On the first day Oct. 1, the first day of Florida’s new TrophyCatch program, Larry Campbell, of Fleming Island, caught an 11.25-pound, 26.5-inch-long bass while fishing in the St. Johns River with his younger brother, using live shrimp. They had caught and released several 4- to 7-pound bass before Larry broke the 10-pound barrier for the first time in his 20 years of fishing. They found where they could boast online about their catch and posted it on TrophyCatchFlorida.com, an FWC website that is hosted by the World Fishing Network (WFN).
But . . . here’s what happened next, according to Bob Wattendorf of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission:
If only Larry had read the rules first and taken photos of the bass on scales, with the weight showing, and on a tape measure with the length showing, he would have had the first entry into the new Trophy Bass Club. However, without appropriate photos to verify the weight and length for TrophyCatch, his fish was at least entered into the Big Catch Program.
“Thanks for the AWESOME Big Catch Certificate. I don't have any other pictures of the fish. I'll know next time,” he responded graciously. “Things are just starting to heat up here. Thanks for the awesome recognition program.”
On Oct. 9, Marcus Arrendondo caught a 29-inch-long, bass with a girth of 24 inches estimated at 14 pounds.
If only he had called FWC toll free at 1-855 FL TROPHY (855-358-7674) while he had the live fish in his possession, an FWC employee would have come out to examine the bass, ensure it was live-released and healthy, and weigh it on certified scales. If it exceeded 13 pounds, it would have been entered into the Hall of Fame. FWC would have provided a free fiberglass replica from New Wave Taxidermy, and a bundle of other prizes.
Got One …
Then, on Oct. 16, Corey Dolan of Tallahassee got one. He landed a 12.3-pound largemouth bass on Lake Talquin and released it to become the first entrant in the TrophyCatch program. Dolan started fishing at sunrise on his last day off before starting a new job and was rewarded when, around 1:30 in the afternoon, a huge bass struck his artificial worm. Dolan manipulated both rod and trolling motor to land the 27-inch-long bass.
Dolan found TrophyCatchFlorida.com on his smartphone and ultimately connected with the TrophyCatch hotline. FWC biologists arrived at Coe’s Landing an hour later to determine a certified weight of 12.3 pounds – just short of the Hall of Fame mark (13 pounds) but qualifying for the Trophy Club. Dolan will receive $100 in gift cards from sponsors such as Bass Pro Shops, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Rapala lures, plus a long-sleeve Trophy Club shirt from Bass King, and discounts from New Wave Taxidermy, FishPhotoReplicas.net and SportsmanOnCanvas.com.
KP Clements, the FWC’s TrophyCatch coordinator, said that as the first TrophyCatch angler, Dolan will also receive a special one-day pass to fish at the famed Bienville Plantation and is entered into drawings for other prizes.
TrophyCatch includes three tiers to encourage reporting and live-releasing bass heavier than 8 pounds that are caught in Florida waters. Bass 8 to 9.9 pounds (Lunker Club) or those 10 to 12.9 pounds (Trophy Club) that are caught, documented and released can be reported online at TrophyCatchFlorida.com any time of the year. All that is required to qualify for prizes is a photo of the fish on a scale with the weight visible, and one on a tape measure or ruler showing the length. Bass heavier than 13 pounds that are caught between Oct. 1 and April 30 each year must be checked by FWC staff to enter them into the Hall of Fame Club.
The angler who enters the biggest bass of the year into TrophyCatch will earn a Super Bowl-like ring, from the American Outdoors Fund. If it is caught in Osceola County, the Kissimmee Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) will award the angler $10,000. In addition, if the angler is on a guided fishing trip, the guide will receive $2,500 from the CVB.
“TrophyCatch will enable biologists to better manage freshwater fisheries by providing valuable incentives to anglers for reporting and releasing their catches of trophy bass,” said Tom Champeau, director of the FWC’s Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management. The information will be used to evaluate and improve management strategies that produce more and larger bass.
“It is important for anglers to read and understand all the rules and details about rewards, which may change during the year, since they are provided by various sponsors,” said Clements (see TrophyCatchFlorida.com). However, just for registering, an angler is entered into a drawing for a Phoenix bass boat, Mercury motor and trailer.
Celebrities such as Glen Lau, Shaw Grigsby, Peter Miller, Terry Segraves, Alan Zaremba and Th3Legends – Bill Dance, Jimmy Houston and Roland Martin – are speaking out for TrophyCatch along with ODU Magazine, the American Outdoor Foundation and Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation. They are on board because it is clear that catching, documenting and releasing trophy bass will provide local economic benefits to the community, promote tourism, provide vital data for conservation managers, and recycle these top-level predators for other anglers to enjoy catching.
To keep informed, you can “like” TrophyCatchFlorida on Facebook.