Oklahoma pro Bradley Hallman knew Lake Kissimmee holds huge bass and he brought a fine example of this bounty to the scales on Day 1 of the Basspro.com Bassmaster Eastern Open on the Kissimmee Chain. Anchoring a limit catch of 17 pounds, 10 ounces, his 8-pound, 1-ounce stud set the early mark in the Phoenix Boats Big Bass contest and earned Hallman a spot in the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Trophy Catch program.
Established to help the FWC monitor the quality of Florida’s bass population, while educating anglers about the importance of catch-and-release, Trophy Catch recognizes three tiers of notable catches: 8-10 pounds (Lunker Club), 10-13 pounds (Trophy Club) and over 13 pounds (Hall of Fame Club).
Entry requires anglers to take a photo or video of their catch on a scale with the weight clearly legible prior to release and then submit the documentation via the program’s website: www.trophycatch.com. Anglers receive prizes for verified Trophy Catch submissions, along with entries into annual drawings for additional awards.
Marty Mann, FWC Fisheries Biologist for the Kissimmee Chain described the program as a win-win-win anglers, the agency and the natural resources it manages.
“What we get out of the program is data for these trophy fish and if we get enough of this information, we can start to look at what lakes produce them and why they’re producing big fish,” Mann said. “Maybe we replicate those things in other places.
“What the angler gets out of it is to help in the management of the system and then they get gift cards (etc.) from Bass Pro Shops and out other sponsors rewarding them for their catch.”
Kristen Leonard, Trophy Catch Prizing and Events Coordinator adds this: “When you register for the program, you get one entry for a bass boat drawing — we raffle off a Phoenix 819 every year. Then, for every approved fish, you get 10 more entries.”
Hallman, who said he has also caught fish over 8 pounds in Lake Okeechobee, said he caught Wednesday’s tank in a likely spawning area, but he was not sight fishing.
“I don’t know that it was a bed fish, but the way I caught it was a place I was flipping,” he said. “I shook that fish off (in the final day of practice) and there was no question what she was — it was a giant. I ran right to her and made the same flip and she was still there.”
A Big Bite creature bait tempted Hallman’s 8-1, which he found in 4 feet of water. He found the fish in Lake Kissimmee amid pads intermingled with Kissimmee grass.
Hallman’s catch would ultimately yield to Joshua Strachner’s 8-11 and then James Castillo’s 8-12. With stable weather and warming water, the Kissimmee Chain is poised to yield a few more Trophy Catch entries.
For program details, visit TrophyCatch.com