Florida TrophyCatch Hall of Fame catches abound
Category: press release
Mar 5th, 2015 by OutdoorsFIRST
Modified Mar 5th, 2015 at 12:00 AM
If recent Hall of Fame submissions to TrophyCatch are an indicator, this spring is going to set records for bass fishing in Florida. Since New Year’s Day, seven anglers have submitted bass heavier than 13 pounds to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) TrophyCatch program, all of which were released alive.
Here are their stories. First, on Jan. 19 Richie Whitmore, 27, from Ringgold, Georgia, caught a Hall of Fame bass fishing live shiners on Rodman Reservoir with guide Sean Rush. An FWC biologist documented a certified weight of 14 pounds, 1 ounce with a total length of 26.125 inches and a girth measurement of 21.25 inches before releasing the female bass.
Next came the biggest bass approved by TrophyCatch thus far. It was caught by Gene Smock, 63, from Zanesville, Ohio, while fishing with Bill Lingan and Gene Kreuter. The bass weighed 15 pounds, 8 ounces. It was caught Feb. 8 on a big shiner in Lake Weohyakapka (Walk-in-Water). Smock and Kreuter came to Florida specifically to fish Lake Walk-in-Water with Lingan.
Smock’s bass would have met or surpassed the state record in 37 states, including the new Tennessee state record set on Feb. 13 at 15.2 pounds. It is shy of the official Florida state record, a bass caught in a Polk County lake in 1986 that weighed 17.27 pounds. For records to be official, catches have to be examined by a fisheries biologist and weighed on certified scales. Although there are bigger documented largemouth, such as Fritz Friebel’s 20.13-pounder from Pasco County in 1923, the record remains 17.27. Anglers catching any potential Florida freshwater record can call 855-358-7674 and see current records at BigCatchFlorida.com/state-record.
The third TrophyCatch bass was caught by Ryan Davidson, 31, from Huntington, West Virginia. He caught his 13-pound, 12-ounce bass on Feb. 9 on Garcia Lake in Indian River County. He used a Yum Bad Mamma 3.75-inch artificial lure with a tungsten weight. Davidson fishes tournaments but was not in a tournament that day. His catch is pending approval until he can upload a video of the length and girth measurements being taken — 27 inches and 22 inches, respectively.
Fourth was Tyler Sessions from Jacksonville. On Feb. 13, the day he turned 17, he was fishing with his father and caught not only a 13-pound Hall of Fame entry that measured 26 inches long by 20.5 inches around, but also submitted a Lunker Club (8 – 9.9 pounds) bass the same day. The Hall of Fame fish came from Lake Kingsley (a semiprivate lake in Clay County). The next day, Valentine’s Day, this young man who is passionate about fishing and playing baseball, submitted an 11-pound Trophy Club (10 – 12.9 pounds) bass, completing the TrophyCatch “Triple Crown.” Sessions has been fishing since he was 4 and is our youngest Hall of Fame winner to date.
Fifth was Mark Lemieux, 53, of Ocklawaha. On Feb. 15 he submitted a 13-pound, 8-ounce largemouth that was 27.5 inches long and 21.25 inches around. Lemieux is well-known to TrophyCatch, being the current featured angler, with a total of 31 approved submissions ˗˗ all from the Ocklawaha area. He is a proponent of catch-and-release and has the process down for getting a clear photo of a bass on a scale with the weight clearly visible, supplementing that with length, girth and release photos. He also collects fin clips for the FWC, so we can identify if the fish came from a state hatchery by genetic analyses and if it was previously reported ˗˗ an important point for documenting the success of catch-and-release.
The latest is Charles Harrelson, 40, with a 13-pound, 4-ounce entry from Kenansville Lake. Harrelson has had seven previous submissions approved. He caught his bass on an artificial lure.
Retired Lt. Col. Eugene “Chip” Reaves, 64, from Missouri, had the other potential Hall of Fame catch. Unfortunately, it was not approved for TrophyCatch due to insufficient documentation. Information indicated it weighed 14 pounds, 9 ounces. Reaves caught it Feb. 7 in Lake Jackson, Osceola County. It measured 29.75 inches long and had a girth of 24 inches. Unfortunately, the submitted photo showed less than half the fish on the scale instead of the required entire bass (head to tail), even though there was a great shot of him holding the bass. As a result, the fish could only be listed as a Big Catch in the less-rigorous angler recognition program that involves 33 different freshwater fish species but only awards a certificate.
“With the benefit of hindsight and your note, and after seeing how others have taken pictures, I clearly see my error,” Reaves said. “I’m disappointed but understand the decision and why it was made.”
TrophyCatch is an incentive-based conservation program designed for anglers who catch, document and release largemouth bass heavier than 8 pounds in Florida. Biologists use citizen-science generated data from validated catches to enhance trophy bass management and to promote fisheries. In return for anglers taking time to validate their catch and live-release the bass back in the water where they caught it, corporate partners provide rewards.
TrophyCatch prizes start with $100 in gift cards from partners like Bass Pro Shops, a club T-shirt from Bass King Clothing and proceed from there. Hall of Fame winners earn $200 in gift cards, a duffle bag of goodies including a custom hoody, and a free fiberglass replica of their exact catch from New Wave Taxidermy. The biggest bass each season wins a TrophyCatch championship ring. A drawing from a pool of registrants (no catch necessary, but each approved catch provides an additional 10 chances) awards another lucky angler a Phoenix bass boat powered by Mercury Marine and equipped with a Power-Pole and Navionics charting gear.
For details on additional prizes, how to submit a catch, and to see documentation and photos of more than 1,000 TrophyCatch bass, visit TrophyCatchFlorida.com. Be sure to follow Facebook.com/TrophyCatchFlorida to keep up with the latest news.