The Tarheel state has a thriving bass fishing community, and the largemouth has long been the most sought-after bass species amongst anglers of all experience levels. What’s more, North Carolina is smack dab in the middle of the largemouth’s native range! It also boasts extensive waterways that the species thrives in, from ponds and streams to brackish coastal waters. But what is the largest largemouth bass ever caught in North Carolina? Read on to find out!
In addition, this time, we’ll also cover some interesting facts about the largemouth bass, how it has impacted the bass fishing hobby, and how North Carolina’s state record measures up to the current world record. Without further ado, let’s dive in!
Get to Know the Amazing Largemouth Bass
The largemouth bass is one of 13 total species that are part of the Micropterus genus. However, this group is most commonly known as the black basses. Collectively, they make up one of eight genera within the taxonomic family Centrarchidae or the freshwater sunfishes. This makes the largemouth bass (and other black basses, by extension) somewhat closely related to other popular game fish like the bluegill and both known crappie species.
Interestingly, the term Micropterus is Latin for “small fin.” When French naturalist Count Lacépède examined his first black bass in 1802, a smallmouth, he noticed one of its dorsal fins was torn. This made the specimen look like it had two much smaller fins. The name Micropterus stuck, despite it actually being a misnomer, and it still remains the official name for the genus today!
All black bass species, such as the smallmouth, spotted, and redeye basses, are native to North America. The largemouth, however, is the most widespread of all. It’s even now invasive in many other parts of the world, like east Asia, the Iberian Peninsula, and southern Africa. This is in part due to its large size, strength, and status as an apex predator. Remarkably, it’s even capable of hunting and eating prey up to half of the size of its own body when fully grown.
Like many of its other black bass brethren, the typical largemouth has a dark greenish body with dark brown markings that can appear black underwater. Its long, narrow, yet muscular body grows rapidly within its first two years of life and can continue growing even after the fish is fully mature at around 3 to 4 years old.
How Big Do Largemouth Bass Get?
In addition to having an especially large mouth, the largemouth bass has an absolutely massive body compared to the rest of the black basses. It’s not only the largest species within the Micropterus genus, either. It’s actually the largest member of its entire family of freshwater sunfishes, which includes 38 total species!
As mentioned earlier, the average largemouth grows very quickly during its first few years of life, though it can continue gaining weight well into adulthood. They reach sexual maturity and begin breeding at around one year of age. Most, however, do not reach their full size until 3 to 5 years of age.
On average, a fully mature largemouth bass can weigh anywhere from 5 to 15 pounds! Additionally, adult largemouths can measure anywhere from 12 to 20 inches long. Especially large individuals can sometimes even exceed 20 pounds and two feet in length.
Typically, the heftiest largemouths are mature breeding females. This is because they often carry tens of thousands of eggs during the species’ breeding season in the spring–which also is the ideal season to fish for them. As a result, many state record largemouth specimens are female. In most states, catch-and-release fishing is the norm to support the species numbers. But this practice is not as common in areas where the species is invasive, like Japan and parts of Canada.
Learn More About Largemouth Bass Fishing
Bass fishing got its beginnings in the United States, where all 13 black bass species are native. Out of all of them, the largemouth has long been the most prized due to its large size, aggression, and strength, making it a challenging catch even for experienced anglers. However, things really took off for the largemouth in the mid-1800s with the origins of the steam engine.
Early steam engines needed enormous amounts of water to travel across the country. Tank ponds used as water stops helped keep them moving. Waypoint towns sprung up around these tank ponds. Locals created tank ponds by damming nearby rivers with large black bass populations like largemouths.
In turn, largemouths found their way into the tank ponds, generating more interest in bass fishing amongst early anglers. Since the largemouth is the hardiest of all black bass species, it could handle long-distance transport via steam engines–sometimes in buckets of water pulled straight from the tank ponds.
This further expanded the largemouth bass’ native range. It became ubiquitous in early America’s freshwater habitats as well as brackish coastal waters like those along North Carolina’s shores. Initially, anglers approached them the same way they would other native species like trout and salmon. Eventually, they tailored their techniques to better suit largemouths, with wooden lures becoming popular in the early 1900s.
After World War II, interest in bass fishing continued to increase. The U.S. Department of Agriculture continued stocking tank ponds with largemouths and other black basses. Plastic worm-like lures were common around this time, as plastic had become cheaper to produce. By the 1970s, tournaments like the B.A.S.S. Federation and the Bassmaster Classic launched.
Nowadays, the largemouth remains king of the black basses, largely thanks to its influence on early bass fishing!
What Is the Largest Largemouth Bass Ever Caught in North Carolina?
Now, it’s time to take a look at North Carolina’s largest largemouth bass–and it’s a truly awe-inspiring catch!
Like most U.S. states, North Carolina’s Wildlife Resources Commission keeps track of a wide range of game fish records as part of their official Freshwater Fishing State Record Program. This, of course, includes the state largemouth bass record, which has remained unbeaten for over 30 years and counting.
On March 29th, 1991, angler William H. Wofford caught a 15-pound, 14-ounce largemouth bass at a private farm pond in Union County. For those unfamiliar with the area, Union County is located near Charlotte in south-central North Carolina. Though the length and girth of the fish are not listed, N.C.’s Wildlife Resources Commission has a photo of Wofford and his record-breaking catch!
Notably, Wofford used a crankbait to catch the 15-plus-pounder. Also known as a plug or a wobbler, this elaborate type of bait generally consists of several moving parts. This can include a lightweight wooden body separated into two pieces to mimic the flapping of a fish’s tail fin, several hooks, and a small piece of metal or plastic to help the angler adjust its motion in the water. These colorful baits often closely resemble small fish or other aquatic animals like worms or insects the largemouth commonly preys upon.
Where Is Union County Located On a Map?
Union County is found just north of North and South Carolina’s border. Charlotte, North Carolina’s largest city lies just to the west in Mecklenburg County.
What Is the Largest Largemouth Bass Ever Caught in the World?
To wrap things up, let’s compare Wofford’s catch to the largest specimen ever caught in the world! Even though North Carolina’s largest largemouth bass outranks many other states’ records, it’s 7 pounds shy of the world record.
Officially, the largest largemouth bass ever caught worldwide was 22 pounds, 4.97 ounces exactly. Interestingly, it was caught in 2009 by a Japanese angler, Manabu Kurita, at one of the most ancient lakes in the world: Lake Biwa, located near Kyoto in the Shiga Prefecture. Lake Biwa is one of Japan’s top fishing spots, with a thriving population of game fish and water birds.
However, Kurita actually shares his top spot with another angler: George W. Perry of Rentz, Georgia. The International Game Fishing Association dictates that new game fishing records have to be more than 2 ounces heavier than the previous record.
Importantly, Perry’s record, which he set back in 1932, weighed 22 pounds, 4 ounces. He caught the fish at Montgomery Lake in Telfair County, Georgia, when he was only 19 years old. His catch was only around an ounce smaller than Kurita’s. As a result, these two talented anglers–whose catches are over 70 years and literal continents apart–share the largemouth bass fishing world record! Sadly, Perry passed away in 1974, but his legacy lives on.
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