Lewis Smelcer is the leading angler in the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) TrophyCatch contest that runs statewide through Sept. 30. Smelcer landed and released his giant 14-pound, 4-ounce largemouth on Mar. 5, from Porter Lake, located in Florida’s Panhandle, west of Tallahassee in the Econfina Creek Water Management Area.
While that fish is likely to win the top prize for biggest bass in the TrophyCatch contest, almost any bass weighing over 8 pounds that’s caught and released can be entered in the general event and is automatically eligible for winning a wide array of merchandise from Bass Pro Shops and other sponsors.
In addition to the usual TrophyCatch contest for big fish, the FWC also is running a special contest within the contest that awards anglers for catching special tagged lunker largemouths. Ten such fish have been fitted with pink dart tags by fisheries folks and released back into Florida waters.
Catching a bass wearing a pink tag and returning it to the FWC nets the lucky angler a $5,000 Bass Pro Shops gift card and $1,000 to shop at AFTCO, plus a chance at an additional $10,000.
Two pink tags already have been submitted to FWC’s TrophyCatch to claim prizes. But eight pink-tagged bass are still swimming in waters throughout Florida, as part of the 10-Tag Celebration to commemorate TrophyCatch’s tenth season.
Any bass caught in Season 10 (Oct. 1, 2021 – Sept. 30, 2022) must be submitted by Oct. 15 to qualify for prizes. The same deadline applies to the eight pink-tagged bass still swimming in state waters.
Florida’s TrophyCatch program rewards anglers who provide documentation of their catch and release of largemouth bass weighing 8 pounds or heavier in state waters. To be eligible for prizes, anglers are required to submit photos or videos of their catch to TrophyCatch.com, showing the entire fish and its weight on a scale, before releasing it back into the water.
Participants automatically are entered in a free boat drawing just for registering.
FWC biologists use TrophyCatch data for bass research to make informed decisions about the management of Florida bass fisheries and to promote the catch-and-release of trophy bass.