Fishery Report: TPWD aims to produce world-record bass
Operation World Record (OWR) was launched in 2004 as a branch of the Budweiser ShareLunker Program.
The latter is now known as the Toyota ShareLunker Program – a cooperative effort between Toyota, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), and anglers.
The ultimate aim of OWR is to beat the 22-pound 4-ounce world record for largemouth bass jointly held by George Perry (Montgomery Lake, Georgia, USA, 1932) and Manabu Kurita (Lake Biwa, Japan, 2009) and in the process, to further improve the quality of largemouth bass fishing in the state by producing a greater proportion of larger bass through a form of selective breeding.
From Oct. 1 through April 30 each year, anglers are encouraged to donate any largemouth bass weighing 13 pounds or more to TPWD to assist with the selective breeding program. These fish will be females since males don’t grow to 13 pounds.
At the end of the spawning season the fish are returned to the anglers that caught them for release in the lakes of origin, or they can be permanently donated to the program.
Contributing anglers receive a free fiberglass replica of their catch, Toyota ShareLunker clothing and recognition at the awards banquet at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center. Every year, the angler that submits the heaviest bass receives a lifetime fishing license (Texas residency required).
Each largemouth bass submitted to the ShareLunker program is tagged with a passive integrated transponder (so that released fish can be identified if caught again), and a DNA analysis is performed to determine its genetic integrity.
Pure Florida females are then paired with pure Florida-strain ShareLunker male progeny to produce offspring with the genetic potential to grow bigger than most other largemouth bass. About 20 percent of the resulting fingerlings are put into research lakes, 5 percent are retained for hatchery broodfish, while about 75 percent of the fingerlings are stocked in the public lakes that produced the ShareLunkers.
Phase 1 of the OWR evaluation compared the growth of selectively bred ShareLunker offspring with resident largemouth bass in lakes Pinkston, Purtis Creek, Marine Creek Mill Creek, Meridian, and Raven. It was found that ShareLunker offspring were an average of about 0.5 pounds heavier than resident bass at age four years.
Phase 2 of the evaluation began in May 2012 involving lakes Raven, Marine Creek, Bellwood and a 90-acre contract lake. The growth of selectively bred ShareLunker offspring will be compared with that of standard hatchery produced Florida-strain largemouth bass to evaluate the effectiveness of the selective breeding program.
So far this season, lakes Austin, Dunlap, Falcon, Toledo Bend, and Lake O’ the Pines, have produced one ShareLunker each, while Lake Fork leads the pack with three.
Anyone who catches a 13-plus-pound largemouth bass during the ShareLunker season can enter the program by calling the toll-free 24-hour pager at 1-888-784-0600 or (903) 681-0550.
Mukhtar Farooqi is a fisheries biologist with TPWD based at the fish hatchery in San Marcos.