Jerrod Miller of Springtown with the heaviest bass turned into the revamped Toyota ShareLunker program thus far, a 12.79 pounder caught from Marine Creek. (Courtesy Photo)March 9, 2018 - The height of the Texas big bass season isn't even here yet and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's Toyota ShareLunker program has already set a new record for total entries.

It's not that monster bass have been overly active this year. The record pace has evolved because the department this year lowered the bar on the minimum weight required for entering a fish, created several more ways for anglers to play the game by following a simplified entry process that can carried out electronically using a Smartphone or home computer and put some really nice prizes on the table to lure them in.

Dating back to 1986, the big bass spawning and genetics research program has historically required that fish weigh 13 pounds or more to be eligible. The minimum weight for entry was set at 13 pounds based on the belief that jumbo bass have superior genetics offering the best shot for producing more giant bass though selective breeding.

While "13" remains the magic number for entering a fish in the spawning phase of the program, bass as small as eight pounds are now eligible for entry under a revamped framework aimed at drumming up more angler support.

The new format appears to be working on that front.

As of Feb. 21, program coordinator Kyle Brookshear said the program had accepted 47 entries over eight pounds from two dozen different lakes located from Panhandle to deep South Texas. That's 11 more than the 1994-95 record season that saw 36 entries over 13 pounds sent to the program headquarters in Athens.

The smallest fish entered this year is an 8.04 pounder. The biggest is a 12.79.

Lake Conroe has produced the most entries (9) of any lake thus far, including a 12.65 pounder. Lake Fork is second with seven and Lake LBJ has four entries.

ShareLunker staff are expecting the pace to pick up steam in coming weeks as more anglers learn about the program expansion and warming water temperatures beckon armies of big bass towards the shallows to spawn.

There are now four categories in which anglers can enter fish.

The program's lowest level category is called "Lunker Class." It is open for bass as small as eight pounds or 24 inches in length.

The next category up the ladder is for fish weighing between 10 and 12.99 pounds. It's called the "Lunker Elite."

There are two categories for fish weighing upwards of 13 pounds. "Lunker Legend" is for fish caught outside the Jan. 1 - March 31 spawning window, or fish caught inside the spawning window by an angler who for some reason declines to loan the fish to the state for spawning.

The "Lunker Legacy" category is for bass that carry on the heart and soul of the the program. These big girls weighing 13 pounds or more must be caught during the spawning window and loaned to the state for spawning.

Anglers who enter fish in either of the four categories are automatically registered in year-end drawings for cool prizes including fishing licenses and $5,000 shopping sprees to a national outdoor retailer. Also, each angler who plays the game earns a Toyota ShareLunker Catch Kit including fishing tackle, commemorative decals and ShareLunker branded merchandise. Enter a 13 pounder and you get a free replica of the fish. Lunker Legacy donars also get VIP access at the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest.

To learn more about the program, rules and qualification process, see
Lake Conroe Big Bass Classic

The 2018 Lake Conroe Big Bass Classic set for March 2-4 with more than $63,000 guaranteed to be given way in hourly payouts and a new Nitro Z19 going to the angler that catches the biggest bass of the event. Weigh-ins will be held at Papa's on the Lake.

Entry fee is $110 for one day, $160 for two and $240 to fish all three days. Printable entry forms are available or you can register online at

Salvinia on Athens

Texas Parks and Wildlife recently reported that Giant salvinia has been discovered at Lake Athens in eastern Texas. The Athens find, which spans roughly one acre, marks the second time in roughly three weeks that the invasive plant has been found on an East Texas reservoir. Earlier this month the aquatic fern was discovered at Lake Nacogdoches in area spanning roughly 30 acres.

TPWD's John Findeisen says the department's aquatic invasives team surveyed the impacted area at Athens and deployed a containment boom to contain the floating plants. 

With the plant contained by the boom Findeisen says experts can better evaluate the situation and determine whether or not eradication is possible using herbicide.

TPWD chose not use herbicide on the Lake Nacogdoches infestation because the salvinia is intermingled with cut grass, torpedo grass and other more desirable types of aquatic vegetation.

“The containment boom is a critical component of our rapid response efforts to eradicate giant salvinia at Lake Athens,” Findeisen said. “Concentrating giant salvinia in an area helps prevent further spread and increases the efficiency and effectiveness of herbicide treatments, which is the next phase of our response at Lake Athens. Following that we should know fairly soon if eradication is a real possibility at the lake.”

As is the case with most new infestations, it is believed the plant was introduced to the 1,800 acre lake by a careless boater or angler carrying it on their boat, trailer or other equipment.

Giant salvinia is aggressive floating plant from South America that was first discovered in Texas on Toledo Bend in 1998. It has since been found on several more lakes throughout the region.

In addition to current infestations at Toledo Bend, Sam Rayburn and Caddo Lake, the invasive plant has been newly introduced or reintroduced at six Texas lakes since 2017: Lake Murvaul, Lake Palestine, Martin Creek Lake, Lake Fork, Lake Nacogdoches and now Lake Athens, according to TPWD reports.

TBGA entry deadline nearing

March 1 is the deadline for scored entries to the Texas Big Game Awards Program.

TBGA is a hunting heritage program jointly run by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Wildlife Association. One of its main purposes is to promote quality big game management programs by recognizing hunters who take quality big game animals over the course of the season, and the landowners/land managers responsible for producing them.

TBGA has scored entry categories for whitetail deer, mule deer, pronghorn antelope and javelina in eight geographical regions. There are divisions for low fence, high fence, youth and first harvest.

All scored entries must be scored by a TBGA certified scorer and meet a minimum net Boone and Crockett score for the specific region in order to qualify. The minimums for whitetail deer taken in the Pineywoods and Post Oak regions of eastern Texas are 125 for typicals, 140 for non-typicals.

Sasser hunted and fished with folks from all walks of life during an outdoor writing career spanning four decades, but his favorite partner by far was his wife of 48 years, Emilie. (Courtesy Photo),

March 9, 2018 - Texas sportsmen lost a powerful and colorful voice on Feb. 21 when veteran Dallas Morning News outdoors writer, Ray Sasser, passed away in a Dallas hospital after a multi-year battle with lymphoma. He was 69.

Well known as "Sasser" among his friends and colleagues, Ray was a masterful story teller who could string words together in a colorful, meaningful way like no other. He also had a staunch nose for news, didn't mind asking the hard questions and had the tenacity of a pit bulldog when it came to chewing through the fat to get to the truth. He was pretty darned handy with a camera, too.

I always admired the guy. And so did a lot of others. But not just because he was top-shelf journalist who loved his work and handled his influential post responsibly.

Sasser was a straight shooter who didn't mind voicing his opinion even if he wasn't asked for it. He always looked out for the masses and saw his job as more of a privilege than anything else. If and when he was wrong, he wasn't too proud to admit it. 

Hunting and fishing weren't weekend hobbies or pastimes around Sasser's household. They were his lifeblood, passions he shared afield with hundreds of partners from all walks of life ranging from youths to blue-collar workers to billionaires.

Through it all his wife, Emilie, gained steady praise as his most favorite partner of all. She joined him in all sorts hook and bullet adventures during their 48 years of marriage. 

"Ray Sasser was the most wonderful man on the planet," she told the DMN. "And nobody had a passion for the outdoors like him. He just loved it."

What many may not know about Sasser is that his big city career was actually rooted to deep East Texas. He grew up in the rural community of Pineland in the 1950s and 60s - a time when squirrel camps ruled and it was somewhat of a shock to run across a white-tailed deer in woods of Sabine County.

"It stunned you when you did see one - it was almost like you'd seen Bigfoot or something," Sasser said. "There probably weren't 200 deer in the entire county at that time, and those were laying low for fear that somebody was fixing to fry them up."

Sasser (left) with T. Boone Pickens following his acceptance of the T. Boone Pickens Lifetime Sportsman Award in 2009. (Courtesy Photo)

After graduating high school, Sasser attended Stephen F. Austin State University and worked at the Lufkin Daily News before moving to Port Arthur where he wrote full-time about the outdoors for the local newspaper. He later joined The Dallas Times Herald and in 1986 began a full-time tenure at the DMN, where his Thursday/Sunday columns were destination reading for thousands for 29 years until a retirement buy out took place in 2015. He continued writing part-time for the newspaper until Jan. 2018 with his last column appearing on Jan. 21.

Additionally, Sasser authored hundreds of magazine articles and nearly a dozen books that are just as informational as they are enjoyable to read.

The strong respect Sasser commanded within the outdoors industry across Texas and beyond became readily apparent as word of his death spread among friends, peers and acquaintances via social media and e-mail.

Dr. James Kroll, professor emeritus for Forest Wildlife Management and Director of the Institute for White-tailed Deer Management and Research at SFA made a Facebook post holding Sasser personally responsible for his "Dr. Deer" nickname. 

"We had so many fine days afield and I shall miss him,!" Kroll wrote. "He was a scholar and a word smith. He once wrote an article about a bird hunt we had, he opened with this phrase: 'The German shorthair was locked tighter than the lug nuts on a junkyard Chevrolet!' The world will never again enjoy such prose."

Dr. Dale Rollins, executive director of the Rolling Plains Quail Research Ranch, told about a spectacular quail hunt he and Sasser shared on a Coke Co. ranch. Rollins' dogs pointed 28 different coveys of bobwhites in 3 1/2 hours that day. Sasser jokingly gave the hunt a 198 on a Boone and Crockett scale.

"Ray has been called the "Dean of Outdoor Editors" . . . and rightfully so," Rollins said. "He was also one of the few outdoor writers (in TX anyway) whose passion for quail and quail hunting was omni-evident. Rest in peace, Ray - we in the quail brotherhood will miss your insight and abilities to paint those vivid mental images. Thanks for being our champion to the masses."

Sasser's love for the sprightly little game bird led to his being named the recipient of the 2009 Park Cities Quail T. Boone Pickens Lifetime Sportsman Award. Not surprisingly, the wealthy Texan oil tycoon for which the award is named had nothing but good things to say about his quail hunting buddy from Meridian. 

"Ray Sasser was not just one of the greatest outdoor writers in Texas, he was one of the most respected outdoor writers in the country," Pickens said. "His success and following were rooted in the fact he didn’t just cover the outdoors, he loved all that it meant to hunters, fishermen and conservation as a whole. To me he was much more than a talented writer who cared about the outdoors, he was a good friend who I will miss. We should all have such a passion for life and our chosen professions."

Sasser's contributions to the fishing world didn't go unnoticed, either. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department inland fisheries director Craig Bonds called Sasser a "true icon of the Texas Outdoor industry."

In June 2016, Sasser was inducted to the Texas Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in Athens. Sadly, he was in the hospital and couldn't be present for the ceremony, but his wife and two children, Jenny and Zach, were there on his behalf. His daughter read his acceptance speech.

TPWD put together a 6 minute video about Sasser prior his HOF induction. It can be viewed at

RIP, Sasser. Your eloquent style, words of wisdom and friendship will be dearly missed.

Matt Williams is a freelance writer based in Nacogdoches, Tx. He can be reached by e-mail,

March 7, 2018 - The Dragons will play the West TX High School Comanches, in the UIL State Basketball Semi-Finals, on March 9 at 8:30am in the Alamo Dome, San Antonio, TX. Send off for the Dragons will be at 9:30 am on March 8 at Shelbyville High School.

March 5, 2018 - Shelbyville ISD is proud to announce and congratulate five Lady Dragon Powerlifters who are state qualifiers.

State Qualifiers are:

  • Brittany Payne (97 lb weight class)
  • Diana Valencia (97 lb weight class)
  • Madison Taylor (165 lb weight class) - She also finished 4th place in Regionals with an (845) total. 
  • Jada Moore (220 lb weight class)
  • Katie Casey (259 lb weight class).- She is also the Regional Champion. She broke the record in Squat (480), Dead Lift (415), and had a total weight lifted of (1075).

The State Meet will be March 16 and 17 in Waco at the Extraco Convention Center.

The team is lead by Coach Michael Taylor.

Jewett-Leon High School, March 3, 2018 –

The Shelbyville Dragons Varsity Basketball Team only allowed the Grapeland Sandies two points in the first quarter, and four points in the second period, en-route to taking a 31-6 lead by halftime. Saturday’s game was the Region III Championship game played at Jewett –Leon High School.

The Dragons went on to win by a 54-40 margin and will advance to play the West Texas High School Comanches. The Comanches, from Stinnett Texas, took the Region I title and have a 20-2 record. They are currently on a 12-game win streak which dates back to January 12. They were the winner of District 1 2A.

The Dragons and Comanches will face off at the San Antonio Alamo Dome next Friday morning for the State Tournament Semifinals. Exact time will be released later this week.

The Dragons record now stands at 32-4. They are coached by David Schmitt and are currently on a 9-game win streak. They came into the playoffs as co-champions of District 22 2A.

March 1, 2018 - Shelbyville ISD will Early Release on Friday, March 2 at 1:00 pm. Send off for the Dragons will be at 10:00 am at Shelbyville High School. The Dragons play LaPoynor at Jewitt-Leon at 5:00 pm in the Regional Qtr. Finals. 

Go Dragons!!

February 28, 2018 - The Shelbyville Dragons defeated the Evadale Rebels, 79-73 on February 27 in the Regional Quarter Finals at Woodville High School. The Dragons will play in the Regional Semi-Finals vs LaPoynor on Friday, March 2 at 5:00 pm at Leon-Jewitt, Texas.

February 28, 2018 - UIL Regional Basketball Tournament for Conference 4A - Region II will be held at University Field House located on Neal Street, Texas A & M - Commerce, Texas.

  • Session 1 is Friday, March 2. Game 1 is Carter VS Center at 6pm. Game 2 is Lincoln VS Carthage at 8pm.
  • Session 2 is the Final and is Saturday, March 3 at 12noon.

Cost is $10 for adults and $5 for students/child. Tickets are available online at

Fan Bus Contact: ​Center ISD Transportation Office 936-598-2880​

Tyler Junior College, Wagstaff Gymnasium, February 27, 2018 –

The number 6 ranked Center Roughriders defeated the Spring Hill Panthers, by a 59-41 score, Tuesday in the Region II Varsity Basketball Quarterfinals at Tyler Junior Colleges’ Wagstaff Gymnasium.

The Roughriders came out shooting hot early, hitting five threes in the first half on the way to building a 32-17 lead. They got three 3-pointers in the first quarter from seniors Kaleb Parks, Kameron Elmer, and Jaterious Evans which helped the them gain a 17-5 by the end of the opening period. 

Center outscored the Panthers 15-12 in the second quarter and took a 32-17 lead into the locker room at the halftime intermission.

Both teams started the third stanza out very cold shooting. Jaterious Evans hit a 3-pointer for the first score of the period and gave Center a 20-point lead at 37-17, with 4:30 left in the frame. The ‘Riders got 10 total points from Evans in the third period and CHS took a 50-29 lead into the final quarter of play.

Spring Hill outpaced the ‘Riders 12 points to 9 in the fourth period but it was a case of too-little-too-late as Center took home the win by the 59-41 margin of victory.

Center was led by Evans with 18 points. Kaleb Parks scored 15, Reggie Daniels 10, Jeremiah Hightower 6, Jamara’h Johnson 3, and Jayden Hicks scored two points.

Spring Hill was led by Tyler Caron with 13 points.

The Roughriders are now 32-2 on the season and are on an 8-game winning streak.

Center Head Basketball Coach Hiram Harrison said, “Our goal was to keep their them around forty points and we were able to do that tonight. We need to continue to work defensively and do what we do. We rebounded well and shot better than I expected tonight. I’m pleased with our offensive and defensive efforts.”

Center now faces Carter High School who defeated Wilmer-Hutchins by an 81-80 score. The game will be played at 6 p.m., on Friday, March 2, 2018, at Texas A&M Commerce University. The winner will face the winner of Friday's second game between Carthage and Lincoln in the Region II and IV Finals next Saturday, March 3.

February 26, 2018 - Center Roughrider Basketball team advanced to the Quarter Finals after defeating Van 52-36 on Friday, February 23rd. Next, Center plays against Spring Hill in the TJC Wagstaff Gymnasium on Tuesday, February 27th at 7:30pm. Center's game is the late game of a doubleheader with game 1 being Carthage vs Canton at 6pm. Tickets are adults $7 and students $5.

Center VS Van game statistics