David L. Campbell, a retired employee of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and long-time manager of TPWD’s ShareLunker program, has been notified of his induction into the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, Wisconsin, in recognition of his contributions to the sport and heritage of freshwater fishing.
“It is our honor to inform you of your induction into the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame for the year 2013,” said Bill Gautsche, Jr., chairman of the awards committee. “It goes without saying this honor recognizes you for your contribution, dedication and service to the fresh water sportfishing industry. With this, your pioneering spirit will always be remembered.”
Campbell will be inducted in the Special Recognition category, one of six categories in the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame.
TPWD itself has been inducted into the Hall of Fame in the Organization/Government category. Bob Kemp, former head of TPWD’s fisheries operations, was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1989. Kemp was Campbell’s boss during the early years of the ShareLunker program.
Campbell worked for TPWD for 46 years, retiring at the end of March 2012. He was inducted into the Texas Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in 2011.
Campbell was associated with the ShareLunker program since its beginning. He picked up the first fish entered into the program in 1986 and most of the more than 500 entered since.
As manager of the Tyler Fish Hatchery, Campbell was instrumental in the introduction of Florida largemouth bass into Texas and helped stock fish into almost every public reservoir in the state.
Through his years of experience of caring for trophy largemouth bass, Campbell contributed a great deal to the knowledge of how best to care for big fish and communicated this information to the public through countless interviews with media from newspapers, magazines, radio and television.
Following is a synopsis of Campbell’s career with TPWD.
Campbell started work in 1965 as a fish hatchery assistant at the Lewisville State Fish Hatchery and worked his way up to Hatchery Manager at the Tyler Fish Hatchery and later the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center. He raised and stocked literally millions of fish in Texas waters including black bass, channel catfish, blue catfish, crappie, striped bass, hybrid striped bass, northern pike, walleye, peacock bass and several sunfish and forage species.
In 1973 Campbell went to Florida to collect Florida largemouth bass at the direction of Bob Kemp. The stocking of Florida largemouth bass into Texas public reservoirs elevated trophy fishing in Texas forever and earned Campbell the nickname “Godfather of Big Bass.”
Under Kemp’s direction, Campbell began breeding and stocking pure Florida bass as an experiment to increase the size of trophy bass in Texas. By the early eighties, these efforts began to pay off as the 13.5-pound state record that had existed since 1943 was broken four times in six years. Then in November 1986, Mark Stevenson caught a 17.67-pound bass he named Ethel from Lake Fork. That fish shattered all previous records, garnered nationwide media coverage, and changed fishing in Texas forever.
With Ethel the ShareLunker program was born, and catch-and-release conservation became a way of life for trophy bass anglers. Since that time, there have been more than 500 entries into the ShareLunker program, and Campbell’s research and insight into trophy bass have not only given TPWD the largest collection of data on big bass in the world, but have earned him the respect and admiration of anglers and outdoor writers alike.
In addition, Ethel proved to be a fish that changed the world of bass fishing. After Campbell nursed the fish back to health, she was put on display at Bass Pro Shops in Springfield, Missouri, where she pulled millions of visitors into the store. Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris credited Ethel with much of the success of the business, saying that she was the best thing that ever happened to Bass Pro in terms of getting people into the store. In recognition of that contribution, Morris donated $650,000 for the construction of the Richard M. Hart and Johnny Morris Conservation Center at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center, which was built largely to house the ShareLunker program. TPWD Press Release