ATHENS, Texas — Catching a Budweiser ShareLunker — a largemouth bass weighing 13 pounds or more — is its own reward, an accomplishment shared by a relative handful of anglers.

The person who catches the 400th qualifying entry into the program will receive the largest prize package the Budweiser ShareLunker program has ever offered. “In addition to the usual prizes of a Budweiser ShareLunker jacket and a fiberglass replica of the fish, the lucky angler will receive a cash award of $400 per pound of fish and a G.Loomis rod with Shimano reel valued at a total of $600. If the angler is a Texas resident, he or she will also receive a lifetime fishing license,” said Allen Forshage, director of the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center.

Prizes will be awarded at the annual Budweiser ShareLunker banquet to be held at TFFC May 27, 2006.

With the 400th fish worth a minimum of $5,200 in cash, ShareLunker program managers expect the prize package to generate considerable interest. The current count of entries stands at 393; fish 400 could be caught fairly soon.

“ShareLunkers have been caught from 53 lakes and 12 bodies of private water spread all over Texas, and it’s not uncommon for more than one fish to be caught on the same day,” said Forshage. “If more than one fish is caught on the same day, the time we receive the calls from the anglers to pick up the fish will determine which fish is number 400. Furthermore, as stated in the ShareLunker program rules, fish must be turned over to TPWD alive within 12 hours of capture to qualify.”

The final determination of whether a fish will be accepted will be made by ShareLunker program manager David Campbell.

Anglers are advised to consult the TPWD ShareLunker Web pages for complete rules and tips on caring for lunker bass.

The number to call to enter a fish into the program and arrange for pickup is (903) 681-0550. Anglers may also leave a message or numeric page, including area code, at (888) 784-0600.

Anglers may either donate the fish to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department or elect to have it returned to them at the end of the spawning season. TPWD uses the big females for spawning in an attempt to improve the size and growth rates of largemouth bass in Texas waters.

Prizes will be funded by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, Anheuser-Busch and G.Loomis.

The Budweiser ShareLunker program is made possible through support from Anheuser-Busch, Inc. Since 1991, Anheuser-Busch, in partnership with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, has contributed millions of dollars in funding to support conservation causes and fishing, hunting and outdoor recreation programs in Texas.

The G.Loomis GLX Jig and Worm rod will be personally inscribed to the angler at the factory. The rod features high quality cork grips and nickel/titanium alloy recoil guides that flex with the rod and have no ceramic ring.

The rod will be outfitted with a Shimano Chronarch 50MG reel, a low-profile magnesium-framed bait-casting reel weighing only 5.9 ounces. The reel holds 70 yards of 14- to 17-pound monofilament line and has a 6.2:1 retrieve ratio. It features anti-rust bearings, a drilled spool for light weight and Shimano’s “super free” spool technology.