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Entries in big bass (21)


TrophyCatch Adds Prize Incentives as Program Continues to Grow

TrophyCatch program has seen a staggering increase in the number of participating anglers and qualifying catches during the past four seasons. This citizen science partnership has led to more than 5,325 approved catches, which is instrumental in ensuring that FWC biologists make informed decisions for the management and improvement of Florida’s lakes and rivers.

As we start the New Year, the TrophyCatch team is excited to reward anglers for their first Lunker Club submissionx and all of their Trophy Club and Hall of Fame submissions. It also is introducing new  monthly prizes,  and new championship prizes for the biggest bass caught during Season 5, as well as adding a new grand prize category for the heaviest total weight of approved catches for the season. This means that the weight of all of your approved catches per season will be totaled at the end of the season in December, with the winner taking home the prize pack of a lifetime.

Also, Phoenix Boats has upgraded the Season 5 TrophyCatch boat to the sleek 819 Pro, powered by Mercury and anchored by PowerPole. The lucky TrophyCatch boat winner will be drawn at the end of Season 5 in December, and all of your approved submissions throughout the season increase your chance of winning the boat!

Be sure to follow TrophyCatch on Facebook and Instagram (@FishReelFlorida) to keep updated on the new Grand Prize and monthly rewards.


Don't Overlook Small Baits for Catching Big Bass

The Texas state record largemouth bass was caught by accident.

Chances are that you don't know the amazing story of that fish, which weighed 18.18 pounds and was caught in 1992.

I do. I talked to the angler who caught it and included his tale in my book, Better Bass Fishing, in a chapter about catching big bass with small baits.

St. Clair had been bass fishing on Lake Fork with two friends. They decided to stop and catch a few crappie for the table. St. Clair didn’t have light tackle with him, so he simply put 12-inches of 8-pound leader and a 1/0 gold Aberdeen hook onto his bass rod and reel, which was loaded with 14-pound line.

The strength of that line and the backbone of the rod played no small part in the battle that was about to occur.

“At first, I didn’t know what I had,” St. Clair told me. “But I never panicked. That’s what helped me get the fish in.

“I put pressure on it, and it started to move. Right away, I thought it might be a big catfish. But it didn’t act like a catfish.”

The fish ran three times, but stayed deep. “I took the time to wear her out,” St. Clair said. “Then I eased her toward the surface.

“When she came up, it was like an exploding buoy coming out of the water. We all were stunned. Then I screamed ‘Get the net!’ at my buddies.”

Once he had her in, St. Clair noted that the big bass “filled the bottom of the boat,” and he saw that the delicate wire hook was bent nearly into a circle. “Once more run and she would have been gone,” he said.

Since that memorable day, St. Clair has learned that his experience was not unique.

Secret: In other words, big bass will eat little baits, just as elephants will munch peanuts.

“I’ve run across numerous examples of others who were doing the same thing (crappie fishing) when they hooked something big,” he said. “A few got them in, and the fish were in the 13-pound range. Others couldn’t do it. I was lucky that I had tackle stout enough to handle the fish.”

Here’s another example of a big bass dining at the hors d’oeuvre tray instead of the buffet table: In April 2006, Randy Beaty Jr. used a 1/8-ounce Blakemore Roadrunner to catch a 15.68-pound bass at Florida’s Bienville Plantation.

And my personal favorite: I caught a 12-pound, 4-ounce largemouth bass on a 3/8-ounce Cordell Spot, while fishing in Mexico’s Lake Guerrero. In case you’re not familiar with it, that lipless crankbait is a mere 3 inches long, seemingly hardly an appetizer for a big bass.

Why do big bass sometimes eat little baits?

Find the answer in Better Bass Fishing. The book has been out for a few years, but most of the information  does not go out of date because it's about bass behavior and intelligence, seasonal patterns, weather, etc. In other words, it's about the "big picture" of bass fishing.


Big Bass Secrets Revealed by Angler Who Feeds, Catches by Hand

Thousands, perhaps millions, worldwide have watched the video of an Alabama farmer catching a 16.03-ounce bass by hand. Few, however, know the rest of the story.

First and foremost, Robert Earl Woodard's capture of a largemouth just a half-pound off the state record wasn't a one-time stunt. It was the culmination of nearly 40 years of practice. If the retired physical education teacher and football coach isn't the only fisherman catching  bass this way, he certainly is one of the more experienced.

And the knowledge that he has gained about bass behavior during those decades can be as valuable to rod-and-reel anglers as any shared by the best pro fishermen and fisheries scientists.

"First bass have different personalities," said Woodard, who has studied the fish, as well as cattle, all his life and writes about being  a hard-working farm boy and outdoorsman during a simpler time in a book, The Way It was Back Then.

Lying on his belly at the pier on his five-acre lake, he has learned to recognize them by these individual differences and, as a consequence, has given them names.  For example, the 16-pounder is Kickin' Bass. She earned that label by the way she flips her tail and slaps the water with ferocity after taking a bait.

"But she's also very cautious," Woodard said. "She will suck the bait out of your hand without making contact."

On the other hand, Dynamite will explode out of the water to take a bait, while Jaws, another double-digit lunker, "will bite your thumb and make it bleed," the Alabama native said. Jaws has been caught three times.

Then, there's Bullet, who will knock the shiner or brim out of Woodard's hand, and Sneaky, a smaller male, who hides under the pier and waits for just the right moment to steal an offering before a larger female can grab it. Other bass, meanwhile, are more anti-social, and, consequently, so unnamed.

"We think some never come to the pier," he said. "I saw one with a white spot on top of her tail. And after she went off bed, she went straight back to her territory."

And not only are the bass at Woodard's pier unique individuals, they seem to be able to tell the difference among people.  "I can feed them, and others can't," said the farmer, who pats on the dock as a way of telling the bass that dinner is being served. "Maybe it's the way I present the bait in the water," he added.

"And they feed better when I'm by myself and quiet. They stay back when other people are with me."

Plus, he noted, this observation made him realize that whenever "we can see them, they can see you."

Their above-water-water vision also allows them to distinguish the difference between baits, Woodard added, and an experiment confirmed for him that "matching the hatch" often is important.

"The pond is full of brim, and so that's what I was feeding them," he said, adding that he decided to spice up the menu with shiners.

"I put the brim in my left hand, the shiner in my right, and threw them out," the retired coach said. "Nine times out of 10, the bass would take the brim, and they seemed to make the decision while the bait was in mid-air."

Now, he's offered shiners enough that the bass also will accept them--- when they're feeding. Sometimes, they will go two or three days without showing up at the dock.

And sometimes when they do show up, they'll eat, but not nearly as aggressively as they will on other days. "If the bait's not big enough, bass will stay three feet down and watch," Woodard said. "It's like they don't want to waste the energy for a 3-inch shiner."

Other times, they will take three or four baits directly from his hand and then back off, waiting for him to toss them more to eat. "But if a big bass is still looking at a bait, the smaller ones will stay away," he said. "There's definitely a pecking order."

When a big bass is hungry, however, it can gobble up seven 4-inch brim or a pound (25 count) of shiners.

Not surprisingly, weather can take away their appetite. "They don't seem to like rain and storms (for hand feeding)," Woodard said, adding that maybe they gorge on food washed into the lake by runoff.     "The first day after the rain, they're not hungry. But the second day, they eat."     

And finally, there's this for rod-and-reel anglers to ponder:  "When I catch a bass and then turn it loose, the others leave with it," Woodard said.

On the other hand, he has caught Jaws and other bass multiple times, and Kickin' Bass is once more coming to the dock for dinner.

(A variation of this article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)


Kentucky Wants to Grow Its Own Trophy Bass

Responding to anglers' desires for more opportunity to catch big bass in state, Kentucky has initiated the Trophy Bass Propagation Program.

But while its neighbor to the south, Tennessee, seems to have found success by introducing Florida-strain bass into its lakes, Kentucky is not going that route. Over the years, fisheries biologists have learned that just a few miles north or south can make the difference between whether introduced Florida bass thrive or just barely survive.

"If we had the same kind of year-round temperatures as Florida, then we'd we would be stocking Florida-strain bass," said Ron Brooks, fisheries chief for the Kentucky Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Resources (DWF).

Instead, DWF intends to use offspring of trophy native bass donated by anglers who catch them, with 8pounds the minimum for females and  6 pounds for males.

"I wanted to figure out how we could do a better job of propagating larger bass in Kentucky," Brooks added. "So this kind of program just makes sense. People have been breeding animals forever to optimize the size of the animal, so why not do this with largemouth bass?"

Anglers who wish to help grow bigger bass in Kentucky can take their fish to participating bait shops from Oct. 1 to May 31, when weather typically is mild enough to reduce stress. Employees at those shops will hold the fish in aerated tanks until they can be picked up and taken to a hatchery by DWF staff.

"We don't want anglers to leave their trophy bass in a livewell or keep it in a fish basket on the bank for an extended period of time because we don't want the fish to succumb to stress," Brooks explained. "We're asking people to handle these fish with kid gloves and bring them to a participating bait shop as soon as possible."

After the bass spawn, hatcheries will raise the fish until they are 5 inches long. Then they will be stocked in fisheries around the state, including the lakes where their parents were caught.

"This won't mean that every largemouth bass spawning in Kentucky will have trophy bass genes," the fisheries chief said. "That would be a long way off.  But n the immediate future, it will mean the fish we're stocking to augment the natural spawning will be a higher quality of fish as far as growth potential."

Anglers can find out more and see a list of participating bait shops by plugging in "Trophy Bass Propagation Program" in the search window on the DWF website.


TrophyCatch Boasts Nearly 3,000 Entries as Season Three Ends

As the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)  wraps up season three of TrophyCatch, nearly 3,000 trophy largemouth bass heavier than 8 pounds have been caught, documented, and released in Florida.

Thanks to TrophyCatch’s corporate partners, led by Bass Pro Shops, Phoenix Boats and Experience Kissimmee, anglers  reap rewards for taking time to document and release these fish so they may be caught again, as well as help FWC learn more about enhancing and sustaining the most popular fishery in the world.

Each angler who catches a bass weighing more than 8 pounds, documents the weight, and releases it alive is eligible to earn prizes, starting with $100 in gift cards from Bass Pro Shops, a custom certificate and decal, as well as other prizes. Check out  to register, submit catches and review the rules and prizing details, which increase in value for larger bass. For most anglers, qualifying is as simple as taking a photo of the entire bass, head-to-tail, on a scale, so the weight can be seen and submitting it to the website. Tournament anglers also may participate by providing a link to official published results.

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Texas' ShareLunker Program begins 30th season

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“In season three alone, we documented more than 1,700 trophy-size bass caught and released in Florida to continue growing, spawning, and challenging anglers,” said Tom Champeau, director of the FWC’s Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management.

Included were 14 Hall of Fame bass, each weighing more than 13 pounds. Each of those 14 anglers will receive a hand-painted replica of his catch (a $500 value), as well as $200 in gift cards from Bass Pro Shops, and other prizes.

Although all bass must have been caught between Oct. 1, 2014, and Sep. 30, 2015, to be included in the season three competition, anglers have until Oct. 15 to get their catches submitted and approved. The annual champion will then be announced and the Championship Ring, provided by the American Outdoors Fund, will be presented. The current leader is Seth Chapman, who caught, documented, and released a 15-pound, 11-ounce Florida largemouth on March 15 in Kingsley Lake, Clay County. This is the same semi-private lake in Florida that yielded the season two champion bass.

Every angler who registers, free of cost, at  is entered into an annual drawing for a $40,000 bass boat package. Phoenix boats donated a 619 Pro, powered by Mercury Marine, and equipped with a Power-Pole shallow-water anchoring system. In addition, every time an angler has a TrophyCatch verified and approved, he or she earns 10 more chances to win the boat.

Check out Facebook to see who the finalists are for this year’s random drawing and to learn when and where the boat will be given away.

“TrophyCatch has caught on with anglers from around the state and the world,” said K.P. Clements, TrophyCatch director. “We still have trophy bass that were caught and released but not documented because anglers did not have a suitable scale or camera to verify the weight, failed to get the required photograph, or didn’t yet know about the program. But we are finding out that more and more anglers are making sure they’re ready to document and submit their catch when they land a TrophyCatch-size bass.”

All of this activity helps achieve TrophyCatch goals, which are to preserve these valuable trophy fish, learn how to enhance their abundance, and promote recreational fishing.