It isn’t often that a cancelled fishing trip produces a lot of big smiles, particularly when the trip gets scrubbed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
But after the coronavirus crisis forced the federally mandated closure of boat ramp facilities at Amistad Reservoir near Del Rio, that’s exactly what happened for Cypress, Texas angler James Maupin.
When the National Park Service shuttered the Amistad National Recreation Area due to the crisis, Maupin and his father decided to head for O.H. Ivie Lake, a West Texas fishing gem in much better shape these days after rainfall has considerably boosted the 19,149-acre water body’s level in recent months.
Scrambled plans or not, after the Sunday, March 29, 2020 visit to the lake about an hour east of San Angelo, it’s a fishing trip that Maupin will never forget. That’s because of his buzzer-beating catch of ShareLunker #585, a 13.15-pound largemouth bass that measured 27-inches in length and 20-inches in girth.
“We go to Lake Amistad every year and spend 10 days fishing,” said Maupin in a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department news release.
“We did pretty well the first day but when we got back to the boat ramp, we found out they shut down the lake because of COVID-19, so we packed up and headed to the nearest lake — O.H. Ivie.”
After making the nearly four-hour drive to Ivie, Maupin and his father spent three days figuring the lake out.
On the final day of their trip, the angler tossed a Texas-rigged plastic worm into a likely spot in seven-feet of water…and reeled in the big bass catch of a lifetime.
“I thought it could’ve been a ShareLunker so we weighed her, and she was a little over 13 pounds,” said Maupin. “I put her in the live well and called the marina immediately. They had an official scale, so we got her weighed and measured, and the ShareLunker guys came out to come get her.”
Its been an unusual year for sure, partly due to the virus pandemic that has scrambled fishing plans and partly due to the West Texas flavor that exists this year in TPWD’s long running Toyota ShareLunker program (TexasShareLunker.com).
As the fourth and final Legacy Class bass entered into the revamped program’s Jan. 1 to March 31 spawning window, Maupin’s bass is the third such fish to hail from the western third of the state. Earlier this year, Lubbock area angler Blake Cockrell pulled a pair of ShareLunker bass from 2,880-acre Lake Alan Henry in a 21-day span.
With those West Texas fish added to a ShareLunker from Lake Nacogdoches, the season’s slim haul doesn’t include a 13-pound lunker from the usual East Texas hotspots of Lake Fork, Sam Rayburn, or Toledo Bend.
High, muddy water could be one culprit for the “Go West!” ShareLunker theme this year while the continued reluctance of some anglers to participate in the SL program could be another.
TPWD’s Kyle Brookshear, who manages the ShareLunker program for the agency, said his team was hoping to see another SL program bass come from O.H. Ivie, a water body that features a lake record of 16.08-pounds.
“We have been patiently waiting for O.H. Ivie to produce another ShareLunker Legacy Class bass and are extremely excited to receive this fish to cap off the collection season,” said Brookshear.
“The lake produced multiple bass weighing more than 13 pounds from 2010-2012,” he added. “That was also the last time their selectively bred offspring were stocked into the reservoir. There is good probability that this fish is one of those offspring stocked 8-10 years ago.”
According to Brookshear, genetic analysis is currently underway at the Lunker Bunker facility at the closed Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens to determine if in fact, Maupin’s bass has a direct lineage to those previous O.H. Ivie lunkers.
Whether it does or not, Brookshear praised Maupin for participating in the program.
“It takes a strong partnership between the anglers and the agency to help produce results like these in Texas public waters,” he said. “We are thankful to the anglers, like James, for loaning these world class size bass to our selective breeding program so that we can continue producing bigger, better bass to stock in Texas lakes.”
As the final member of the ShareLunker Legacy Class of 2020, the 585th ShareLunker bass donated caps the donation-and-spawning season that concludes at the end of March now in a revamped program that used to run from Oct. 1 until the end of April.
“I think [the program] is fantastic,” said Maupin. “It’s my passion to be out there bass fishing. Without the ShareLunker program, I probably would have never caught her. I’ve got a 5-year-old daughter and she loves to fish too, so hopefully that offspring will be caught by her one of these days. That’s pretty cool.”
Since his fish will be a member of the TPWD selective breeding program this year, there’s a good chance the bass can help spawn even more generations of big largemouths in water bodies across the Lone Star State.
The other Legacy Class entries caught from public water bodies in Texas this year include ShareLunker #584, the 13.28 pound bass caught by Blake Cockrell on Lake Alan Henry on March 1; ShareLunker #583, a 15.34 pound bass reeled in from Lake Nacogdoches by Joe Castle on Feb. 29; and ShareLunker #582, the 14.36 pound bass also caught by Blake Cockrell on Alan Henry.
Since the ShareLunker program began back in November 1986 following Lake Fork guide Mark Stevenson’s catch of a then state record 17.67-pound largemouth bass nicknamed Ethel, the East Texas lunker factory has gone on to produce a total of 261 ShareLunkers.
Alan Henry is in 2nd place overall with 29 ShareLunker bass, followed by Sam Rayburn in 3rd place with 27 such largemouths, and O.H. Ivie in 4th place with 26 ShareLunkers.