For most of the world, 2021 was a year with more twists and turns than a roller coaster. And not in a good way.
For Oklahoma fisherman Josh Jones, however, it was the kind of year he will not forget. Jones spent a portion of the year distancing himself from others crossing the Red River on a 425-mile one-way drive to Texas’ O.H. Ivie where he caught three Toyota ShareLunker Legacy bass.
Jones’ latest was a 15.1-pound bass in mid-December to bookend a 13.2 and 15.4 caught in February. While the first two were collected for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s ShareLunker hatchery program, the December bass came two weeks before the Jan. 1 program kickoff for the 2022 season.
The fisherman’s latest catch came on his second day on the lake in December.
“The first day I found some fish, but I could not get them to bite. The second day I figured it out and was able to catch that one,” he said.
Jones targets big fish only. Using modern sonar technology, his technique is to ride the water until he spots a big bass on the screen and then cast.
“My chances to catch big fish go up because I don’t chase little fish,” he explained.
This time he was using a white and chartreuse 6th Sense Braid Swim Jig. The fish came from 20 feet of water.
“I knew I was going to catch a big one, I didn’t know it was going to be a 15-pounder,” Jones said of the bass that measured 28½ inches long and 23 7/8 inches in girth.
His February 15-pound bass came on an Alabama rig and happened because Ivie was the only lake he could find that was not frozen.
“All of our lakes froze up. I was going to Hubbard Creek and it was frozen. I was going to try a few others, but they were all frozen. So, I went there the next day,” he recalled.
Considering the record cold, snow and it being his first time on Ivie, Jones said he believes that catch, along with the 13-pounder during the same trip, were meant to be.
In his quest for big bass, Jones said he will continue to visit Texas lakes, and at some point is planning a trip to California to chase big fish.
If Jones had caught his December bass a couple of weeks later, he would have become just the sixth angler to donate three bass 13-pounds or larger to TPWD for its hatchery program. He is just the second known to have two over 15 pounds, joining Karnack’s Ronnie Arnold who caught a 15.7 and a 15.1 on Caddo Lake in 2007 and 2009.Thirteen other fishermen have entered two 13-pound-plus ShareLunkers since the program started in 1986.
However, while Jones’ 15ers are historic in Texas, they fall short of two California anglers who each recorded a pair of 20-pounders 30 years ago.
The ShareLunker program is coming off its best year production-wise despite last winter’s crazy weather. TPWD took in 23 bass and had 18 successful spawns from 19 females placed in the hatchery production program.
Those spawns resulted in more than 271,000 fingerlings, topping the 255,000 produced in 2011. Some of this year’s fingerlings were returned to lakes where the bass were caught, but more importantly others were retained for the department’s hatchery program to produce more Florida strain fingerlings for Texas’ waters.
Lakes producing ShareLunkers in 2021 included Tyler, Palestine, Fork, Sam Rayburn, O.H. Ivie, Conroe, Austin, Travis, Coleman City and Eagle Mountain.
The collection portion for ShareLunker’s 13 pounds and larger runs from Jan. 1 through March 1.
Although the fish are not collected for the hatcheries, throughout the year the program also recognizes catches greater than 8 pounds or 24 inches. Those participating in that portion of the program also receive a catch kit and are eligible for a $5,000 shopping spree and annual fishing license.
Fishermen can enter those catches through the Toyota ShareLunker mobile app or on the Toyota ShareLunker online app at TexasSharelunker.com.
To enter a 13-pound or larger bass, call or text 903-681-0550.