The mere mention of Florida to many people around the country and a couple of things come to mind—Mickey Mouse and fishing.

For much of the 20th Century Florida was considered by most to be The Bass Fishing Capital of the World. With development, pollution and other man-made factors that title has been in jeopardy. And many states around the nation have vastly improved and protected their bass fishing habitat. Still, Florida ranks high when it comes to visiting a premier fishing destination.

Places like Lake Okeechobee, the Kissimmee Chain, St. Johns River and Lake Seminole are bodies of water that attract tens of thousands of visitors annually to mine their water for black bass, specifically trophy bass.

For the past several years the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has undertaken the task of improving the largemouth bass fishery through the Long-Term Black Bass Management Plan. FWC says their TrophyCatch program is the lynchpin to ensure Florida is the undisputed Bass Fishing Capital of the World. Anglers who properly document and enter their trophy fish and are accepted by FWC receive a host of prizes any angler will appreciate.

The following is information taken from the FWC website promoting TrophyCatch. To access all information on the program go to www.myfwc.com or to register for the program (it’s free) go to www.trophycatchflorida.com.

TrophyCatch is specifically designed for anglers who catch, weigh, photograph and release largemouth bass greater than eight pounds. There are three different tiers that will be recognized: The Lunker Club (8.0-9.9 pounds), The Trophy Club (10.0-12.9 pounds) and The Hall-of-Fame Club (greater than 13 pounds).

Anglers will be encouraged to follow catch-and-release guidelines for these big bass and to document the catch through a photograph of the entire bass on a scale with the weight clearly legible. Additional photos showing the length and girth of the fish on a bump board or ruler are encouraged. These fish can be documented online at TrophyCatchFlorida.com at any time of the year, 24/7.

 

As TrophyCatch grows, it will provide rewards that encourage anglers to live-release trophy bass while at the same time assisting FWC with documenting trophy bass catches. This documentation of when and where trophy bass are produced, will allow biologists to improve

trophy-bass management through habitat enhancement, regulation management, stocking or other means that are proven to increase catch of trophy largemouth bass, while fostering a strong catch-and-release conservation ethic.

The TrophyCatch program also offers a unique opportunity to create public/private partnerships where the common goals are to protect trophy bass, promote fishing and support conservation programs. In the long run, it will rely heavily on private support, partnerships, and sponsorships, and is expected to evolve and grow in the coming years.

TrophyCatch is considered as the hallmark of the Long-Term Black Bass Management Plan that was created through an interactive process with anglers, researchers, tourism and outdoor communication professionals and fishing-related business representatives. Ultimately the goal of the plan, including TrophyCatch as one component, is to ensure Florida is the undisputed Bass Fishing Capital of the World.

 

Excitement generated by angler recognition programs will also increase fishing participation among Florida’s youth and families and attract more anglers to Florida while promoting strong conservation messaging. Among the most important outcomes will be to increase public awareness and commitment to protect our fisheries and their habitats.

TrophyCatch Prizing

Everyone who registers in the TrophyCatch program is automatically registered in a drawing for a Phoenix 619 Pro bass boatand trailer, powered by a 200 hp Mercury outboard and MotorCraft trolling motor, which will be drawn for in October 2014.

To be eligible for any Florida Freshwater Angler Recognition Prizing, anglers must comply with all appropriate rules. Advance registration will help ensure you understand the rules, stay up-to-date with angler recognition program updates and have the proper equipment (scale, measuring tape and camera) to document your catch when you go fishing.

 

Lunker Club (8-9.99 pounds) — $100-plus in value

Requirements: Photo documentation of ENTIRE bass (head to tail) on scale with weight clearly legible + TrophyCatch application + Bass must be released.

Competition: Year-round. Begins Oct. 1, 2013 through Sept. 30, 2014.

Reward: $100 worth of gift cards (Bass Pro Shops, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and/or Rapala) + Customized Bass King T-shirt + Discounts for Sportsman on Canvas and other prizes + Entered into drawings for gift cards from Bass Pro Shops and Dick’s Sporting Goods + TrophyCatch certificate + Exclusive TrophyCatch Lunker Club window decal.

 

Trophy Club (10-12.99 pounds) — $150-plus in value

Requirements: Same as Lunker Club requirements (above).

Competition: Year-round. Begins Oct. 1, 2013 through Sept. 30, 2014.

Reward: $150 worth of gift cards (Bass Pro Shops, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and/or Rapala) + Long-sleeved Bass King shirt + Discounts for Sportsman on Canvas and other prizes + Entered into a drawing for fishing trips + TrophyCatch certificate + Exclusive TrophyCatch Trophy Club window decal.

 

Hall of Fame Club (13 pounds or greater) — $1,000-plus in value

Requirements: Same as Lunker Club requirements (above).

Competition: Year-round. Begins Oct. 1, 2013 through Sept. 30, 2014.

Reward: Free fiberglass replica mount ($500 value) + $200 worth of gift cards (Bass Pro Shops, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Rapala) + Bass King duffle bag with customized hoody, shirt, hat + A Glen Lau DVD + Honored at annual rewards event + Name entered into Florida Bass Hall of Fame at Florida Bass Conservation Center + Entered into drawing for fishing trip with Peter Miller (Bass2Billfish) + TrophyCatch certificate + Exclusive TrophyCatch Hall of Fame Club window decal + Additional prizing to be determined.

—From the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

 

Matthew Beck is the Chronicle Outdoor editor and can be reached at 352-564-2919.

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