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For some, there’s no better prize than a big bucketmouth

By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON - | Mar 11, 2021

PHOTO PROVIDED Capt. George Tunison

With tarpon already arriving, snook on the move westward out of their winter sanctuaries, good trout and redfish action taking place, and grouper to permit offshore, what more could an angler want?  Southwest Florida is pretty close to a saltwater angler’s paradise and why many of us live here.

Yet there’s another group of anglers less concerned about leaping tarpon and hard pulling reef fish. A garbage can lid-sized permit or bulldozer like redfish in ankle deep water just doesn’t get them excited. These folks are obsessed with short, stout, dark green predator fish with huge mouths that rule the lily pads, weeds and grass lines, that grow fat and old while dining on 12-inch golden shiners, water snakes, lizards, frogs and baby ducks.

It would be a safe bet to say that 90% or more of our local saltwater anglers got their angling start by catching a largemouth bass in a local lake, pond or river in their hometown. This freshwater bass is America’s favorite fish to pursue generating untold millions in boat sales, tackle, travel and tournaments each year.

Many reading this were probably members of BASS and fished local club tournaments. I still have a pristine copy of the first Bass Masters Magazine. Never in their wildest dreams did the early pioneers like Ray Scott, Martin, Dance and others believe the sport of bass fishing would explode across the country as it has.

Today’s big money tournament celebrity super stars of the sport like Kevin VanDam make a comfortable living throwing spinnerbaits at bucketmouths. KVD has a net worth of $8 million. On the supply side, John Morris. founder and CEO of Bass Pro Shops, has a reported net worth of $4.1 billion.

PHOTO PROVIDED A nice Florida bass caught by snowbird Dale Findlay

For decades, Florida has been known as the Bass Capitol of the World featuring not only world famous largemouth factories like Lake Okeechobee, but countless others lakes and reservoirs throughout the state mostly all capable of producing 10-pound-plus bass on any given day.

Next to my desk is a beautiful glass cased mount of a live shiner- fooled 1- pound bass I caught in what I consider to be the real trophy lakes of Florida, which are located in the central and north central part of the state. Lake Toho’s lily pad fields was the former home of my fish. Others names like Rodman Reservoir, the Butler Chain and Lake Istokpoga get big bass anglers’ hearts racing.

For truly big bass, Florida is but one destination. Texas also has giant bass but if I was seeking to break the world record I would be heading to the reservoirs of California, where bass get huge on a diet of stocked trout and a 30-pound largemouth is a possibility.

Ask Mac Weakley about his 25.1-pound catch-and-release bass that he caught in a 72-acre California lake. Caught on the outside of the mouth, it was considered “snagged” and not officially weighed. Weakley’s partner caught the same fish at 21 pounds three years earlier known by its readily distinguishable facial birth mark. This fish took a rubber legged flipping jig.

Currently the official world record is a tie with George Perry of Georgia catching a 22-pound, 4-ounce bass in 1932 (and eating it) and Manabu Kurita catching a 22-4 at Lake Biwa in Japan in 2009.

In Florida there’s no question that the top bait for a 10-pound-plus bass is a live golden shiner in the 9 to 12-inch size. Fished under a float or free-lined under the vegetation, they’re huge bass magic.

Cape Coral is home to the world’s finest tarpon club as well as an active bass club hosting 29 events a year. Single and family memberships are available with tournaments open to the public. Information is available at the Cape Coral Bass Club website or call President Mike Oler at 239-322-7577.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. You can contact him at 239-282-9434 or captgeorget3@ aol.com.