWD’s news release on the fish, had the angler caught the bass just a day earlier, it would have been collected by the agency in an attempt to get it to successfully spawn at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens.
As many anglers will remember, beginning this 2016-17 ShareLunker season, entries into the program that are caught after March 31 are not taken as brood stock for spawning purposes.
Still, anglers across Texas have until April 30 to submit a legally caught 13-pound or larger largemouth bass into the SL program for a certified weight, DNA sample and immediate release.
Tibbs indicates that ShareLunker #570 — which made Belton Lake the 68th public water body across the state to produce such a fish — is proof positive that just about any lake across the state has the potential to produce such a trophy bass.
After all, the Bell and Coryell County lake isn’t a trophy factory like Lake Fork is, it has suffered from serious drought over the years and it hasn’t had much in the way of recent bass stocking efforts.
But it still has the Lone Star State bass world buzzing this week after producing a 13.97-pound ShareLunker that has raised more than a few eyebrows at dockside cafes.
As both an unexpected ShareLunker entry and the longest such fish in the SL program’s storied history according to Dallas Morning News outdoor writer Ray Sasser.
“Any lake could have a ShareLunker,” said Tibbs. “If Belton Lake is any indication you don’t have to go to Lake Fork for a 13 pound bass — you can still catch one just about anywhere you go.”