We got wind of a story about a big bass caught on Pickwick Lake. Turns out it was caught by our friend Lance Walker, CEO of Browning Eyewear. And it may have been the Tennessee state record largemouth to boot.
Walker has been travelling the country this winter attending various trade shows and boat shows for Browning Eyewear. He finally got a few days at home and called his friend Ray Rittenhour to go chase crappie with him on Pickwick Lake.
Recent rains have had the Tennessee River a mess and the rising of muddy water on Pickwick Lake really hurt the crappie fishing. With a few hours left in the day, they decided to give up on the crappie fishing bust and see if they could just catch a few bass to salvage the day. The rain, mud and rising water limited their options but they figured if they fished some shallow river bars, they might at least catch a couple bass.
Their first fish was a bar fish (striper) and at that point they figured the bass fishing might be a bust too. Walker was fishing with a Yumbrella umbrella rig but because he was fishing Tennessee waters he only had 3 wires on it. On the two outside wires he had 3 1/2-inch Yum Money Minnows and on the middle one he had a 5 1/2 Yum Money Minnow. The two small ones were on 1/4-ounce Buckeye J-Will heads and the middle one on a 1/2-ounce Buckeye J-Will head. He used a 7-foot, 6-inch heavy action Duckett Micro Magic rod with 65-pound Bass Pro Shops braid and a 6:4.1 Johnny Morris Signature BPS reel.
A few casts later, Walker hooked up with what he guessed was another bar fish or a big catfish. It was making runs, swathing back and forth through the water, but then he noticed his line surging to the surface and he went down to his knees hoping it might be a big bass.
It came to the surface, about 25 yards out from the boat, and rolled and Walker saw lateral lines. The fish made several big runs and Walker thumbed his spool to keep the powerful fish from tearing loose. He finally got the fish up to the boat and they new it was at least a 10-pound class fish, as Walker has modestly caught several double digit bass from Pickwick Lake.
“As soon as Ray grabbed her by the lip with two hands and pulled her in the boat, I knew I had a fish bigger than the 13.3 I caught from Alabama waters on Pickwick three years ago,” Walker said. “I got the livewell filled up and put her in there and then took about 10 minutes to ‘freak out.'”
Afterward, Walker started calling folks to get the Tennessee State records and find a TWRA official to help weigh his catch. His wife and son met him at the Pickwick State Park where the Park Rangers were waiting to meet him and get good photos of the fish. They finally found a set of reliable scales to weigh the fish. It weighed 14.58, slightly better than the 14 pound, 8 ounce state record caught in 1954. So they knew they were close if not over.
They got a TWRA biologist on the line and he informed them that to certify the catch as a state record they would need blood samples, certified scales, 2 witnesses, dorsal fin clippings, and more to document the catch. In short, the felt the fish would have to die to provide the evidence of the catch being a state record.
The pair deliberated at length on what to do. Go down in the record books and kill the fish, or set it free for someone else to catch down the road some time. It was not an easy decision to make with such a beautiful, healthy, impressive largemouth bass. They measured the bass at 27 1/8 inches and a girth of 24 inches. The formula puts the bass at somewhere between 14.5 to 15.7 pounds.
They made their decision …
… and took the fish back to the lake and waited for her to shake her head and give a big powerful kick before letting her loose into the wild once again. It’s not easy to know you probably have a state record and choose to let it loose, knowing full well you won’t get credit for such a magnificent catch.
The potential state-record largemouth bass is swimming in Pickwick Lake. We believe it is. And even if it isn’t now, in a month or two, it probably will be. Way to go Lance! We hope to be as Wired2Fish as you one day! What a bass!