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Written by Terry Battisti   
Monday, 18 April 2011 18:57

Giant Bass

A look at one version of the big list

With Bill Siemantel

The quest for the world-record bass still continues at a strong pace, especially since it could possibly mean up to $1 million dollars to the person who catches this elusive fish. Anglers from Southern California to Florida, Mexico, Cuba and recently, Japan, are coming closer each year to surpassing the 22-pound, 4-ounce benchmark posted by George Perry on June 2, 1932.

A few fish have tickled this goal, and reportedly, three surpassed the mark. But for a variety of reasons, none have been officially certified as real contenders.

So where, and when, are your best chances to catch this elusive record? The following discussion will hopefully shed more light on this quest.

Keeping Track

For quite some time, I have kept records of the largest documented bass both in this country and abroad. It started 20 years ago, when I had hopes of catching a bass that pushed the set mark. I have since moved from the trophy-bass haven of Southern California, and now keep my records both out of curiosity and stubbornness.

Earlier this year, after another large fish had been caught and submitted for record status, I began looking deeper into my existing data, while securing more from anglers and fish and game departments. The culmination of that research serves as the basis of this article.

Scanning over my updated list of trophy bass--meaning, registered bass over 16 pounds from across the country and abroad--I set forth to analyze the data provided. My purpose was to determine whether any trends could be distinguished. The results of this exercise are presented in the tables.

A traditional table or list, used so often in fishing to present the largest fish caught, does little but "list" the fish. In order to determine what types of trends can be found within these data, the data must be analyzed. My list of data consists of over 100 trophy bass dating from 1923 to 2004. Although many, many other 16-pound-plus fish were caught during this time, the data was either too sketchy, I was unaware of the fish or I was unable to obtain concrete confirmation. Another requirement I placed on the list was each fish had to be recognized by the respective state or national game and fish agency as fully verified; or the fish had to have an extremely good pedigree. So, there are some fish that have been omitted from this analysis. The fish used in this study can be seen in Table 1.

The initial piece of data I was most interested in isolating was in which month were the most trophy bass caught. However, 82 of the 106 bass used in this analysis lacked verifiable data on month of catch. On another note, the local weather conditions in which these fish were caught was not taken into consideration, because all locales in which a 16-pound or larger fish have been taken possess relatively similar year-round weather conditions.

As would be expected, springtime is the best season to be on the water in search of a record-class fish. I consider these months to be January through April, with March producing the highest number of trophy bass. In fact, over 80 percent of the analyzed fish were caught during these months, and overall, to my best estimation, 35 percent of all the trophy fish were caught during March.

Another interesting set of data was the actual number of fish taken from each state or country. California, at 83, boasts an overwhelmingly high number of fish over 16 pounds. Texas takes second place with 16. One reason for this imbalance could be more mature Florida bass stocking programs in each state. These programs have given rise to healthy populations of Florida hybrids, which appear to grow faster and larger than their pure-strain cousins.

Bass in these lakes also have more temperate weather conditions, a strong forage base, and at some lakes, limited daily access. In addition, California lakes typically receive sizable trout plants.

I then plotted trophy catches in order to determine how angling pressure affected catches. Although there have been some ebbs in the rates of trophy catches, for the most part, catch rates have increased over time. Cycles of low catch rates could have something to do with low or high water years, baitfish cycles or other anomalies. On the other hand, the increase in overall catch rate could be explained by the more regular use of swimbaits, or the overall increase in trophy-hunting skill.

State Breakdown

In order to help determine which lakes are kicking out 16-pound-plus bass, I plotted the data for both California and Texas. In order to fully understand, one must look at the raw data presented in Table 1 to determine whether some of these lakes are currently producing big fish. For example, Lake Castaic and San Vicente in Southern California have produced large numbers of bass over 16 pounds in the past, but none for quite some time. On the other hand, there are some lakes in Texas, other than Lake Fork, that are beginning to produce lunker largemouths. For more information on Texas Trophy lakes, please visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife website at

The data as presented will hopefully add to the knowledge of those anglers wishing to tie into that fish of a lifetime. Again, anglers should pay attention to the raw data in Table 1 when looking at any of the figures.

Acknowledgements: The author wishes to thank Mike Long, Larry Bottroff of the San Diego Parks Department and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for some of the data collected. Some data used in the study was not complete, but all was duly certified by the associated Department of Fish and Game or Parks Department.

Table 1: All-Time Largest Documented Bass

Rank Pounds Location State Angler Date
1 22.25 Montgomery Lake Georgia George Perry 6/2/32
2 22.01 Lake Castaic California Bob Crupi 3/12/91
3 21.75 Lake Castaic California Mike Arujo 3/5/91
4 21.70 Dixon Reservoir California Jed Dickerson 5/31/03
5 21.19 Lake Casitas California Ray Easley 3/4/80
6 21.01 Lake Castaic California Bob Crupi 3/9/90
7 20.94 Lake Miramar California David Zimerlee 6/23/73
8 20.86 Lake Castaic California Leo Torres 2/4/90
9 20.75 Dixon Reservoir California Mike Long 4/27/01
10 20.25 Lake Hodges California Gene Dupras 5/30/85
10 20.25 Lake Miramar California Johnny Garduno 3/25/90
12 20.13 Big Fish Lake Florida Fritz Friebel May 1923
13 19.88 Dixon Reservoir California Mike Long 2004
14 19.63 Lake Baccarac Mexico Bruce Knutsen 1/17/93
15 19.50 Lake Miramar California Keith Gunsauls 3/7/88
15 19.50 Lake Casitas California Randy Crabtree 4/9/02
15 19.50 Dixon Reservoir California Mac Weakley 5/20/03
18 19.40 Ikehara Dam Japan Kazuya Shimada 4/22/03
19 19.25 Lake Miramar California Chris Brandt 3/22/98
20 19.19 Lake Wohlford California Steve Beasley 2/3/86
20 19.19 Lake Morena California Ardon Hanline 2/17/87
22 19.06 Lake Miramar California Sandy DeFresco 3/14/88
23 19.04 Lake Castaic California Danny Kadota 1/8/89
24 19.03 Success Lake California Larry Kerns 1/27/01
25 19.00 Lake Tarpon Florida Riley Witt 6/21/61
26 18.94 Lake Isabella California Keith Harper April 1984
27 18.86 Lake Castaic California Danny Kadota 2/12/88
28 18.81 St. Johns River Florida Buddy Wright 4/12/87
28 18.81 Lake Isabella California Joe Weaver Feb. 1984
30 18.75 Lower Otay Lake California Bob Eberly 3/9/80
30 18.75 San Vicente Lake California James Steurgeon 2/26/81
30 18.75 Lake Castaic California Manny Arujo 1/25/91
30 18.75 Lake Kaweah California Nai Seathan 3/15/01
34 18.70 San Pablo California Victor Barfield 3/22/01
35 18.69 Lake Casitas California Bill Beckum 1/15/80
36 18.63 San Vicente California Doug Crandall 1979
37 18.62 Delta California Galen Jensen 2/10/02
38 18.56 San Vicente California Bobby Sandberg 1976
38 18.56 Lake Castaic California Bob Crupi 1/27/92
38 18.56 Don Pedro California Rod Martin 4/9/03
41 18.55 Lake Murray California Mike Long Dec. 2001
42 18.25 Dixon Reservoir California Mike Long 2004
42 18.25 Lower Otay California Unknown March 1980
44 18.18 Lake Fork Texas Barry St. Clair 1/24/92
45 18.15 Natchez State Park Mississippi Unknown 12/31/92
46 18.13 Dixon Reservoir California Mike Long 2003
46 18.13 Lake Poway California Mike Long 2002
48 18.10 Lake Poway California Mike Long 1998
48 18.10 Lake Murray California Mike Long Feb. 1999
50 18.00 Lake Perris California Will Steel 12/29/02
50 18.00 San Pablo California Rob Belloni 5/3/03
50 18.00 Lake Murray California Mike Long 2000
50 18.00 Mission Viejo California Mike Long 2002
54 17.95 Lake Murray California Mike Long March 1999
55 17.75 San Vicente California Unknown March, 1982
56 17.69 Lake Hodges California Unknown March, 1985
57 17.67 Lake Fork Texas Mark Stevenson 11/26/86
58 17.64 Lake Fork Texas Stan Moss 4/1/89
59 17.63 Lake Fork Texas Jerry New 8/28/90
60 17.50 Lake Poway California Mike Long 2000
60 17.50 Lake Poway California Mike Long 2001
60 17.50 San Vicente California Unknown March, 1979
63 17.25 Dixon Reservoir California Mike Long 2003
63 17.25 Lake Hodges California Unknown March, 1985
63 17.25 Lake Poway California Mike Long 1999
66 17.19 Lower Otay California Unknown Jan. 1985
67 17.13 Lake Poway California Mike Long 1998
67 17.13 Lake Poway California Mike Long 1999
69 17.11 Lake Murray California Mike Long March 1999
70 17.08 Lake Fork Texas Troy Coates 2/26/91
71 17.06 Lake Miramar California Mike Long 2000
71 17.06 San Vicente California Unknown Feb. 1979
73 17.05 Lake Murray California Mike Long March 2000
74 16.89 Lake Fork Texas Bryan Turner 2/8/93
75 16.88 Lower Otay California Unknown Feb. 1981
76 16.75 Lake Fork Texas Steve Trepkus 3/8/90
77 16.63 Lake Fork Texas Flo O'Brien 2/28/99
77 16.63 Lake Poway California Mike Long 2000
77 16.63 Lake Poway California Mike Long 1999
80 16.56 San Vicente California Unknown Jan. 1980
81 16.54 Lake Fork Texas Bill Reed 2/27/91
82 16.50 San Vicente California Unknown May, 1981
83 16.45 Lake Murray California Mike Long March, 2001
84 16.44 Lake Fork Texas Chris Adams 3/10/96
84 16.44 Lake Miramar California Unknown April 1973
86 16.41 Lake Murray California Mike Long March 2000
87 16.38 Lake Poway California Mike Long 1999
88 16.25 Lower Otay California Unknown Feb. 1982
88 16.25 San Vicente California Unknown Nov. 1979
88 16.25 San Vicente California Unknown March 1982
88 16.25 Sutherland California Mike Long April 2001
92 16.19 San Vicente California Unknown Jan. 1979
92 16.19 San Vicente California Unknown March 1981
94 16.13 Gibbons Creek Texas Troy Johnson 1/15/88
94 16.13 Sutherland California Unknown April 1989
94 16.13 Lake Poway California Mike Long 2000
97 16.12 Lake Fork Texas Jim Harrell 3/22/02
98 16.06 Lake Fork Texas Tom Hallum 3/9/88
98 16.06 Lake Hodges California Unknown April 1985
100 16.04 Lake Fork Texas Gasper Cardinale 2/29/92
101 16.02 Possum Kingdom Texas Scott Tongate 10/13/89
102 16.01 Caddo Texas John Merck 4/13/92
102 16.00 Cuyamaca California Mike Long 2002
102 16.00 Lake Poway California Mike Long 2002
102 16.00 Lake Poway California Mike Long 1999
102 16.00 Mission Viejo California Mike Long 2001

Sidebar I: Siemantel's Thoughts On High-Teen Fish

In all honesty, my numbers of high-teen fish pale in comparison to a lot of other guys. I caught a 19-8, which I weighed on a Berkley scale in the presence of a California Fish & Game employee. I've also caught a 17 and two 16s. So I only have four, maybe five, fish over 16 pounds. Overall, I have caught close to 32 "teen" fish.

If I was going to specifically seek out a 16-pound-plus fish, I would pack up my boat and drive down to San Diego. I'd sightfish, and focus on the timeframe from the end of February through May. Many San Diego lakes are closed for portions of the week, so giant fish have a chance to stick onto a bed. Here at Casitas and Castaic, the fish get pounded every day and they're gone in a flash.

If you don't have the capability of accessing good sightfishing water, I would troll during the timeframe from October through May. Using wire, leadcore and longlining techniques, trolling lets you cover enough ground, with the bait far enough away from the boat, to put the odds in your favor. You'll need to learn to read electronics very well, and understand the relationship between speed, letback and running depth. Keep banging bottom with a bait that's 9 inches or larger, keep it free of weeds, hit the sweetspots--inside bends on structure and weedlines, windblown areas and staging spots--and sooner or later it will happen.

Jerry Rago is a great example. He went straight from brown trout trolling to trophy bass trolling and didn't miss a beat. Most of my bigger fish, the mid-teen fish, came from trolling. Personally, I think the world record will be taken while trolling.

But a word of warning. When you start targeting just trophy bass, and you start documenting large fish, you'll come under a lot of scrutiny. Big-bass fishing, in many ways, resembles politics. There comes jealousy, competition, questions and rumors about your character. To be honest, some truly cutthroat tactics have occurred at various times throughout the years. In fact, controversy surrounds many of the fish on Terry Battisti's list. That's not meant to discourage you, but to help prepare you for some of the cultural problems that surround big-bass hunting out West.

Try to be prepared with witnesses and a camera. If you catch a big fish and want to document it, drive straight to the dock to get it weighed on a certified scale--don't tank it and spend a few more hours fishing by yourself. Be honest and declare immediately what you caught it on, then write everything down as soon as possible--your bait, line, time of catch, witnesses, etc. In the presence of a witness, clip and keep a sample of the first few yards of line tied to your bait. Hold the fish close to your body and take photos of you and the fish from many different angles. Also take photos of the fish being measured. Take photos of the certified scale. In short, cross your Ts, dot your Is and leave nothing to question. That way, nobody can question you, or your fish.

Last Updated on Monday, 18 April 2011 19:00

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