Releasing Florida’s biggest TrophyCatch earns angler “bling” and ultimate bragging rights.

Posted on January 13th, 2014

Bass anglers in Florida have more reasons than ever to practice catch-and-release. To help encourage the angling public to document and release largemouth bass, 8 pounds or larger, a program called TrophyCatch rewards participating anglers for their environmental stewardship with a range of fishing-related prizes, including the first ever championship ring.

TrophyCatch is the conservation/angler rewards component to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Black Bass Management Program.

The biggest bass legally caught, properly documented and released in Florida waters in 2013 earned one lucky Florida tourist an award fit for a true champion – a ring with some bling! The American Outdoors Fund TrophyCatch Florida Champion’s Ring is made by the same company that makes rings for Super Bowl, World Series and Bass Master Classic champions. It also has the winning angler’s name as well as the weight and date of the winning catch engraved on it, so there is no mistake about who has bragging rights to the biggest bass of the season.

At a presentation made at Bass Pro Shops in Orlando, the American Outdoors Fund TrophyCatch Florida Champion’s Ring was awarded to Bob Williams from Alloway, N.J. While on a Florida fishing vacation in February 2013, Williams booked a trip on Rodman Reservoir with bass fishing guide Sean Rush from Trophy Bass Expeditions. It was a bitter cold morning in Florida with temperatures in the low 20s, and neither Williams nor Rush could have fathomed how the day would unfold. After casting a live shiner around a cluster of lily pads, the New Jersey angler hooked and landed the fish of a lifetime, a 13-pound, 14-ounce largemouth bass.

Rush, a seasoned Florida fishing guide, immediately put the giant fish in an aerated live well and called the TrophyCatch hotline: 855-FL-TROPHY (358-7674). The FWC immediately dispatched TrophyCatch coordinator KP Clements as well as biologists Allen Martin and Dan Dorosheff to document and celebrate the catch and release of Williams’ fish.

The first year of the TrophyCatch program required FWC staff or volunteers to verify a Hall of Fame-caliber catch that was 13 pounds or heavier. The new requirements for the second year of competition are for a photo of the entire bass on a scale where the weight can be read. Williams received approximately $1,000 in prizes for releasing his Hall of Fame catch, and he has watched the TrophyCatch website intently since February to see if the fish would hold up as the biggest of the season. Bigger fish were reported, but none were verified, meaning Bob Williams would earn his place in Florida’s Bass Fishing Hall of Fame as the first ever TrophyCatch Champion.

Williams recently returned to Florida to receive his award and go on another bass fishing trip with his favorite guide, Rush. After being awarded the American Outdoors Fund TrophyCatch Florida Champion’s ring, Williams praised the program as a great way to promote environmental stewardship and ensure great bass fishing in Florida for generations to come.

Launched in October 2012, TrophyCatch was created as a way to document the number of trophy-class largemouth bass caught in Florida while providing valuable data to fisheries biologists to help them determine which management practices are working best and to promote the safe handling and release of trophy-class bass. It is important to release these trophy fish so they may continue to breed and pass their DNA on to future generations. Over time, the act of releasing these trophy-class fish, along with good management practices, should result in an improvement in the overall quality of Florida’s freshwater fisheries.

It’s no secret that fishermen like to brag about their catches, and even though TrophyCatch is considered a conservation program first, those with a competitive spirit treat it like a year-long tournament for the ultimate bragging rights to the biggest bass caught, documented and released in Florida every year.

In the inaugural TrophyCatch season, thousands of resident and visiting anglers registered for TrophyCatch and many of them caught big bass, documented them for the FWC and released them to thrive in the same bodies of water where they were caught. Every qualifying bass submitted earns registered anglers TrophyCatch rewards.

Visit TrophyCatchFlorida.com to register and become eligible for a random drawing for a Phoenix bass boat powered by Mercury, and to submit your trophy Florida bass for rewards, including competing for this year’s TrophyCatch ring. Don’t forget to like TrophyCatch on Facebook and check out the YouTube channel – TrophyCatch Florida-where you can see a video of the awards presentation.

The American Outdoors Fund is committed to conservation as well as creating, enhancing and supporting programs that provide, improve or enhance opportunities for veterans, first responders, children and families to experience the fun, healthy, educational and therapeutic value outdoor recreation provides.

Through documentary, educational, instructional and experiential programs and events, the American Outdoors Fund helps guide and facilitate outdoor recreational opportunities across America and promotes and supports initiatives that inspire others to do the same.

Keith Allen provided the material for this release. He is founder of the American Outdoors Fund, which has been a partner to TrophyCatch since before the program began in 2012. Contact him at kapro@mac.com.

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