Discover the Largest Largemouth Bass Ever Caught in Tennessee

Written by Hailey Pruett
Updated: March 3, 2023
© Ryno Botha/
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The largemouth bass is one of North America’s most popular game fish, mainly due to its impressive size and rather feisty nature, making it a thrill of a catch. It’s also an incredibly accessible fish, especially in the Volunteer State, Tennessee, where many of the state’s lakes are stocked with largemouth bass year-round. But what is the largest largemouth bass ever caught in Tennessee? How does it compare to the world’s largest specimen? Let’s take an in-depth look below.

The Incredible Largemouth Bass: An Overview

Largemouth bass
Largemouth bass has a rich history in the United States as a game fish and as food.


The largemouth bass, Micropterus salmoides, is a member of the Centrarchidae family, better known collectively as sunfishes. It is one of 38 total species within the sunfish family. Sunfishes are mainly characterized by their small-to-medium size, somewhat narrow bodies, and fins supported by long, thin, bony rays or rods. 

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More specifically, the species belongs to the Micropterus genus of black basses, a group of 13 species of fish native to North America. This makes it closely related to the smallmouth and redeye basses, which are also incredibly popular amongst the angling community.

The largemouth bass has a rich history in the United States both as a game fish and as food. Because of its hardy nature, substantial size, and wide native range that covers much of North America’s freshwater habitats, it quickly became a valuable game fish starting in the mid-1800s. As transportation via railways became more developed in the US, it became easier to transport largemouth bass long distances and stock them in ponds and lakes in large numbers.

Initially, fly fishing was the primary technique for catching largemouth bass. However, in the 1950s, mass-produced plastic worm lures became the standard, as they better mimic the species’ preferred prey. Largemouth bass has remained incredibly popular as game fish, with many competitions (such as the Bass Pro Tour and Bassmaster Tournaments) held throughout the US for bass fishers of varying experience levels.

While largemouth bass are technically edible, they aren’t farmed commercially for food. Their meat is said to be firm, clean, and noticeably lacking a “fishy” taste, though most note it. Catch-and-release fishing is ideal to keep the species’ numbers up. Largemouth bass generally respond well to the practice, provided they don’t swallow the hook when caught.

How Big Do Largemouth Bass Get?

Most species of black basses grow to around 16 to 24 inches long, with the largemouth being the largest. It is capable of reaching up to 3 feet in length, though it typically averages 12 to 15 inches long. 

Female largemouth bass tend to be both larger and heavier than males. Because of this, catch and release fishing is highly encouraged, as particularly large female specimens are typically quite prolific breeders.

In addition to being quite long, largemouth bass are also very substantial in weight. On average, adults weigh around 10 to 12 pounds. Especially large individuals can weigh upwards of 15 to 20 pounds when fully grown. Due to their large size, immense physical strength, and aggressiveness when hooked, they are held in high regard by anglers throughout North America.

What is the Largest Largemouth Bass Ever Caught in Tennessee?

smallmouth vs largemouth bass
In Tennessee, the largest largemouth bass weighed 15 pounds and 3 ounces.


The largest largemouth bass ever caught in Tennessee weighed a whopping 15 pounds and 3 ounces! It was caught on February 13, 2015, by angler Gabe Keen at Tennessee’s Chickamauga Reservoir. Genetic tests verified that the fish was roughly 12 years old. It also was an F1 hybrid, meaning it has both Florida bass and largemouth bass genes. The Florida bass, Micropterus floridanus, was once classified as a subspecies of the largemouth bass. Today, though, it is considered distinct enough to be its own species.

Incredibly, Gabe Keen’s impressive catch broke a 60-year record. The previous record holder for the Volunteer State was caught way back in 1954 and weighed 14.5 pounds.

Tennessee’s Chickamauga Reservoir is a popular fishing spot for bass fishers. This is mainly due to its large supply of largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass, among other common game fish like walleye, catfish, and bluegill. A large-scale largemouth bass stocking project was launched in 2000. This has largely been incredibly successful, further encouraging bass fishing in the area.

What is the Largest Largemouth Bass Ever Caught in the World?

Although Tennessee’s largest largemouth bass is certainly nothing to scoff at, it pales in comparison to the current world record holder! The largest specimen ever caught weighed an absolutely massive 22 pounds and 4.97 ounces. 

Interestingly, the fish was caught by Japanese angler Manabu Kurita at Japan’s largest freshwater lake, Lake Biwa, on July 2nd, 2009. While largemouth bass are not native to Japan, they have been introduced to the area and are now considered an invasive species. As a result, the practice of fishing various black bass species for sport and food is becoming increasingly common and encouraged.

What’s even more incredible, though, is that Kurita’s astonishing catch managed to break a 77-year record that was established all the way back in 1932. The previous record-holding largemouth bass was caught in Georgia’s Montgomery Lake by angler George W. Perry. The fish was 22 pounds and 4 ounces, making it just a few ounces smaller than the current world record.

How Long Do Largemouth Bass Live?

Largemouth bass are capable of reproducing once they’re two years old and are capable of laying up to 4,000 eggs (although that number is influenced by their weight). They are also capable of living for about 10 – 12 years which is pretty much the same as their smallmouth counterparts.

This puts them in a similar category with other fish which they occasionally live with including black crappie which can live for about 15 years, and yellow perch which can live for 13 years. They are however outstripped by channel catfish which are capable of making it to 40 years.

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Largemouth bass is an incredible sport fish.
Largemouth bass is an incredible sport fish.
© Ryno Botha/

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About the Author

Hailey Pruett is a nonbinary content writer, editor, and lifelong animal lover based in East Tennessee. They grew up on a hobby farm and have owned and cared for all kinds of animals from the mundane (dogs, cats) to the more exotic and unusual (lizards, frogs, goats, llamas, chickens, etc!). When they aren't busy writing about how awesome reptiles and amphibians are, they are usually playing obscure indie video games, collecting Squishmallows, or hanging out with their cat, Hugo. Their favorite animals are bearded dragons, axolotls, and marine iguanas.

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