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Entries in trophy bass (28)

Wednesday
Apr022014

Oklahoma's Arbuckles Yields More Big Bass

Lone Grove anglers Doyle Idleman and Marco Vaca hold a five-bass stringer that totaled 42.71 pounds at Lake of the Arbuckles on March 23. (Photo courtesy Future Bass Team Trail)

Is Lake of the Arbuckles the Oklahoma version of Texas’ Lake Fork? It appears that way, courtesy of Florida-strain bass stocked there by the state.

Here’s the latest Arbuckles big-bass news from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation:

If not for the two that got away, tournament anglers Marco Vaca and Doyle Idleman might possibly have weighed-in a five-bass stringer of nearly 50 pounds. As it turned out, their 42.71-pound sack on March 23 at Lake of the Arbuckles was enough to win the Future Bass Team Trail's first 2014 divisional contest, Trail director Joe Copeland said.

The giant stringer also eclipsed Arbuckle's heavy-sack record: 42.04 pounds caught by former Elite Series angler Jeff Reynolds and Johnny Thompson in January 2013.

For the past several years, Lake of the Arbuckles in the Chickasaw National Recreation Area has been giving up lunker largemouth bass. Vaca and Idleman's largest fish bent the scale at 10.93 pounds, but even that did not win the biggest-bass honor at the tournament! The second-place team of Terry Alsup and Brad Hill had the day's big bass at 11.69 pounds, with a five-fish stringer totaling 34.16 pounds.

Six bass at the tournament weigh-in went more than 10 pounds. And only 14 boats were entered.

"I've been fishing tournaments for 30 years in Oklahoma, and I've never seen anything like it," Copeland said of the south-central Oklahoma lake. "With what's coming out of it now, there's no doubt a state record is in there."

Vaca, 33, said he did not begin bass fishing until 2009. Still, he said he's reeled in "a bunch of 10-pounders" during his brief fishing career. "That lake there has been really good to me," the Lone Grove angler said.

Vaca said the water temperature at Arbuckle was 49 degrees, and most of his team's bass were caught in the morning. The two biggest fish were in the live well within 45 minutes after the tournament started. He said they were hitting crankbaits and Alabama rigs in about 15 to 20 feet of water.

Mid-March has proved to be a great time to catch big bass in Oklahoma, as the fish are laden with eggs and preparing to spawn in the next few weeks. The last two state record largemouth bass were caught in March 2013 and March 2012.

Copeland said it's just nature. "As the fish prepare to spawn, they are going to eat everything and fatten up. And that Alabama rig, they just can't resist it," he said.

With few exceptions, Oklahoma's biggest bass are being caught in southern Oklahoma waters, where the Wildlife Department has concentrated its efforts to grow trophy bass through its Florida bass stocking program.

In the right habitat conditions, Florida bass have proved to grow larger faster than the native northern largemouth bass that is prevalent in the state. But Florida bass survival has proved problematic north of Interstate 40, mainly because of colder winter conditions compared with what is seen in southern Oklahoma.

Three teams at the March 23 Arbuckles tournament weighed in more than 30 pounds of fish. The event's third-place team of Bill Chapman and Johnny Owens brought in five bass totaling 32 pounds.

Vaca tipped his hat to the other teams for their remarkable efforts. "If I had 30 pounds of fish in the livewell, I would not think I was going to get beat!" But on Lake of the Arbuckles, recent bass tournaments have proved to be real heavyweight bouts.

The lake near Sulphur is part of the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, which is operated by the U.S. National Park Service. The Wildlife Department has periodically stocked the lake with Florida bass fingerlings for many years.

Lake of the Arbuckles has a daily limit of six largemouth or smallmouth bass combined, and all largemouth and smallmouth bass from 13 to 16 inches long must be returned to the water immediately. 

Tuesday
Mar252014

Florida Waters Yielding Abundance of Trophy Bass

Len Andrews caught this 13-pound, 12-ounce largemouth at Florida's Lake Kingsley.

Between Jan. 1 and March 23 of last year,  anglers entered 54 Lunker Club (8-9.9 pounds), 31 Trophy Club (10-12.9 pounds) and 1 Hall of Fame bass of more than 13 pounds in the TrophyCatch program. By contrast, during the same period this year, anglers registered 220 Lunker Club, 89 Trophy Club and 3 Hall of Fame bass.

“Part of that three-fold increase was due to simplified rules and more anglers being aware. Nevertheless, it is clear that Florida is producing and recycling vast numbers or trophy bass,” said Bob Wattendorf of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

Additionally in March, a Bassmaster Elite Tournament on the St. Johns River yieded some impressive results, as 11 of the top 12 finishers filled their five-bag limit all four days. Chris Lane won with a four-day total of 90.13 pounds.

More from FWC:

TrophyCatch rewards anglers for participating in citizen-science, by catching, documenting and releasing largemouth bass heavier than 8 pounds. Besides the immediate gratification of releasing these older bass to fight another day, anglers provide valuable information about the number and distribution of these trophy bass and what it takes to sustain a trophy fishery.

Biologists compare the findings to existing conservation programs such as habitat restoration efforts, aquatic vegetation management strategies, bass stocking histories and various regulation management approaches to determine what works best.

So you never know when you may find a lunker on the end of your line. To be prepared, go to TrophyCatchFlorida.com now, register, and check out the rules and prizing.

Just registering makes you eligible for a random drawing in October for a Phoenix bass boat powered by Mercury and equipped with a Power-Pole. However, every time you have a TrophyCatch bass verified, your name is entered 10 more times. Moreover, every verified bass earns you not only bragging rights on the Web but also a customized certificate, decal and club shirt, plus at least a total of $100 in gift cards from Bass Pro Shops, Dick’s Sporting Goods and/or Rapala.

Bigger fish earn greater rewards: Anglers who have 13-pound plus Hall of Fame entries also get a $500 fiberglass replica of their catch.

All three Hall of Fame entries from this winter (one was caught in the fall by Van Soles on Lake Kissimmee) came from semi-private Lake Kingsley in Clay County. Len Andrews, 74, from Richmond, Va., in a recent two-week period, caught and released 12 Florida largemouth bass over 10 pounds, capped by a TrophyCatch Hall of Fame entry that was verified as 13 pounds, 12 ounces. Andrews also became the first “Triple Crown” winner by documenting a Lunker Club, Trophy Club and Hall-of-Fame bass. All of the hundreds of bass he’s caught on Lake Kingsley have been with a Zoom 6-inch lizard.

Fellow Lake Kingsley angler Joseph “Brooks” Morrell recently reported three huge bass that he caught, documented, released and entered into TrophyCatch. These included the second and third Hall of Fame entries this season (Oct. 1, 2013, to Sep. 30, 2014). These two bass weighed 13 pounds, 12 ounces, and 14 pounds, 9 ounces and were caught March 1 and 8, respectively. The third bass Morrell caught, on March 9, weighed 11 pounds, 13 ounces. All of his catches were enticed to take an artificial crawfish bait. His 14 pounder is the current season leader. If it holds up, he will earn the TrophyCatch Championship ring in October, which is donated by the American Outdoors Fund.

However, there is still a lot of fishing to be done before then, so get out there and see what you can catch.

The FWC scheduled the first of four license-free recreational fishing days on the first full weekend in April each year (April 5-6, 2014), because it coincides with a productive freshwater fishing period, when the weather is usually pleasant. Many of Florida’s recreational sport fishes, inlcuding black bass, bluegill and redear sunfish, move into shallow waters to spawn during spring, making them more available for anglers to catch.

During license-free freshwater fishing weekends (the first weekend in April and the second weekend in June) no recreational fishing license is required. However, all other bag limit and season, gear and size restrictions apply.

To further encourage recreational fishing, the FWC will conduct a special contest during April to collect photos of anglers. All you have to do is post a photo of your family fishing in Florida’s fresh waters on Twitter or Instagram with #FLfish (or you can use #FWC-FamilyFishing). In return for your efforts, the FWC will enter you into a drawing for one of six surprise packages, each including a $50 gift card from Bass Pro Shops, thanks to TrophyCatch, a Glen Lau video library on DVD and assorted fishing lures, hooks, line and goodies to make your next trip even more productive.

Submitted photos must be your own. Editing software must not be used, and the photo cannot include inappropriate content. Photos should be taken during April while freshwater fishing in Florida and include multiple anglers enjoying their day together on the water. The FWC may subsequently use the photos for educational or outreach purposes.

Go to  MyFWC.com/Fishing to learn more about freshwater fishing in Florida. Another good resource is TakeMeFishing.org/State/FL.

Wednesday
Mar192014

Lake Kingsley Leads Way for Trophy Bass in Florida

Len Andrews with TrophyCatch bass caught at Lake Kingsley.

North Florida’s Lake Kingsley is yielding an abundance of big bass this spring. Unfortunately, most of us can’t fish it. On the east, access is limited to military personnel from Camp Blanding and, on the west, with permission of private homeowners.

Still, it’s indicative of what many of the Sunshine State’s public waters are capable of producing, especially during the pre-spawn and spawn. And with the introduction of Florida’s TrophyCatch program a couple of years ago, we’re now getting a better idea of that what they are producing.

 The latest news from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is that Len Andrews caught and released a dozen largemouth bass that weighed 10 pounds or more during a two-week period at Lake Kingsley. Previously, FWC reported that Joseph Morrell caught three double-digit fish in early March. Morrell’s largest weighed 14-9 and Andrews’ 13-12.

Here’s more from FWC about 74-year-old Andrews and his big bass:

Andrews discovered north Florida’s Lake Kingsley 17 years ago and now routinely visits for three months every year, generally fishing seven days a week. His very first cast with a Zoom 6-inch lizard on a Shimano baitcasting reel and G. Loomis rod yielded a 14-pound, 8-ounce Florida largemouth back in 1999. He has been hooked ever since, and always uses the same lure while sight-fishing for bass in the shallows.

Andrews grew up fishing with friends, and in the 1960s and ’70s he tried his hand tournament fishing, but said he “nearly starved,” even after adding guiding on Rodman Reservoir to his repertoire. Ultimately, he relied on being a union carpenter and supervisor until he retired.

TrophyCatch is an incentive-based conservation program that rewards anglers for legally catching, documenting and releasing trophy largemouth bass heavier than 8 pounds in Florida. The second season of this very successful effort to gather information on elusive trophy bass while encouraging anglers to release them began Oct. 1, 2013, and ends Sep. 30 this year. The program itself is ongoing, but having seasons allows the FWC to award a championship ring annually, which is donated by the American Outdoors Fund, and to draw for the Phoenix bass boat, which is powered by a Mercury outboard and equipped with a Power-Pole. Simply registering at TrophyCatchFlorida.com makes you eligible for the random boat drawing.

Andrews’ 13-pounder, which he caught on March 11, was verified on a certified scale by FWC biologists Allen Martin and Steven Hooley as the fourth Hall of Fame entry this season. Van Soles recorded the first, a 13-pound, 2-ounce tournament-caught bass from Lake Kissimmee. Joseph Morrell followed earlier this month with two catches a week apart, weighing, 13 pounds, 12 ounces and then our current leader – a 14-pound, 9-ounce bass. Both of Morrell’s catches were also caught and released on Lake Kingsley.

Hall of Fame entries receive a free fiberglass replica mount ($500 value) from New Wave Taxidermy; $200 worth of gift cards from Bass Pro Shops, Dick's Sporting Goods and/or Rapala; a Bass King duffle bag with customized hoodie, shirt and hat; and a Glen Lau DVD. In addition, their names are entered into the Florida Bass Hall of Fame at the Florida Bass Conservation Center .

The other two clubs that are part of TrophyCatch are the Lunker Club for bass between 8 and 9.9 pounds, and Trophy Club for bass between 10 and 12.9 pounds. Verified Lunker Club entries receive $100 in gift cards from our partners and a club T-shirt. Trophy Club entries earn $150 in gift cards and a long-sleeve club shirt. All three groups also get a club decal and customized certificate.

To enroll in any of the three clubs and support conservation, anglers should register at TrophyCatchFlorida.com, where they will also log in to submit their catches. A verified catch must be properly documented by one of the following means:

  • Photo of entire fish on the scale with the weight showing (if not perfect, be sure to supplement with a closeup showing the scale and at least part of the fish, a shot of entire fish on a tape-measure, and maybe a girth photo);
  • Link to a tournament website with official results, or to a publication that includes your name and verified weight of the individual fish;
  • A copy of an official printed tournament weigh slip, with tournament information that includes your name and the verified weight of the individual fish, or;
  • Provide the name and contact information for an FWC official who saw the actual fish being weighed and can verify the entry (e.g., creel clerks, conservation officers, event volunteers).

Other anglers can view the gallery and map on the TrophyCatch website to see where all the great catches are being made, and follow us at Facebook.com/TrophyCatchFlorida

Friday
Jan242014

Strong Start for Second Year of Florida's TrophyCatch

 

This Lake Okeechobee largemouth would have qualified as a TrophyCatch, but Activist Angler caught it before program began.

From Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission:

The first year of TrophyCatch has ended, and the awards were all given out, but now the challenge is on for year two. TrophyCatch rewards anglers for catching, documenting and releasing largemouth bass heavier than 8 pounds in Florida.

The second year is off to a great start, with 63 Lunker entries (8-9.9 pounds) and 26 Trophy Club (10-12.9 pounds) recorded in less than  four months, and more than twice as many entries in December 2013 compared with December 2012. The first Hall of Fame entry (greater than 13 pounds) is awaiting verification.

Besides checking out the gallery, you should also review the rules and prizes. Then be sure to follow us on Facebook to see all the latest entries and get updates on special events.

The peak season is still in front of us, and FWC biologists have worked to narrow down a list of top sites to recommend to bass anglers for 2014 based on data from anglers, scientific sampling and an understanding of habitat trends and local conditions. By participating in TrophyCatch, you can help these biologists to further improve management and conservation of trophy bass.

By releasing them alive (a mandatory condition of TrophyCatch) you will help sustain the fishery for the future and be rewarded. Rewards start, for Lunker Club entries (8-9.9 pounds) with $100 in gift cards, from partners like Bass Pro Shops, Rapala and/or Dick’s Sporting Goods, and are complemented by custom apparel by Bass King Clothing, a personalized certificate and window decal.

Below is a list of top bass fishing sites. For more details, go here, and click on “Fishing Sites/Forecasts” to find more details, lots of specific local fishing tips, local contacts, specific rules, access points, attractors, ramps and quarterly updates.

West Lake Tohopekaliga (Lake Toho; 18,810 acres) is adjacent to Kissimmee. Lake Toho is known for producing excellent crappie and bream fishing as well as trophy largemouth bass. Angler surveys from August to November 2013 indicated bass anglers experienced an exceptional catch success rate of 0.96 fish per hour, which was the sixth consecutive year angler success was excellent.

Lake Kissimmee (34,976 acres) is the largest of five big lakes in the Kissimmee Chain. As a result of aggressive habitat management by the FWC, anglers enjoy a diverse and expansive plant community. Angler surveys in spring 2013 showed an angler catch success rate of 0.56 fish oer hour (double the statewide average), with an estimated 177 bass 24 inches or greater caught and released during the survey.

Lake George (46,000 acres) is the second largest lake in the state, and is located northwest of Deland and east of Ocala. Lake George, a natural lake in the St. Johns River, has extensive aquatic vegetation, primarily eelgrass, that provides excellent habitat for bass.

Lake Monroe (9,400 acres) is a shallow lake north of Sanford near Orlando. For the past several years, electrofishing surveys by biologists have documented some of the highest numbers of lunker bass for the St. Johns River chain.

Rodman Reservoir (9,500 acres) near Gainesville and south of Palatka, was impounded in 1968. It has been known for trophy largemouth bass ever since. Much of the fishery’s success is attributed to abundant habitat in the form of stumps and submersed vegetation, and periodic drawdowns occurring every three years. Although drawdowns on Rodman are primarily to control invasive aquatic vegetation, biologists have observed strong largemouth bass spawns associated with reservoir drawdowns. Following the large spawns, bass provide the majority of the angler catch.

Lake Tarpon (2,500acres) is near Tampa/St. Petersburg in Pinellas County. Biologists using a boat electrofisher in spring 2013 caught bass at a rate of 2.7 bass/ per minute, a rate considerably higher than typical. Most bass were 12 to 16 inches long; however, quality and trophy fish are present in good numbers.

Istokpoga (28,000 acres) is between the Kissimmee Chain of lakes and Lake Okeechobee in Highlands County near Sebring. Past angler surveys have estimated more than 1,000 bass over 8 pounds being caught in less than a year’s time. Further, an impressive 46 bass caught from Lake Istokpoga were entered into the TrophyCatch program during the past year – the most entries from a public resource during that time period. Another 15 bass from Lake Istokpoga were entered into the BigCatch program (an FWC angler recognition program that only requires a photo and statement that the bass exceeded 24 inches or eight pounds, making documentation easier, resulting in a certificate but no significant rewards).  

Tenoroc Fish Management Area (8,400 acres) near Lakeland provides a special opportunity to bass fish in Florida’s famous phosphate pits. These 7- to 227-acre lakes were created by draglines during phosphate mining operations. As a result, lake bottoms have irregular contours with depths to 35 feet. Tenoroc is northeast of Lakeland and can be accessed from Highway 33 just south of Intestate 4. Call the Tenoroc Headquarters at 863-499-2422 for more information or to make reservations. The area is open to public fishing Friday through Monday. Anglers must check in and out at the office, deposit their valid fishing license and pay $3 for a daily fishing permit.

Winter Haven Chain of Lakes, especially the southern portion,may well be Central Florida’s best-kept bass fishing secret. Polk County is home to 554 named lakes, the state’s certified record Florida Largemouth Bass (17.27 pounds), and sells more freshwater fishing licenses than any other county. The chain comprises 14 lakes, from 25 to 1,160 acres, and more than 4,000 acres of fishable waters.

Mosaic Fish Management Area (1,000 acres), near Fort Meade in Polk and Hardee counties, is definitely worthwhile. Anglers had an average catch rate of over one bass per hour last year. There are 12 phosphate pits, from 10 to 200 acres, with depths down to 30 feet. The FMA is open to public fishing from Friday through Monday. No reservations can be made, so lake permits are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. Call 863-648-3200 for more information.

Lake Weohyakapka (Lake Walk-in-Water; 7,500 acres) is south of Orlando and east of Lake Wales. FWC biologists sampled and released 27 bass weighing more than 8 pounds during the past year.

Lake Okeechobee (470,000 acres) is Florida’s largest lake and the second largest body of freshwater in the contiguous United States. A 100-yard-wide rim canal circles the lake, and secondary canals and cuts link to it, resulting in hundreds of miles of fishing water. October 2013 electrofishing samples yielded excellent catch rates for the lake, with abundant bass over 18 inches. The past four years have yielded the highest success rates, each over 1.25 bass per hour, in the 36-year history of the lake’s creel survey.

Everglades Water Conservation Areas 2 and 3 (1,125 square miles) are marshlands intersected by more than 200 miles of canals. Originally designed for flood control and water supply, the area provides some of the best largemouth bass fishing in the country.

First Season Winners

Bob Williams of Alloway, N.J., earned the TrophyCatch Championship Ring for the first season. It was presented at Bass Pro Shops in Orlando last month by Keith Alan, from the American Outdoors Fund, and Tom Champeau, director of the Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management. His winning catch was a 13-pound, 14-ounce largemouth from Rodman Reservoir. He previously earned a free ($500 value) fiberglass replica of his catch and other awards totaling approximately $1,000.

A $10,000 check was handed to Peter Perez at a special ceremony at West Lake Tohopekaliga by Experience Kissimmee representatives Debby Guertin and Terry Segraves, along with Champeau. Perez caught the largest TrophyCatch verified bass from Osceola County to win the prize. His winning 12-pound, 3-ounce bass was caught last March in a neighborhood pond on a Rat-L-Trap.

The winner of the 2013 Phoenix 619 bass boat, powered by Mercury, was surprised angler Frank Ay. His prize was presented to him following a club tournament on Lake Okeechobee by professional bass angler Bobby Lane, Champeau and KP Clements, the TrophyCatch coordinator. Ay won the $40,000 grand prize via a random drawing from among 4,000 anglers that registered for TrophyCatch the first season.

To Enter

For the second year, which began Oct. 1, documenting a TrophyCatch has gotten simpler. Start by registering for free here, and you will be automatically entered to win a Phoenix bass boat, powered by Mercury and equipped with a PowerPole.

This year the only required photo is one of the entire bass (head to tail) on a scale, with the weight visible. Always attempt to get that shot, but if it isn’t perfect, supplement it with a close up of the scale, a photo of the entire fish on a bumpboard or tape measure, and maybe even a shot of the bass’s girth. This will help a verification team of fisheries biologists determine if the fish is eligible for recognition.

You can also submit a bragging photo and perhaps a release photo on the website. Every verified entry gives you 10 more chances for the Phoenix boat drawing in October.

Monday
Sep162013

Be Prepared For That Big Bass

TPWD photo

Planning to catch an entry in the Texas Toyota ShareLunker Program this year? If so, be sure to read the following guidelines from Texas Parks and Wildlife before making that first cast.

And even if you don’t live in Texas and/or have no designs on a 13-pound largemouth, following the more general recommendations will make you a better angler and conservationist.

  1. Program the Toyota ShareLunker numbers into your cell phone NOW. Voice: (903) 681-0550. Pager: (888) 784-0600. Both are monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week during the season, which runs October 1 through April 30. Be sure to include your area code if leaving a message. (And by the way: There is no need to call either number in the middle of the night just to see if they are working. They are.)
  2. Check your tackle and respool with fresh line, preferably braided. Big bass tend to hang out in the nastiest cover they can find and are quick to wrap your line around a tree. Chances are you are going to have to pull them out by brute strength.
  3. If you do not have an oxygenation system installed in your livewell, get one. Instructions on how to do it yourself can be found at http://www.slideshare.net/raminlandfish/livewell-oxygen-injection-8773301. Oxygenation is especially important during warm weather and tournaments, when bass may be held for several hours.
  4. Don’t have a livewell? You can use the information in step 3 to rig a large ice chest. Bass do not respond well to being dragged across a lake on a stringer. Remember that a 13-pound bass will probably be at least 24 inches long.
  5. Get a rubber net. These are much kinder to fish than nets with knotted construction. Abrasions make a fish more vulnerable to infections.
  6. Get a scale and check its accuracy using a known weight. (A five-pound sack of flour or sugar and a gallon of water in a plastic grocery bag should weigh about 13.5 pounds.) This can save much time and frustration trying to find a place to weigh a fish.
  7. Review the procedure for handling and caring for big bass at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/visitorcenters/tffc/sharelunker/handle/.
  8. Know the locations of official ShareLunker weigh and holding stations (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/visitorcenters/tffc/sharelunker/holding/). These places have certified scales for weighing your fish, a specially equipped tank for holding it, and personnel who have been trained by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department fisheries biologists on how to care for big bass. Taking your fish to one of these stations, if one is nearby, is perhaps the single most important thing you can do to insure its survival.
  9. Expect to catch a lunker. Many lunkers are caught by people who just went fishing and did not expect to hook a trophy bass, and they didn’t have a net, or didn’t fill their livewell, or didn’t have a scale or know where to take a fish to have it weighed. Any time you fish in Texas, you have a chance to catch a 13-pound or bigger bass. Act like a Boy Scout. Expect the unexpected.
  10. Buy a fishing license and know the regulations for the body of water you fish. Some big bass have not been accepted into the ShareLunker program because they were not legally caught. The first thing the TPWD employee does when picking up a fish is check the condition of the fish. The second is to ask to see your fishing license. Have one.
  11. It’s best to use a rubber net to land a fish, but if you must lip it, take care not to suspend the fish’s weight from its jaw. This can break the jaw and make it impossible for the fish to feed. Grip the fish’s mouth firmly with one hand and its tail with the other, and handle it as little as possible to avoid damaging its protective slime coat.
  12. Treat the fish with respect after catching it. Quickly take photos of yourself with the fish, and then leave it alone. Don’t let others handle the fish and have their picture taken with it. It’s your fish. You want it to live to go back into the lake. The process starts with you.
  13. Go fishing.