Biggest Arkansas Bass Ever Caught, Five Over 15

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Biggest Arkansas Bass Ever Caught, Five Over 15
Biggest Arkansas Bass Ever Caught, Five Over 15

Whenanglers discuss the country’s top fisheries for trophy largemouth bass,Arkansas rarely enters the conversation. States like California and Texas haveproduced far more fish in the 12-pound-plus range, so they’re much more likelyto be the topic of conversation when fishing folks are considering where theymight catch the bass of a lifetime.

Thefact is, however, many Arkansas waters are brimming with big bass. A select fewlakes have produced bass exceeding 15 pounds, including the five that follow,which produced 15-pound-plus monsters in January, February and March. Here arethe stories of those fish.

No. 5: Maners’ Monster

Located in Village Creek State Park near Wynne innortheast Arkansas’ Cross and St. Francis counties, Lake Austell covers only 85acres. Despite its small size, however, in 1987, 1988 and 1989, this CrossCounty impoundment produced six largemouth bass between 10 and 11 pounds, fivebetween 11 and 12, and five from 12 to 13. An even bigger fish surfaced Jan.31, 1989.

Around 2 p.m. that day, Jimmy Maners of Wynne wasworking a crawfish-colored crankbait through a deep hole when there was a sharptap on his line. He set the hook and found himself fighting the biggest bass he’dever seen.

“I knew it was a monster as soon as I saw it,” hesaid. “I figured right off it would go at least 13 or 14 pounds. I couldn’t getit in my net, so I hung one foot out of the boat and grabbed it with my hand. I’dhad some big bass break off in Austell before and I didn’t want this one to getaway.”

Good fortune smiled on Maners, and in short order,he was headed to a store to weigh his catch. “The first store I weighed it at,they said it weighed 15-1/2 pounds,” said Maners. “But when it was weighed bythe game warden later that night at a different store, the scales said15-pounds, 12-ounces. That was the official weight.”

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No. 4: Billy’s Big Bass

Greers Ferry Lake near north-central Arkansas’ HeberSprings isn’t usually thought of as a lunker largemouth lake, but in 1988, itgave up the fourth largest bass ever caught in the state.

Billy Glaze of Bald Knob and his brother-in-lawDavid Padgett were fishing for walleyes and hybrid stripers near the dam aroundmidnight on January 1. It was 30 degrees outside, but fishing was hot. Theanglers landed two nice hybrids and three big walleyes. Then something huge hitGlaze’s CC Spoon.

“I told David I thought I had a catfish or somethingwhen it first started fooling with my lure,” Glaze recalled later. “It tappedthe lure about five times before starting to pull straight down on it. I gavehim a five count, and then hit him as hard as I could.

“When I finally saw what it was, I got prettynervous. I’ve caught 8-pound bass, but this thing made them look like babies.”

The fish eluded the net twice, but the men finallylanded it. Even after drying out on the drive home, the fish still weighed16-1/2 pounds on a tacklebox scale. Glaze wanted to get it officially weighed butdecided not to wake anyone since it was now 2:30 a.m. He packed the fish on iceand went to bed.

The bass was frozen solid the next day. When anArkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) wildlife officer officially weighedthe fish, it had been out of the water 13 hours. It still weighed 15 pounds, 15ounces. Only three heavier largemouths have ever been documented in Arkansas.

No. 3: Caught in a Net

InJanuary 1979, a commercial fisherman pulled in a net placed in Millwood Lakenear Ashdown in extreme southwestern Arkansas. He’d caught big fishbefore—mostly catfish, buffalos and carp. But the giant he found in this net wasspecial. It was a largemouth bass weighing 16 pounds, 2 ounces.

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Weknow little about this fish. It is believed to have been confiscated bywildlife officers because it was kept illegally. (Commercial fishermen cannotpossess largemouth bass.) Biologists determined it was a pure northern-strainlargemouth, one of the biggest ever documented. Every other Arkansas bassexceeding 15 pounds has been a Florida-strain bass. For many years, the mountedfish was displayed at the AGFC office in Little Rock.

No. 2: A Record to Beat

Until March2, 1976, a 13-pound, 4-ounce largemouth caught in Franklin County’s Charleston Lakewas the Arkansas state record. But on that day, Aaron Mardis from Memphis,Tenn. would obliterate that benchmark while fishing in 300-acre Mallard Lakenear Manila in the state’s northeast corner.

Mardisand his older brother Troywere on a return trip. They’d hooked and lost some real hawgs in late 1975 andearly 1976, and wanted to try for them using bigger tackle. Aaron tied achartreuse spinnerbait on his 30-pound-test line, then made his first cast.

“Ifelt him as soon as I got the bait down,” he said. “I set the hook, and overthere, you can’t just set the hook once. You have to double clutch them, hitthem twice. He went to open water, and I knew I had a chance to get him. I don’tknow how long it took to land him, maybe two, maybe five minutes.”

Thefish was huge, but the Mardis brothers never considered it might be a staterecord. Aaron thought it weighed 10 to 12 pounds and wanted to release it. But Troybelieved the fish weighed more and convinced his brother to keep it. Theytrolled back to the bank, tossed the bass into the back of their truck andreturned to fishing.

“Wereally fished hard then,” Aaron said, “because we were trying to break thestate record. We didn’t have any idea we already had the record in the truck.”

See also  How To Smoke Wild Boar Meat There are many different opinions on how to properly smoke meat. This is what has worked in my experience, but there are certainly other successful methods. Experiment and have fun.Working muscles (shoulders, ribs and legs) benefit most from long slow cooking methods like smoking or braising.The basic issues to control when smoking meat are:1. Maintain a low cooking temperature2. Maximize moisture retention in the meat.Low Cooking TemperatureI keep my cooking temperature around 200°F - 225°F. The goal is to slowly raise the internal temperature of the meat to 180°F and then hold it there for about an hour. “Slow and low” is the mantra. Cooking time will be about 1.5 – 2 hours per pound of meat, but can vary based on thickness and whether or not it’s bone-in or bone-out.Many recipes will tell you to pull the meat when it reaches an internal temperature of 190°F or even 200°F. That advice works because it takes about an hour for a modest size piece of meat to increase from 180°F to 190°F. I would not recommend going much higher than that for very long because you begin to lose moisture in the form of steam.Lower cooking temperatures of 180°F - 200°F can be used to great success, but the cooking time will be much longer. Cooking at temperatures above 250°F is not recommended because the meat cooks too quickly causing increased moisture loss and does not allow ample time for the collagen to break down (it makes for dry, tough meat).Why 180°F internal temperature?Meat contains muscle fibers and connective tissue (collagen). It is the collagen that makes the working cuts “tough and chewy” when not properly cooked. Collagen does not break down into liquid gelatin until it reaches 180°F. You must break down that collagen by getting the internal temperature to at least 180°F and stay there for about 1 hour. Once you’ve broken down the collagen you will have fork tender meat.Moisture RetentionMoisture retention is especially important when smoking wild game meats because they are typically much leaner than other meats.Brining   – Moisture can be added to the meat prior to cooking by brining it. Moisture will still cook out of your meat, but since you’re starting with more moisture the end result will be juicier. A basic brine recipe is 1 cup of table salt per 1 gallon of water. Subtle flavorings can be infused into the meat by including sugar (1/2 cup per 1 gallon of water), garlic cloves, onions, bay leaves, peppercorns, herbs, or just about anything else. However, the primary purpose of brining is to increase the moisture content of the meat prior to cooking. Stir the salt into the water until it dissolves. For large quantities it may be necessary to heat the water to make the salt dissolve. (If you do heat the brine it must be cooled off again prior to adding the meat.) Add the meat and allow it soak for several hours in the refrigerator. For shoulders and legs (2 - 6 lb pieces) soaking overnight is just right. When the soak is finished remove the meat from the brine, briefly rinse it under cold water and then pat dry. Add your rub/spices and you’re ready to cook.Injecting   – Some inject their meat with liquid and spices prior to cooking. Like brining, this increases the moisture content prior to cooking so there will be more moisture left in the meat when it is finished.Basting   – Basting is done by periodically coating the meat with liquid to add moisture and flavor as it cooks. Just about any liquid will do as long as it is low in sugar. Sugar burns quickly so only add glazes and BBQ sauces (which are loaded with sugar) during the last 20 minutes of cooking and only long enough from them to firm up.Barding   – Covering the meat with fatty bacon or other fats while it cooks is another technique. This is typically used on very lean meats that lack sufficient natural fat so the bacon acts as a substitute. This is a great way to add fat and moisture during the cooking process, but I also find that you end up tasting bacon more than the meat.Wrapping   – Once the meat has smoked for a few hours and absorbed a sufficient quantity of smoke flavor the meat can be tightly wrapped in foil. This wrap will reduce moisture evaporation into the open air and keep the juices close to the meat (acting more like a braise than BBQ). It’s also a great way to capture the juices for use in a sauce. If you want a crispy exterior (a “bark”) then don’t use a foil wrap and cook a little longer. If you want some insurance on getting a tender, moist final product then use the wrap.Smoke and WoodWood Choice   – Just about any hardwood will do. Oak and hickory are some of the most popular and most commonly available. Mesquite, maple and fruitwoods can add a sweetness to the meat, but don’t overdo it. Herb woods like basil, rosemary and thyme can be used in small quantities to add a deeper flavor profile. Avoid softwoods (evergreen trees) because the high resin levels will give your meat an unpleasant taste.Smoke Ring   – The “smoke ring” is a reddish/pink coloration just under the surface of the meat. It’s formed by a chemical reaction between the nitrogen dioxide in the smoke and the myoglobin in meat (which creates nitric acid and colors the meat). A good smoke ring is prized in BBQ because it usually indicates that the meat was successfully cooked slowly at a low temperature. The smoke ring gradually forms until the meat (just under the surface) reaches 140°F, then the formation stops. The thickness of your smoke ring depends on how long it takes for the meat to reach this temperature. Knowing how a smoke ring forms gives us two practical applications:1. To maximize your smoke ring take the meat directly from the refrigerator to the cooker. Conventional wisdom instructs you to bring the meat to room temperature before cooking, but starting straight from a cooler temperature will give your meat more time to develop a smoke ring.2. Since smoke ring formation stops at 140°F you only need to worry about generating smoke for the first 4 hours of cooking (roughly). After that the meat will not be absorbing any more smoke flavor or coloring. After 4 hours, just concentrate on keeping a steady low temperature until the meat is done.The Oven OptionNot everyone is blessed with the time, space, and/or patience to play with a smoker. Take heart - you can still get good results with an oven.Heat your oven to 200°F - 225°F. Wrap the meat in foil. Put it in the oven until done as described above. About 1.5 - 2 hours per pound.If you want smoke flavor use your smoker/BBQ pit for the first 1 - 2 hours to infuse some smoke flavor into the meat. Then finish the cooking in the oven. If you don't have a smoker or don't want to bother with it - skip this step. It will still be good. Written by Chris Hughes Filed under cooking,  cooking tips,  learn,  recipe,  smoke,  wild boar Tweet

Thirty-sixhours passed before the fish was officially weighed, yet it smashed the oldrecord by 3 pounds. AGFC wildlife officer Paige Miller certified the fish’sweight at 16 pounds, 4 ounces, a record that still stands more than 40 yearslater.

No. 1: Un-Dunn

OnFeb. 28, 2012, word got out that Mardis’ record had finally been broken. Thatday, Paul Crowder of Forrest City caught a bucketmouth weighing 16 pounds, 5ounces in 80-acre Lake Dunn, a sister lake to Austell in Village Creek SP.Crowder and his fish were instant news sensations.

OnMarch 9, however, the AGFC issued a press release that said,“The AGFC discovered that alicense was purchased for Crowder three hours after he claimed to have caughtthe bass. Crowder’s fishing license expired in April 2011. Under AGFCregulations, it is illegal for any person 16 years of age or older to fishwithout possessing a current Arkansas fishing license. State record fish rulesrequire that an angler hold a valid license at the time of the catch.”

Wildlife officers seized the fish as evidence, andCrowder was charged and convicted for fishing without a license.

MarkOliver, then fisheries chief for AGFC, said he was disappointed that a basslarge enough to be a state record couldn’t be certified because of illegalactivity.

“Weare still confident in the size and weight of the fish and proud that such amonster was produced in Arkansas waters,” he said.

Someday that lunker of lunkers is sure to wind up on the end of an angler’s line, andthe record books have to be amended to reflect a new champion. Until then,Aaron Mardis’ monster bass will stand as the biggest ever legally caught inArkansas.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>