Author: “Ocklawahaman” Paul Nosca with the assistance of Captain Erika Ritter…..
All the way back on March 2nd and October 17th of 1975, the Ocala Star-Banner newspaper reported about the catching of a “monster” largemouth bass from the Ocklawaha River (near Moss Bluff) of Marion County, Florida. Mr. Thomas A. Johnson caught the reportedly 21-pound 3-ounce (38.25-inch long) bass on January 2nd, 1975, using a live shiner for bait. The entire newspaper article texts are reprinted at the bottom of this article for your easier reading.
The 1975 photo (printed in the Ocala Star-Banner) taken by the “Oklawaha man” Thomas A. Johnson shows about 1/2 of the bass hanging vertically in front of a Ford (late 60’s to early 70’s) pickup truck tailgate–notice the shadow upon the tailgate. The “5th Generation” of Ford F-series pickup trucks was the 1967 to 1972 models. I have measured the tailgate heights of several “5th Generation” Ford pickup trucks (the tail light lens displays the model year) at 21 inches in height. Proportionally (using a ruler and calculator), the reportedly 38.25-inch long bass in the 1975 photo (which is hung just a couple of inches in front of the 21-inch tailgate) certainly appears to me to have been well beyond 32 inches long. At least three Florida caught largemouth bass that I know of, were supposedly 32 inches long (about the length of George Perry’s World Record) but only weighed around 17 pounds.
The Thomas A. Johnson 1975 bass is the biggest and longest largemouth bass that I have ever seen any record of from the Ocklawaha or St. Johns River Basins. It ranks among the five biggest or longest largemouth bass ever reportedly caught in the State of Florida–which I have any knowledge of–and it was a RIVER bass!
This river bass was caught at least 25 miles upriver on the Ocklawaha from any part of the much glorified 13,000 acre Rodman Reservoir and would have hatched from its egg many years before the September 30th, 1968 completion of Rodman Dam.
I would point-out that the then “Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission” never concluded that Johnson’s photo, or his story, was a hoax–only that “the commission rejected Johnson’s claim on the basis that there just wasn’t enough proof that the fish WEIGHED more than the current 19 ½ pound record.”
Please let me know if any of you river “bassers” out there have any knowledge of this Mr. Thomas A. Johnson of Ocklawaha, Florida or the bass that he caught back on January 2, 1975.
From the Ocala Star-Banner of March 2, 1975:
“Record Bass? The Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission is attempting to verify a possible record weight for largemouth bass caught in Florida. Thomas A. Johnson of Oklawaha hooked a reported 21 lb., 3 oz., bass in the Ocklawaha River in January using a shiner. If accepted, the fish would be the largest ever caught in the state and would be the second largest ever reported in the United States.”
From the Ocala Star-Banner of October 17, 1975:
“Some months ago, an Oklawaha man staked his claim to a Florida record largemouth bass weighing 21 pounds, 3 ounces. But the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission has rejected the claim, citing a lack of evidence for the catch. Thomas A. Johnson said he caught the monster bass Jan. 2, 1975 in the Ocklawaha River near the Moss Bluff Lock and Spillway in south Marion County. According to Johnson, the fish was 38 ¼ inches long and was caught on a live shiner. Johnson said he used a Zebco One reel, Fenwick Lunker Stik rod and 25-pound test Stren line to land the fish and said he had it weighed and witnessed at a nearby fish camp. Unfortunately for Johnson, he took the bass home and ate it, thereby losing whatever chance he had for the Florida record. Lt. Jim Reed, information officer for the GFWFC in Ocala, said the commission rejected Johnson’s claim on the basis that there just wasn’t enough proof that the fish weighed more than the current 19 ½ pound record. Reed said the picture submitted by Johnson wasn’t enough to substantiate the claim, saying the entire fish would have been the best proof. The head, or even some scales, could have given the claim more substance, Reed said. So it looks like Johnson has lost his claim to fame and fortune and that elusive record bass still lurks in Florida waters awaiting the right bait.”