“Whoosh! Then another whoosh.”
That is how Stacy Twiggs, the senior manager of B.A.S.S. Federation Nation and Youth B.A.S.S., described the sound of a huge bass grabbing and running with the spinner bait. He was sure the anglers he’d just met and encouraged moments before had snagged a gator, so he motored over to help.
What he saw was much more exciting. His longtime fishing buddy, Zack Mack, from Murfreesboro, Tenn., hooked a 14-pound, 2-ounce Florida largemouth bass on Lake Kissimmee, close to the mouth of the Kissimmee River. Mack and his fishing partner were on their sixth fishing trip in five years to Florida – the Fishing Capital of the World.
They love fishing the shallow, grassy flats and landed this behemoth bass on Feb. 2 with a half-ounce spinner bait and casting reel. Mack had 50-pound-test braided line and had set the drag tight, but he said the first run stripped 20 yards of line as the bass came out of the water three times trying to toss the lure.
The previous day, they had fished Lake Tohopekaliga and weren’t satisfied. However, Twiggs told them he’d had a great day on Lake “Toho,” so they were wondering about their technique. Twiggs assured them they were in an excellent spot and the weather and lunar cycle were just right for a memorable day of fishing. Moments later, he was snapping a photo of them releasing the 14-pounder.
“We release all of our bass,” Mack said. “We are serious about taking care of the resource and keeping trophies in the gene pool.”
Mack will receive a “Big Catch” angler recognition certificate and 10-pounder club “Trophy Award” pin from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), with a “released” endorsement. The Big Catch program recognizes anglers who catch quality-size freshwater fish in Florida. Anglers receive a customized certificate featuring any of 33 different species of freshwater fish that exceeds either minimum qualifying weights or total lengths (see MyFWC.com/Fishing). The program also features “Specialist,” “Master” and “Elite Angler” awards for those earning multiple Big Catch awards.
The FWC is finalizing its Long-Term Black Bass Management Plan, incorporating public input with advice from a group representing a variety of freshwater-related businesses and interests. One of the most popular aspects is creating a new program to better document catches of trophy bass and encourage catch-and-release by offering anglers incentives. The trophy bass reporting program will provide additional information to biologists and help the management and conservation of trophy bass fisheries.
Lake Kissimmee has been the scene of many innovative fishery management efforts over the years. Mack’s big fish and the 30 fish he and his partner released the next day exemplify the quality of Florida bass fisheries.
This wasn’t a fluke. Just a week before, Gerald Swindle earned his first B.A.S.S. tournament win by catching 80 pounds, 13 ounces of bass at the three-day Bass Pro Shops Southern Open on Lake Tohopekaliga.
“My partner caught a 9-pounder on his second cast and another 9-pounder on his fifth cast,” Swindle said.
In writing about the tournament for BassMaster.com, Charlie Hartley concluded, “So if your goal is a giant bass, one you can brag about for years, put Florida on your list of places to visit. It’s back!”
If you want to hear that magic “whoosh,” maybe it’s time to wet a line in the Kissimmee Chain, or try out Orange Lake (http://OrangeLake.MyFWC.com). Anglers catching Orange Lake bass weighing 10 pounds or more for the next few months not only receive a Big Catch certificate and Trophy Award pin, but also earn a chance to fish with TV celebrity and renowned tournament angler Shaw Grigsby.