Bass fishing is a wildly popular pastime in North America, with the largemouth bass being one of the most prized game fish of all! Southeastern states in the U.S., like South Carolina, are particularly ideal for largemouth bass fishing, as their waters are warm and mild enough for these unique fish to thrive, no matter the season. But what is the largest largemouth bass ever caught in the Palmetto State? How does it measure up to the world-record-holding example? Let’s take a closer look.
The Amazing Largemouth Bass: Overview
The largemouth bass, taxonomically known as Micropterus salmoides, is one of around 38 species in the Centrarchidae family. Collectively, these species are better known as sunfishes. The main traits all of these freshwater fishes share are their fairly modest size, laterally compressed and narrow, streamlined bodies, and long, thin rays or rods in their fins to keep them upright.
These species are all native to North America and are further divided into eight separate genera. The largemouth bass is a member of the particular genus Micropterus, or the black basses. This group also includes popular game fish like the smallmouth, redeye, and spotted basses. Initially, the Florida bass was considered a subspecies of the largemouth. Today, taxonomists consider the two distinct enough to be separate species.
While all black bass species are popular game fish, most anglers regard the largemouth bass as perhaps the most challenging and prestigious catch of all. Due to its hefty size, strength, and especially aggressive behavior when hooked, managing to reel one in is an impressive feat.
Largemouth Bass Fishing: A Brief History
Bass fishing as we know it today in North America dates back at least to the mid-19th century. Originally, fly fishing was the preferred technique for angling largemouth bass.
With the advent of the steam engine and more robust railways, it became possible to transport live fish long distances. This way, they could be readily stocked in various bodies of freshwater all across America. Largemouth bass in particular were hardy enough to tolerate long-distance voyages. They could also thrive in a wide range of temperatures and water conditions.
By the 1950s, small, plastic lures designed to resemble worms became the ideal bait for largemouth bass fishing, as they were easy to mass produce and closely resembled the species’ prey of choice. As largemouth populations rose and the species became more widespread, bass fishing as a hobby and sport grew, with more products and fishing tools targeted specifically towards bass fishers, further refining capture methods.
Over the next few decades, this rapidly increasing interest in bass fishing led to anglers organizing competitions like the first-ever Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.) Federation tournament in 1967 and the Bassmaster Classic in 1971. Today, bass fishing continues to grow in popularity, with the largemouth bass remaining the most sought-after of the black basses.
How Big Does a Largemouth Bass Get?
Out of all 38 species within the Centrarchidae family, the largemouth bass is the largest. This also makes it the largest of all 13 black basses. It typically reaches around 12 to 15 inches long when fully grown, though it can actually reach nearly three feet long! It’s also a heavy fish, with most individuals weighing roughly 10 to 12 pounds.
The largemouth bass displays prominent sexual dimorphism, with females being longer and bulkier when compared to males on average. A catch-and-release method of fishing is ideal and highly encouraged amongst anglers, as females of substantial size are key breeders that contribute significantly to the species’ population.
The largemouth bass’ impressive size contributes significantly to its popularity in the angling community. Combined with its abundance throughout the U.S., aggressive nature, and considerable physical strength, it makes for an accessible yet challenging and impressive catch.
The largest largemouth bass ever caught in South Carolina was an astonishing 16 pounds and 2 ounces! What’s even more unique and incredible about this record, however, is that it’s actually held by two separate anglers more than 40 years apart who managed to each catch a largemouth bass of the exact same size.
The first person to establish this record was an angler named P.H. Flanagan in 1949. He caught the 16-plus-pound fish at South Carolina’s largest lake, Lake Marion, located along the state’s central coastal plain. Amazingly, Flanagan’s record stood unchallenged for 44 years!
In 1993, however, a fisherman named Mason Cummings tied P.H. Flanagan’s record. He caught a similarly 16-pound, 2-ounce largemouth bass from a small pond in Aiken County, located along South Carolina’s southwestern border.
To this day, the two anglers share the state’s record, despite their catches being over four decades apart.
What is the Largest Largemouth Bass Ever Caught in the World?
South Carolina’s dual record of two 16-pound largemouth bass absolutely is impressive, but it still doesn’t hold a candle to the world record holder’s catch!
The largest largemouth bass ever caught was over 22 pounds and 4.97 ounces. This record-shattering catch belongs to Manabu Kurita, a Japanese fisherman. He caught the fish on July 2nd, 2009, at Lake Biwa, in Japan. The lake, located north of Kyoto, is known for its diverse and healthy fish population, making it a popular fishing destination. It is also the Asian country’s largest freshwater lake.
Although the largemouth bass is not actually native to Japan, the species ended up being brought to the area in the 1920s. The species is now highly invasive and often considered a pest by locals. Largemouth bass fishing is becoming more common as a pastime in Japan as a response to the species’ increasing populations. However, largemouth bass are not a very popular cuisine option, since many note the fish has a rather unappealing, mild yet slightly fishy taste and unpleasant texture.
Finally, it’s worth noting that Kurita’s awe-inspiring catch actually broke a world record that stood for over 75 years! The former holder of the world record, George W. Perry, caught a largemouth bass that weighed 22 pounds, 4.0 ounces, making it just under an ounce smaller than Kurita’s catch. He caught the fish back in 1932 at Georgia’s Montgomery Lake when he was just 19 years old. Located in southeast Georgia, the lake even has a historic marker erected nearby in honor of Perry’s catch.
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