Author: “Ocklawahaman” Paul Nosca with the assistance of Erika Ritter and Keith Alwine……
It has now been more than six months after I first reported to RiverBassin.com readers about “Florida’s Top 25 Biggest or Largest Largemouth Bass”. Since my November 2010 article, my ongoing investigative work has produced some more interesting information regarding this subject which I would now like to share with you–along with some of that previous report’s text.
So far it appears that “Ocklawahaman” alone maintains the unbiased list of the “All-Time Top-25 Biggest/Heaviest Florida Largemouth Bass Ever Caught (Or Reportedly Caught) In Florida”. I strive to list all 17-pound and heavier Florida-caught largemouth bass (past or present) from any available reports (hardcopy or online) as exactly as possible as they have been reported by others. It’s a “dirty” job but somebody has to do it without bias! Maybe at some point the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, BASS, or some trustworthy bass fishing organization will take-over this record keeping job from me–but for now it is my version of “responsible journalism” and probably ensures that RiverBassin.com readers will get to view the “list” updated periodically.
Most of us are river and creek bass anglers who fish from a small boat, canoe, kayak, stream bank or by wading. We are into the aesthetic nature of our preferred type of bass fishing and probably aren’t severely inflicted with “big bass fever”. Catching a new World Record 23-pound plus largemouth is likely not our usual motivation for going fishing or even anywhere near the top of our “bucket list”. But as serious riverine “bassers”, we sometimes might be a little curious about the dimensions of “monster” largemouth bass reportedly caught by those “other guys” and where they caught them.
Have you ever searched for a modern detailed listing of the all-time top-25 biggest/heaviest largemouth bass ever caught in Florida waters only? For more than a year, I investigated for and couldn’t find any reasonably up to date Florida-only “lunker” list available to the public.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)–formerly known as the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission (GFC)–has certified our state record fish, issued “Big Catch” certificates (used to be called “Fishing Citations”), and received taxidermist’s reports for many decades; yet the FWC has no such Top-10, 25 or 50 journal of huge bass taken in Florida for anglers to look at. No bass fishing organization that I’m aware of offers any Florida-only “biggest” list either. As a Florida bass fisherman since 1965 who avidly reads “tons” of fish biology and fisheries management information, I was quite interested in viewing a comprehensive inventory of largemouth “behemoths” caught in my home state over the years.
Being a retired Data Processing Administrator, my solution to this quest has been to diligently research and document (myself) any available data about reported Florida catches of giant largemouth bass from 17 pounds up. My own list appears at the bottom of this article and I also maintain a matching “spreadsheet” with the source documentation for almost all of these “hawgs”. NO, none of my own largemouth bass catches “have what it takes” to make this list!
But before running that “lunker” list by you, let me present some other interesting data regarding Florida’s largemouth bass…
LARGEMOUTH BASS OF FLORIDA:
Biologists generally agree that only 2 naturally occurring varieties of largemouth black bass inhabit Florida freshwaters. Peninsular Florida, south and east of the Suwannee River, is the native home of the Florida largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides floridanus) subspecies which has a lateral line scale count of 69 to 73. Panhandle Florida, north and west of the Suwannee River, is populated with naturally reproducing hybrids (Micropterus salmoides salmoides x Micropterus salmoides floridanus) of the northern and the Florida largemouth bass subspecies having a lateral line scale count of 66 to 68. Pure strain northern largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides salmoides), lateral line scale count of 59 to 65, are not thought to be native to any Florida waters.
UNDOCUMENTED indicates big, heavy largemouth bass reportedly caught in Florida that are not recognized as being DOCUMENTED catches by any of the following: International Game Fish Association (IGFA), National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame (NFWFHF), BASSMASTER Magazine (BASS) or Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) or its predecessor Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission (GFC). The overwhelming majority of heavyweight largemouth bass reported caught from Florida are undocumented as the process to officially document is very meticulous.
DOCUMENTED indicates big, heavy largemouth bass caught in Florida that are recognized as being DOCUMENTED catches by any of the following: International Game Fish Association (IGFA), National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame (NFWFHF), BASSMASTER Magazine (BASS) or Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) ) or its predecessor Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission (GFC). The quite meticulous procedure to officially document goes something like as follows. It requires documenting the weighing of the fish on a certified inspected scale in the presence of 2 disinterested witnesses plus measuring its length and girth along with an inspection to verify the species by a qualified person. Also a clear photo must be submitted plus in some instances the first 25 feet of the fishing line that was used and possibly even more required information. Obviously it would be difficult to document “catch and release” bass.
NON-CERTIFIED indicates big, heavy largemouth bass caught in Florida that are recognized as being DOCUMENTED catches by the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) and/or National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame (NFWFHF) and/or BASSMASTER Magazine (BASS)–but were never examined and weighed by personnel of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) or its predecessor Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission (GFC).
CERTIFIED indicates big, heavy largemouth bass caught in Florida that are recognized as being DOCUMENTED catches by the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) and/or National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame (NFWFHF) and/or BASSMASTER Magazine (BASS)–plus they were examined and weighed by personnel of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) or its predecessor Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission (GFC).
SOME OF THE BIGGEST FLORIDA-CAUGHT LARGEMOUTH BASS:
Fisheries biologists have examined many trophy (10-pound and heavier) largemouth bass from Florida. These big bass usually are 25 inches or longer in total length and average being 10 years old with a known maximum age of 16 years.
My listing of the “All-Time Top-25 Biggest/Heaviest Florida Largemouth Bass Ever Caught (Or Reportedly Caught) in Florida” includes any available reported catches whether undocumented, documented, non-certified or certified.
Before the numbers 1 to 25 is a section beginning with letters A to G of undocumented extremely big largemouth bass that were reportedly caught in Florida. The reported weights of all of these “lettered” bass exceed that of Florida’s number 1 heaviest-ever documented record largemouth bass.
Letter “D” on the list is the largemouth bass taken from the Ocklawaha River near Moss Bluff by Thomas A. Johnson of Ocklawaha, Florida on 1-2-1975. It was reportedly 21 pounds 3 ounces and beyond 32 inches in length. There is at least one photo from the “Ocala Star-Banner” newspaper in 1975 of this extremely long bass which looks very much longer than the Ford “5th generation” pickup truck 21-inch height tailgate that also appears in the picture.
After being weighed at a nearby fish camp and photographed, this fish was eaten before the GFC was ever notified of its existence. The undisputed world record largemouth bass in 1975 was the George Perry 22-pound 4-ounce Georgia fish caught in 1932. It should be noted that any monetary prize available back then, would have gone only to the angler who caught a heavier bass than the Perry record. With only the available proof of the catch and not the fish itself, GFC was never able to certify the WEIGHT of this bass as HEAVIER than the then recognized 19-pound state record–so this Ocklawaha River “giant” never became the new Florida certified state record largemouth bass.
Johnson’s bass, as reported, weighed more and was longer than the five heaviest ever documented Florida-caught largemouth bass. Those five also were never certified by the FWC/GFC. It ranks among Florida’s heaviest undocumented largemouth bass which were reportedly heavier than the current 1st place non-certified but documented Florida 20-pound 2-ounce state record.
The Thomas A. Johnson 1-2-1975 bass is the heaviest and longest largemouth bass ever reportedly caught from the Ocklawaha or St. Johns River basins. This bass was supposedly caught at least 25 miles upriver on the Ocklawaha from Eureka and would have hatched from its egg many years before the 9-30-1968 completion of Rodman Dam. Perhaps it may be conjectured that this huge bass could have survived for about 15 years within the safe refuge of Silver River (closed to fishing by statute) while venturing out into the Ocklawaha River only occasionally as a “tackle buster” until it was legally caught near Moss Bluff during that relatively warm winter of 1974-75?
Number “1″ on the list is a 20-pound 2-ounce, 31-inch length, and 27-inch girth largemouth bass caught 5-19-1923 by Frederick “Fritz” Friebel from Big Fish Lake in Pasco County. Friebel’s catch is the heaviest DOCUMENTED largemouth bass from Florida and is the NON-CERTIFIED STATE RECORD.
Further down on the list at number “7″, following several undocumented catches, is a 19-pound largemouth bass caught 6-26-1961 by W.A. Riley Witt from Lake Tarpon in Pinellas County. The Witt fish is the 2nd heaviest DOCUMENTED bass ever from Florida and was the FORMER NON-CERTIFIED STATE RECORD–before evidence of the Friebel 1923 catch came to light.
At number “9″ is the 3rd heaviest DOCUMENTED largemouth bass ever reported from Florida. It weighed 18 pounds 13 ounces and was 29.5 inches in length with a girth of 26.5 inches. This bass was caught from the St. Johns River near Green Cove Springs on 4-12-1987 by Buddy Wright. No documented Florida-caught largemouth bass from a river system has ever weighed any more.
In a tie at number “15″ is the 4th heaviest DOCUMENTED largemouth bass ever reported from Florida waters. L. L. Petty caught an 18-pound bass with a length of 30 inches and a girth of 25 inches from Tucker Lake in 1964. It was the winning largemouth bass in the “Field & Stream” fishing contest for that year and the 7th largest ever entered in 53 years (up to that time) of the magazine’s annual contests.
Number “16″ on the list is the 5th heaviest DOCUMENTED largemouth ever taken in Florida. Donald Brunson caught this 17-pound 15-ounce bass off of a “bed” around midnight from an unspecified Florida Panhandle lake on an unspecified day in March 1988. Lt. Stan Kirkland, Northwest Region, GFC in the January-February 1989 edition of “Florida Wildlife” magazine reported as follows: “Brunson’s fish weighed 18.5 pounds on a pair of hand-held scales and ranks among the top five known trophy largemouth taken from Florida waters…When his fish was ‘officially’ weighed later that day on certified scales, almost 12 hours after it was caught, it tipped the scales at 17.93 pounds or 17 pounds, 15 ounces. This was after regurgitating a nine inch sucker and laying in an ice chest on two small blocks of ice.”
Much further down on this list in a tie at number “22″ is a 17-pound 4-ounce; 30-in length and 22.5-inch girth largemouth bass caught 7-6-1986 by Billy O’Berry from an unnamed lake in Polk County. The O’Berry bass is the heaviest DOCUMENTED catch that was ever examined and weighed by personnel of the FWC or GFC. As of this report, it is still the current CERTIFIED FLORIDA STATE RECORD largemouth bass.
In a tie at number “24″ is the biggest largemouth bass ever taken from Rodman Reservoir which reportedly weighed 17 pounds 2 ounces on the day of catch and was 29.75 inches in length. There is at least one photo available of this impressive fish that was caught on 3-11-2000 by Mr. E.C. “Doodle Bug” Dressler. State biologists viewed this bass while it was still alive in a large aquarium but newspaper accounts say that it was not weighed on a certified scale then.
Some big largemouth bass specimens caught over the years in Florida were long in inches of total length but lean in pounds and ounces of weight. The DOCUMENTED WORLD RECORD LONGEST largemouth bass ever caught anywhere was caught from Lake Toho in Florida by Bill Whipple on 8-11-2002 and was 33 INCHES in total length but weighed an amazingly light 14 pounds 6 ounces! At least three undocumented bass were reportedly 32 inches long but only weighed 17 to 17.25 pounds each.
“Ocklawahaman” Paul Nosca assembled the following list by carefully studying available data from various “offline” and “online” sources. It is the most complete historical listing of the all-time top-25 (or so) biggest or heaviest largemouth bass ever reportedly caught in Florida–that he knows of. “Ocklawahaman” Paul Nosca is ready to update this report whenever new data is discovered about 17-pound and heavier largemouth bass reported caught in Florida (past or present)–or it is brought to his attention by others.
“Ocklawahaman” Paul Nosca’s list of the:
“ALL-TIME TOP-25 BIGGEST/HEAVIEST FLORIDA LARGEMOUTH BASS EVER CAUGHT (OR REPORTEDLY CAUGHT) IN FLORIDA” updated thru 5-17-2011.
Abbreviations: lb = pound, oz = ounce, in = inch, L = length, G = girth, Co = county.
No.) Reported Weight; Length (if known); Girth (if known); County (if known); Water (if known); Catch Date by Angler (Comment).
A.) 24-lb 12-oz; 39.5 in L; 30 in G: Osceola Co; West Lake Toho; 4-20-1974 by Raymond Tomer (GFC couldn’t certify weight).
B.) 23-lb 2-oz; 37.5 in L; 29.5 in G; Lake Co; “near Altoona”; 1880′s by H.W. Ross (reported by Dr. J.A. Henshall in the 1881-1913 “Book Of The Black Bass”–16.5-inch girth head of this fish was sent to the office of “Forest and Stream” in New York which merged with “Field & Stream” in 1930).
C.) 22-lb; Volusia Co; “small lake near Pierson”; Dec 1981 by Billy Johnson (GFC couldn’t certify weight).
D.) 21-lb 3-oz; 38.25 in L; Marion Co; Ocklawaha River; 1-2-1975 by Thomas A. Johnson (GFC couldn’t certify weight, before it was eaten, although there is a good photo of this extremely long bass very much longer than a 21-inch height Ford pickup tailgate–”just wasn’t enough proof that the fish weighed more than the current 19-pound record”).
E.) 20-lb 7-oz; Hamilton Co; “Occidental pit”; Apr 1993 by “Howard” (reported by Bart Crabb in the 1997 book “The Quest for the World Record Bass”).
F.) 20-lb 5-oz; by unknown angler (reported by “John Fox’s Trophy Guide Service”).
G.) 20-lb 4-oz; by unknown angler (reported by “John Fox’s Trophy Guide Service”).
1.) 20-lb 2-oz; 31 in L; 27 in G; Pasco Co; Big Fish Lake; 5-19-1923 by Frederick “Fritz” Friebel (documented current non-certified Florida state record).
2.) 19-lb 12-oz; by unknown angler (reported by “John Fox’s Trophy Guide Service”).
3.) 19-lb 11-oz; 29 in L; 23.25 in G; Indian River Co; Farm 13/Stick Marsh (catch and release); 7-5-1994 by Doug Thompson.
4.) 19-lb 6-oz; by unknown angler (reported by “John Fox’s Trophy Guide Service”).
5.) 19-lb 4-oz; Taylor Creek Reservoir (private); 6-30-1974 by Phil Jay.
6.) 19-lb 2-oz: (2 bass) by unknown anglers (reported by “John Fox’s Trophy Guide Service”).
7.) 19-lb; Pinellas Co; Lake Tarpon; 6-26-1961 by W.A. Riley Witt (documented former non-certified Florida state record).
8.) 18-lb 15-oz; Pinellas Co; Lake Tarpon, 1961 by unknown angler.
9.) 18-lb 13-oz; 29.5 in L; 26.5 in G; Clay Co; St. Johns River; 4-12-1987 by Buddy Wright (documented).
10.) 18-lb 8-oz; Polk Co; Orange Grove Lake; Jan 2008 by Jeffrey Smith.
10.) 18-lb 8-oz; Alachua Co; Newnan’s Lake; by Wayne Jacobs.
10.) 18-lb 8-oz; Leon Co; Lake Jackson; Mar 1967 by unknown angler.
11.) 18-lb 5-oz; Madison Co; 3-25-1968 by Bobbie Haskell.
12.) 18-lb 4-oz; St. Johns River; 12-16-1948 by J.W. Smith.
13.) 18-lb 2-oz; Clay Co; Lake Brooklyn; 3-12-1966 by Hugh Paul.
13.) 18-lb 2-oz; Taylor Creek Reservoir (private); 6-25-1974 by Phil Jay.
14.) 18-lb 1-oz; (6 bass over 18lbs) by unknown anglers (reported by “John Fox’s Trophy Guide Service”).
14.) 18-lb 1-oz; Polk Co; Orange Grove Lake; by Jeffrey Smith.
14.) 18-lb 1-oz; Indian River Co; Farm 13/Stick Marsh (catch and release); 4-4-1994 by Robert Bloom.
14.) 18-lb 1-oz; Indian River Co; Lake Blue Cypress; by unknown angler.
15.) 18-lb; Polk Co; Orange Grove Lake; by Steve Smith.
15.) 18-lb; Polk Co; Lake Marion; by unknown angler.
15.) 18-lb; 30 in L; 25 in G; Franklin Co; Tucker Lake; 1964 by L. L. Petty (documented).
15.) 18-lb; Lake George (St. Johns River); 5-3-1958 by Marlin Coston.
15.) 18-lb; Putnam Co; Ashley Lake; 3-25-1951 by Carl Swisher.
15.) 18-lb; Citrus Co; Homosassa River; by unknown angler.
15.) 18-lb; Withlacoochee River; by unknown angler.
16.) 17-lb 15-oz; Mar 1988 by Donald Brunson (documented).
17.) 17-lb 12-oz; Osceola Co; West Lake Toho; 7-11-1986 by John Faircloth (documented).
18.) 17-lb 9-oz; Lake George (St. Johns River); by Babette Morgan.
19.) 17-lb 8-oz; 2007 by Butch Barnhart (reported by “John Fox’s Trophy Guide Service”).
19.) 17-lb 8-oz; 2007 by Wesley Jennings (reported by “John Fox’s Trophy Guide Service”).
19.) 17-lb 8-oz; 28 in L; 25 in G; Orange Co; Lake Rose; 1985 by Mike Paule (documented).
19.) 17-lb 8-oz; 28 in L; 25 in G; Okaloosa Co; Hurricane Lake; 3-19-1983 by Robert Earl Dunsford (documented).
19.) 17-lb 8-oz; Lake George (St. Johns River); by Justin Morgan.
20.) 17-lb 7-oz; Lake Co; “small sand mine pond”; by Bing McClellan.
21.) 17-lb 6-oz; Polk Co; Lake Winterset; by Jeffrey Smith.
22.) 17-lb 4-oz; Polk Co; Lake Summit; by Jeffrey Smith.
22.) 17-lb 4-oz; Orange Co; Raccoon Lake; 3-3-1992 by Linda Richardson (documented).
22.) 17-lb 4-oz; Alachua Co; Orange Lake; by unknown angler.
22.) 17-lb 4-oz; Walton Co; King(s) Lake; 1987 by unknown angler.
22.) 17-lb 4-oz; 30 in L; 22.5 in G; Polk Co; unnamed lake; 7-6-1986 by Billy O’Berry (documented current certified Florida state record).
22.) 17-lb 4-oz; 29.7 in L; 1973 by Doug Hannon.
22.) 17-lb 4-oz; 32 in L; Lake Okeechobee; Feb 1971 by J.J. Shaw.
23.) 17-lb 3-oz; near Winter Haven; by Jeffrey Smith.
23.) 17-lb 3-oz; Marion Co; Lake Weir; by unknown angler.
24.) 17-lb 2-oz; 29.75 in L; Lake Ocklawaha (Rodman Reservoir); 3-11-2000 by E.C. “Doodle Bug” Dressler.
24.) 17-lb 2-oz; “Lake Record in the Holmes Creek area”; by Randolph Field.
24.) 17-lb 2-oz; by Carl Wagner.
25.) 17-lb 1-oz; near Winter Haven; by Jeffrey Smith.
26.) 17-lb; Bay Co; Felix Lake (Tydall AFB); by unknown angler.
26.) 17-lb; 2007 by Bernie Leff (reported by “John Fox’s Trophy Guide Service”).
26.) 17-lb; Putnam Co; Crescent Lake (St. Johns River); by unknown angler.
26.) 17-lb; 32 in L; Lake Co; Lake Schimmerhorn (Ocala NF); by unknown angler.
26.) 17-lb; 32 in L; Marion Co; Half Moon Lake (Ocala NF); by unknown angler.
26.) 17-lb; Marion Co; Lake Bryant (Ocala NF); by unknown angler.
NOTE: The bass fishing personality “Smith” family (Jeffrey and Steve) reportedly practices “catch and release” angling. “John Fox’s Trophy Guide Service” also seems to promote “catch and release” bass fishing.
“There are lake fishermen, and there are river fishermen, and seldom do the twain agree.”
“Whether I’m hunting swamps or fishing bass, my canoe never uses foreign gas!”
If “Ocklawahaman” is nowhere to be found–reckon that you can blame it on “riverbassing” ague!
The canoeing “Ocklawahaman” Paul Nosca