Florida: Home of Bass Legends

The TrophyCatch program is an incredible tool for understanding and protecting Florida's incredible bass fishery

The mystique of Florida bass fishing is composed of many qualities unique to the Sunshine State. There’s the sheer angling opportunity afforded across its 8,000 lakes and 10,000 miles of river. There’s the subtropical climate which means those waters teem with an almost unbelievable richness of aquatic life for all 12 months of the year. But bass fishing in Florida is the stuff of legend primarily because of one thing—leviathan-size bass, Florida bass to be precise.

Florida is where bass anglers have always traveled to pitch outsize lures and foot-long shiners deep into the lily pads and Kissimmee grass in hopes of tangling with the largest bass they will ever encounter. The Florida-strain bass is why Florida is known as the trophy bass-fishing Mecca for those anglers seeking net-straining fish of double-digit proportions.

Genetic Giants

Florida bass is now recognized as a unique species due to its genetic differences which allow rapid growth to giant sizes. In fact, Florida bass genetics influenced every bass ever documented weighing over 16 lbs. Florida bass are genetically predisposed to grow larger and faster than their northern cousins. This genetic trait has not only placed Florida at the forefront of trophy bass fishing but has also led to the transplantation of Florida bass worldwide in efforts to enhance angling experiences beyond Florida’s borders. The legacy of these giants—multiple recognized state records and countless personal best catches for anglers worldwide—is a testament to the state’s unique ecological conditions that led to the evolution of this scale-busting bass.

Despite the widespread stocking of Florida bass, there is no better place to catch the bass of a lifetime than the species’ native waters. Florida is the undisputed birthplace of trophy bass fishing. From 1911 until 1969, the heaviest bass submitted to the annual Field & Stream Fishing Contest came from Florida every year but four. This prestigious list includes Fritz Friebel’s 20 lb.-2 oz. Florida catch in 1923, recognized as the world record until George Perry’s 22 lb.-4 oz. beast broke it in 1932.

While Perry’s fish still stands atop the historical record book, who knows what heavyweights lurk in the weedy shallows of iconic Lake Okeechobee, the Kissimmee chain (a trip which can easily be combined with a family visit to Disney), or in one of the Old Florida fish camps alongside any number of waters just waiting for the right lure or bait to come along. Florida offers the opportunity to catch bass reaching weights that most anglers can barely imagine, and the very real opportunity to boat a Florida bass of 8-plus pounds. Since 2012, anglers have caught, documented and released nearly 15,000 bass over 8 lbs. as part of the Florida TrophyCatch program.

TrophyCatch: Celebrating Conservation and Angling Achievement

These world-class opportunities for trophy-sized bass need to be studied and understood to ensure their continuance. This is where you, the angler, can help by recording your own catches in the TrophyCatch program. Developed and implemented by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the TrophyCatch program is an incredible tool for understanding and protecting the Florida bass fishing experience.

Once you catch your 8-pound or better bass, participating in TrophyCatch is as easy as 1-2-3:

  1. Take a photo that shows the entire bass on the scale with a readable weight.
  2. Release the bass.
  3. Submit your entry to TrophyCatch.com and tell us your incredible catch story.

TrophyCatch rewards anglers with the help of valued conservation partners like Bass Pro Shops for approved catches with prizes ranging from gift cards, decals, and discounts on top-of-the-line tackle to replica mounts and even the opportunity to win a bass boat! The program serves as both a rewarding and educational experience for anglers as well as a critical tool for fisheries management. Through TrophyCatch, the FWC harnesses the collective strength of citizen science, turning catch-and-release angling into valuable data that informs management practices and conservation strategies.

Trophy Techniques

TrophyCatch not only helps the FWC manage gigantic Florida bass, it can also help anglers catch those gigantic Florida bass. The pursuit of monstrous bass in Florida has honed methods tailored to the state’s lush and varied aquatic ecosystems, and TrophyCatch records validate with certainty those methods that work time and again. While the tried-and-true traditional trophy bass bait is a large golden shiner fished under a small balloon or free-lined near vegetation, artificial lures account for about 68 percent of TrophyCatch bass submissions. Proven lures include the reliable plastic worm accounting for 41 percent—almost half—of “Hall of Fame” class TrophyCatches weighing 13 pounds or more. Other productive lures according to TrophyCatch records include jigs, bladed jigs, and crankbaits. “Punching” heavily weighted plastics into thick aquatic cover is another unique and productive Florida fishing method. All bass anglers know there is no experience like the heart-stopping explosion of a “hawg” crashing into a topwater worked over and around thick vegetation.

Safeguarding the Future of Florida’s Trophy Bass Fishing

Behind every successful catch of a giant Florida bass is a comprehensive strategy aimed at preserving the future of Florida’s trophy bass populations. FWC fisheries biologists continue to conduct research and innovative management actions to enhance trophy bass fisheries. A blend of science-based management practices and community engagement through the TrophyCatch program exemplifies Florida’s proactive approach to conservation, ensuring that the state remains a premier destination for bass fishing enthusiasts around the world.

You’re invited to be a part of this continuing story! Join conservation efforts to help protect this unique fishing heritage. Every cast into Florida’s waters connects you to a Florida bass legacy of epic proportions. It can also help promise this irreplaceable fishing experience for generations of bass anglers to come.

Join the big bass conversation on the TrophyCatch Facebook: @TrophyCatchFlorida

Learn more about the Florida Trophy Bass Project here, and visit GoOutdoorsFlorida and get started fishing in the Sunshine State!