Mega spotted bass in California

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Mark Hicks
From the Chico State team, Chad Sweitzer stepped up to the stage with a spotted bass that appeared too big to be real. Their 18-pound limit was the largest of the tournament, and the big spotted bass weighed in at 9-10.

There was another huge story at northern California’s Lake Shasta in April of 2017 besides the anglers who won the two Bassmaster tournaments that took place on the lake. It was the giant spotted bass weighed in during those events.

On Wednesday, April 19, the first day of the Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Western Regional presented by Magellan Outdoors, Nick Wood of Yreka, Cal., brought in an impressive 6-pound, 9-ounce, spotted bass. It was the biggest bass caught that day.

The biggest bass the next day belonged to Idaho’s Bryson Mort. The humongous spotted bass weighed 8-5. But the best was yet to come.

Editor's note: See big spotted bass photos from Shasta.

The college teams who were competing in the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Western Regional presented by Bass Pro Shops weighed their fish after the B.A.S.S. Nation anglers had taken their turn at the scales. Rumblings in the audience and at the fish tanks leading to the weigh-in stage let Bassmaster College Tournament Director Hank Weldon know something special was coming.

When the Chico State team of Tyler Firebaugh and Chad Sweitzer stepped up to the stage, one of the five spotted bass in their bag appeared too big to be real. Their 18-pound limit was the largest of the tournament.

When the big spotted bass was weighed by itself, the scaled registered 9-10. The enormous fish was roughly 1-pound shy of the world record. It was likely the biggest spotted bass anyone attending the weigh-in would ever see in their lives.

“When I first saw that bass my fishing heart fluttered a little bit,” Weldon said. “I’ve seen 30-pound limits and [four-day] tournament winners that passed the century mark, so there’s not much that surprises me anymore. But that big spotted bass was one of those WOW moments.”

“That spotted bass is equivalent to an 18- or 19-pound largemouth. It is the biggest spotted bass ever weighed in a Bassmaster tournament.”

Sweitzer, the team member who caught the giant spotted bass, did so with a large, jointed, hard-plastic swimbait that he chose not to disclose. The lure had produced spotted bass for him previously in excess of 8 pounds.

When the fish nabbed Sweitzer’s swimbait 90 minutes after takeoff, he screamed to his partner that he had the world record spotted bass hooked. Firebaugh claims he heard that refrain several times before the bass was finally netted.

The International Game Fish Association lists the current world record spotted bass at 10-6. It was caught at California’s New Bullards Bar by Timothy R. Little on Jan. 12, 2015. However, other larger California spotted bass are pending world records, including the 11-4 behemoth caught from Bullards Bar Reservoir by Nick Dulleck on Feb. 10, 2017.

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