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Entries in Florida bass (40)

Tuesday
May092017

Kansas' La Cygne Yields Double-Digit Bass

In late March, a tournament angler caught one of the biggest largemouth bass every taken in Kansas public waters. At the late afternoon weigh-in on La Cygne, Jeremy Conway's double-digit bass checked in an 10 pounds, 15 ounces.

The last two state records, 11.8 (11-13) and 11.75, were taken in private waters. Record before that was 11 pounds, 3 ounces. 

Doug Nygren, fisheries chief for the Department of Wildlife and Parks, wasn't surprised that this 2,600-acre impoundment in eastern Kansas yielded the lunker.

"There's just no doubt that La Cygne is the best of our lakes when it comes to quality bass," he said. "Most years, out of all those lakes we sample, the biggest are in La Cygne. It's special."

Nearly half of bass over 8 pounds collected during sampling of state waters since 1979 have come there, he added.

Genetics likely play a role. Nearly 40 years ago, Florida strain bass were stocked with the hope that they would thrive in the warmer water provided by discharges from a coal-fired power plant. No research has been done in the past few years, but La Cygne bass reflected that genetic tie for decades after.

In addition to a longer growing season, the fishery also has good habitat, including water willow, and an abundance of big bluegill. Offspring of the latter provides plenty of food for bass, Nygren said.

Conway caught the big bass on his first cast of the day, using a Rapala crankbait and 10-pound line.

 

Friday
Apr142017

Near State Record Bass Caught in Florida

Dominic Montalto recently caught a bass just 8 ounces off the Florida record of 17-4.  Taken at a private pond in Estero, his 16-pound, 12-ounce lunker is now the heaviest catch leader for season 5 of the TrophyCatch program.

“When I first saw the fish, I thought it was a log with a volleyball under it – until it moved,” said Dominic. “Once I realized it was a big bass, I started targeting it and just kept trying until it took the bait.”

Dominic was fishing from shore around dusk, using a Johnny Morris Titanium 8 heavy-action rod with a Bass Pro Shops Pro Qualifier 7.1:1 reel and a XPS Z9R Perch Swimbait lure in bluegill color.

He is 19 years old and learned to fish from his father, Joe. The Montalto family refers to themselves as a “fishing family,” noting that they made the move from Illinois to Florida a year ago and specifically selected their home based on nearby fishing ponds. Dominic  attends Florida Gulf Coast University, where he is pursuing a degree in physical therapy.

A team of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) biologists verified the accuracy of Dominic’s scale, catch videos and photos.

TrophyCatch is a partnership between FWC biologists, anglers and fishing industry leaders, such as Bass Pro Shops, that rewards the catch, documentation and release of largemouth bass weighing 8 pounds or heavier in Florida. To be eligible for prizes, anglers must submit photos or videos of their catch to TrophyCatch.com, showing the fish’s weight on a scale, before releasing it. FWC biologists use TrophyCatch data for bass research, to make informed decisions about the management of Florida bass fisheries, and to promote the catch-and-release of trophy bass.

Dominic’s trophy bass qualifies him for the TrophyCatch Hall of Fame Club, which offers rewards for catches weighing 13 pounds or heavier. Hall of Fame Club catches are celebrated at a ceremony each year and club members receive $100 gift cards to Bass Pro Shops and/or Rapala, a fiberglass replica mount from New Wave Taxidermy, a $50 SpiderWire merchandise credit code, and a Fitzgerald Rod, among other prizes. Since the beginning of Season 5 in October, 12 Hall of Fame bass have been approved.

Dominic’s catch also puts him in the lead for becoming the TrophyCatch Champion, which is awarded to the angler with the heaviest catch of the season. Anglers have until Sept. 30 to submit their catches.

Anglers are also eligible to win the TrophyCatch Grand Prize, which is awarded to the angler with the heaviest combined weight of approved catches throughout the entire season. The Grand Prize includes a Shimano prize pack of G. Loomis and Metanium combo, and a Lake County tourism prize pack of a three-day, two-night stay in Lake County with a fishing trip guided by professional angler Tim Frederick. Second prize includes a Shimano prize pack of Expride and Chronarch MGL combo. Third prize includes a Shimano prize pack of Exage and Casitas combo. 

The FWC encourages anglers to join TrophyCatch as citizen-scientists to assist in fisheries management and the conservation of Florida’s lakes and rivers. A new TrophyCatch mobile app is available for download on both Apple and Android devices. For more information about the TrophyCatch program, email Amber Nabors at Amber.Nabors@MyFWC.com.

Wednesday
Mar222017

Little Arkansas Lake Yielding Big Bass

Yielding three double-digit largemouth bass in January, little Lake Akins in west-central Arkansas is looking more and more as if it just might be the fishery to produce the next state record bass. The current record, a hefty 16 pounds, 8 ounces, was caught by Aaron Mardis in 1976 on Mallard Lake.

On Jan. 23, an 11.7-pound bass was taken from a public pier on the 752-acre lake managed by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC). A few days later, Sharon Vinson of the Lucky Landing Bait Shop weighed in another 11, as well as a 10 and several others that topped 5 pounds. Most of those, including the second 11, also were caught from the pier, with minnows and shad the baits of choice.

Those big bass likely were among the first Florida-strain bass stocked in the lake in 2003, after it was rehabilitated, according to biologist Frank Leone.

“That would make these fish about 14 years old, which is nearing the end of a Florida-strain bass’s lifespan in Arkansas,” Leone said. “We’re keeping an eye on the population and hoping that we don’t begin to see a decline in those fish that reach what we like to call the ‘memorable’ class.”

Lying between Interstate 40 to the north and the Arkansas River to the south, Lake Atkins originally was impounded in 1956. But over the years, it became overrun with rough fish, including carp and bigmouth buffalo, and that prompted a drawdown and renovation project. A partial drawdown and fish kill in 2002 turned into a near total drawdown when a dam gate malfunctioned, leaving only 25 acres of water left at one point.

“That drawdown enabled us to remove the rough fish and remove northern strain largemouths from the system before we stocked it with Florida-strain bass,” the biologist added. “Through our genetics testing, we’ve seen the lake begin to shift slowly back to northern-strain bass, possibly from fish entering the system from the feeder creek or people moving fish, but we still see many good 5-pound-plus fish every time we electrofish at Atkins.”

Thursday
Dec292016

More States Look to Grow Trophies With Florida-Strain Bass

Tennessee state record bass caught in 2015 at Lake Chickamauga.Can Tennessee biologists turn Chickamauga into another Lake Fork?

Probably not.

That Texas lake is the gold standard for trophy bass fisheries, and duplicating the success there is not a reasonable expectation, especially for a state with a less hospitable climate.

But resource managers are hopeful that they can grow bigger bass in Chickamauga through the introduction of Florida-strain largemouths into the population.

“I’m convinced that Florida bass will grow big in Tennessee,” says Bobby Wilson, assistant director of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. “I hope that can happen in Chickamauga. And, if it does, we’ll move to other lakes with it.”

So far, Wilson has two very persuasive pieces of evidence to support his conviction: In October of 2009, biologists electroshocked a 16-15 largemouth at Browns Creek Lake, where Floridas also have been stocked. And in 2015, Gabe Keen caught a 15.2 in Chickamauga, good enough to establish a new state record.  

By contrast, the previous record was just 14.5, caught in 1954 at Sugar Creek.

 “We’ve had a few 13-pounders reported by fishermen (from agency lakes),” Wilson adds. “They probably were Florida bass.”

But the verdict still is out on Chickamauga.

The same goes for Lake Guntersville, just to the south in Alabama.

 “We haven’t stocked them (Florida bass) on a regular basis,” said Keith Floyd, a fisheries supervisor for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “It’s been periodically in one or two embayments, to see if we can incorporate Florida genomes into the population.”

Tennessee, however, has been much more deliberate in its approach. After stocking 200,000 fry annually for five years throughout Chickamauga failed to show much of a genetic shift, biologists decided to focus on three creeks for the next five.

“Anglers (at Chickamauga) are saying they are catching bigger bass,” Wilson explains. “And they say that the bass look different from what they are used to seeing.”

Anglers also are catching bigger bass at Lake Atkins in adjacent Arkansas, where the fishery was rehabilitated and then stocked with Floridas. In 2011, anglers caught at least three 12-pound bass in that 752-acre fishery.

Wilson says that his state used criteria from Arkansas and Oklahoma in deciding where Florida-strain bass could be stocked successfully in Tennessee. That turned out to be south of a line from Dyersburg in the west to Chattanooga in the east.

But as Virginia proved during the early 1990s, bass with Florida genes can do well even farther north than that. After being stocked in the late 1980s, Briery Creek Lake yielded a 13-4 trophy in 1992. It followed with a 16-3 (one ounce shy of the state record) in 1995 and 16-2 in 2002. And from 1994 to 2002, it produced the largest bass in the state annually.

“A lot of people are excited about this,” Wilson says about Tennessee’s Florida bass program. “But some don’t want them because they have heard that they are finicky than northern bass.”

And there’s the argument that native bass populations are weakened when Florida bass are added.  “But these aren’t native systems,” the Tennessee fisheries chief points out. “These are manmade impoundments.”

Texas’ long-term success with Florida bass in Lake Fork and other reservoirs provides a strong argument in support of Wilson. And the fact that more than 500 largemouth bass of 13 pounds and more have been entered in its Sharelunker program seems to dispel the “finicky” fear as well.

From my own decades of experience with Florida bass in Florida, Texas, and Mexico, I’ve noted that they can turn off when temperature drops just a degree or two. But I do not believe them more difficult to catch than northern bass. When cold and/or high pressure turns them off, you just have to slow down and adjust your tactics. Instead of throwing a spinnerbait, flip a soft plastic along the edge of a weedline.

Also, I’ve found Florida bass to be, pound for pound, much more challenging fighters than northern bass. A big Florida is like a mean smallmouth with a belly. And I’ve seen 12-pounders tail walk.

Count me as one who is not troubled by the occasional finickiness of Florida bass or the fact that they are being introduced into manmade fisheries in Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama, and perhaps other states outside their native range. I’ve been blessed to catch a few double-digit Floridas, and I’d like to see more opportunities for other anglers to do so as well.

Whether Chickamauga and Guntersville are two of the fisheries capable of growing those genetically enhanced big fish likely will be revealed in the years ahead.

Thursday
Oct132016

Angler Assistance Needed as Kentucky Starts First Full Season of Trophy Bass Propagation Program

Acknowledging that they're still ironing out the kinks, fisheries managers are optimistic heading into Kentucky's first full season of its new Trophy Bass Propagation Program, which runs Oct. 1 to May 31. Anglers contributed four bass of 8 pounds or better last spring, when the strategy was first announced.

"We really hope to see more participation from Kentucky's serious bass anglers," said Ron Brooks, fisheries chief for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR). "After all, this is one program where anglers can really make a difference in terms of potentially increasing the quality of bass fishing in the lakes they fish."

State fishermen have longed voiced their desire for Florida-strain bass to be stocked in Kentucky lakes, to improve genetics and, as a result, their chances of catching larger bass. They point to neighboring Tennessee, which has had some success with that method.

But Tennessee is to the south, and just a few miles can make a huge difference in whether Florida-strain bass thrive or don't even survive.

"If we had the same kind of year-round temperatures as Florida, then we would be stocking Florida-strain bass," Brooks explained.

Consequently, Brooks and the KDFWR are hoping to use some of the state's largest bass, 8 pounds and up for females and 6 pounds and up for males, to raise and stock native fish disposed to heavier weights. They hope that anglers will donate those big fish to be used for broodstock for a couple of years before being released into the fisheries where they were caught.

As a thank you, the agency will provide a replica mount of his catch  to the fisherman.

"Being that it was late in the season when we started (last spring), getting four fish was good," said Jeff Ross, assistant director of fisheries. "It allowed us to advertise those fish, which, in turn, allowed us to further advertise the program and show that it was successful in obtaining fish."

This year, Brooks is hopeful that more bait shops will assist as temporary holders for the bass. "Although the project does require some extra work on the part of our biologists and transportation truck drivers, we cannot envision an easier, more efficient system at this time," he said.

Getting state park marinas as participants is another objective this year, according to Ross. "That would create an excellent partnership, allowing them to promote the program and also have their marinas listed in our fish-holding sponsorship lists and advertisements," he said.

After the donated bass spawn, hatcheries will raise the offspring 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," Brooks said. "That would be a long way off.  But in 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 going here.