FLORIDA BASS KEEP GETTIN' BIGGER
Compiled by: Herb Allen

 

Imagine, if you will, entering a 10.16-pound largemouth bass into a one-day tournament only to learn that it was a runner-up.

That's exactly what happened in a recent Southern Pro Bass Trail tournament held on the St. Johns River when Gary Bradford placed his plus 10-pounder on the scales and was dismayed to see it bested by Foy Underwood's 11.69 pounder.

Nearly all organized bass tournaments these days pay off in cash for first, second, third, etc., for the most overall poundage entered by individuals. There's always a big bass pot to boot rewarding an angler handsomely for catching the largest fish. All fish entered are released alive to be caught again and again.

To bring the Underwood/Bradford achievement into perspective, consider that no bass weighing 10 pounds or more was entered in any tournament recorded by "Florida Sportsman Magazine" during the entire years of 1991 and 1992. Nada. Nil. Not a single one!

In the upcoming May issue of "Florida Sportsman," the monthly Bass Beat column will report that the average size of big bass entered in 30 events held throughout the state during the month of February averaged 7.49 pounds, a figure in sharp contrast to the 3.99-pound average recorded in 197 competitions during all of 1992.

Also in February, Dennis Dean, guided by Frank Carbone, caught and released a 15-pounder, while fishing the Stick Marsh.

Last January, Arizona pro Dean Rojas, 29, won $110,000 when he slammed through the 100-pound barrier during a Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.) 4-day tournament on Lake Tohopekaliga (Toho). No angler in the 34-year history of B.A.S.S., covering hundreds of events throughout the United States, had ever caught 100 pounds in a single tournament. Rojas' final score was 108.12 pounds.Rojas'  13 pounder

What's more, many of the nation's leading fishermen in this BASSmaster Top-150 event brought in dozens of bass weighing between eight and 13 pounds each. In all, 156 competing anglers caught and released 1,719 keepers weighing 4,360 pounds.

Since its all-time low point in 1992, Florida has regained its historic status as "Bass Capital of the World" in just 10 years through a bold revision of fishing regulations and a militant statewide strategy of massive lake restoration projects in more than 70 major Sunshine State lakes, including Lake Toho.

In addition to drawdowns and muck removal where necessary, other initiatives included enhancement of water quality, restoration of littoral habitat and the replacement of noxious weed growth with desirable, productive aquatic plant species.

At the conclusion of the Lake Toho tournament, B.A.S.S. National Tournament Director Dewey Kendrick said, "this is a tribute to a courageous and aggressive restoration program by Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), and the Commission should be commended for their efforts."

Most or all principal national and regional bass fishing tournament organizations are now beating down the doors to schedule one or more annual events throughout Florida in anticipation that Rojas' 100-pound plus achievement will become commonplace.