Florida visitor sets new shoal bass record
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Charles “Anthony” Tucker of Albany, Ga., established the first official Florida state record for a shoal bass just three days before his 57th birthday. Shoal bass are, pound-for-pound, one of the top fighters in the black bass family. His weighed 4 pounds, 2 ounces and was 20 inches long, with a 13.5-inch girth.
Tucker caught it using a Z-man Chatterbait with a Paca-Craw trailer, Shimano reel and Carrot-stick rod at about 2 in the afternoon on Dec. 6.
“Hooked on shoal bass,” is how Tucker described the outcome of his experience. “They are a unique fish that fights well.”
Tucker was having an early family birthday celebration in Florida and staying at Crippled Coon Lodge in Altha when he established the record. In making his plans, he checked out MyFWC.com and found out the shoal bass record was vacant and required a bass heavier than 4 pounds to establish the record. It was a slow day in northwest Florida but Tucker’s experience told him that often, when you aren’t catching lots of small bass, a real trophy will show up and make your day.
Shoal bass are similar in body shape to largemouth bass. Quick ways to tell them apart include the fact that the upper jaw extends beyond the back edge of the eye on largemouth bass and not on shoal bass or other black bass species. You can also look at the dorsal fins along the midline on top of the bass. In largemouth, the spiny first dorsal fin is separated from the soft dorsal fin, which does not have scales. On the shoal bass, there are scales on the base portion of the soft dorsal fin, which is connected to the spiny dorsal by a thin piece of skin. Shoal bass have vertical stripes above the midline of the body; they resemble tiger stripes and help distinguish them from other black bass in Florida – the spotted and Suwannee basses. In addition, shoal bass do not have a tooth patch on the tongue, whereas spotted bass do.
Although historically found in the Apalachicola River, habitat degradation has all but eliminated shoal bass from the river proper. As their name implies, shoal bass favor “shoal" type habitats that include shallow, fast moving riffles and runs containing limestone.
“The best destination to catch shoal bass in Florida is the Chipola River, where Tucker caught his new state record,” said Chris Paxton, regional fisheries administrator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). “Since shoal habitats are limited, the FWC is considering various ways to protect that habitat and all of the black bass species in Florida,” he said.
Paxton met with Tucker to verify the identity of the fish, weigh it on certified scales, and ensure Tucker took it legally, with a valid fishing license or exemption. His application was notarized and approved as the Florida state-record shoal bass.
Tucker was impressed by Paxton.
“He was very knowledgeable and thorough in ensuring the catch was properly certified, and he came out on a Sunday morning to meet me.”
State records require a biologist to verify the species and certified weight. Other high-quality catches, from the same 33 freshwater species for which the FWC maintains records, are recognized online and with a certificate, if they exceed specified weights or lengths. Simply register online and upload a photo of your qualifying catch. There are even special youth, master and elite angler challenges.