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Florida black bass grand slam fever ‘contagious’

Fish Busters' Bulletin

Friday, July 01, 2011

Media contact: Bob Wattendorf, 850-488-0520

Jim Walker of Brooksville took less than six months to complete the Florida black bass grand slam, and went one better.

Although spring and summer are baseball season for many Americans to whom a grand slam is that glorious occasion of hitting a home run with the bases loaded, many will marvel more at Walker's stunning and fun accomplishment. Even though baseball is touted as our national pastime, anglers outnumber baseball players many times over. (Seventeen percent of Americans age 6 or older fish, and 5 percent play baseball, according to the Outdoor Recreation Foundation 2010 Participation Report.)

"I was inspired by an article in 'Bassmaster' magazine and made it my 2011 New Year's resolution to catch all the Florida black bass species this year," Walker said. Florida has four of the nine black bass species that make up the BASS Slam (BassMaster.com/Slam). Collectively, bass are the most popular sport fishes in North America. The Florida largemouth is the largest and most popular of all, but its smaller cousins provide great fishing as well. Completing the slam requires a commitment to travel, careful research and a high level of skill.

Because of the immense popularity of black bass and their potential to contribute to the ecological, economic and social well-being of Florida, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) on June 9 approved a long-term management plan (see MyFWC.com/Fishing) to ensure anglers worldwide will recognize Florida as the undisputed bass fishing capital of the world. Among the many action items in the new plan is the idea of promoting the Florida black bass grand slam, which can inspire anglers to seek out new opportunities and emphasize the critical need for habitat management and conservation to keep these fisheries viable.

Walker's story epitomizes all that the FWC hopes to encourage in anglers. His quest began April 2 with a trip to Oleno State Park on the Santa Fe River, accompanied by his wife, Nancy, and their 4-year-old son, Jack. While fishing there in a rented canoe, he caught both a Suwannee bass, with its beautiful purplish colors along the lateral line, and a Florida largemouth.

Walker next took on the shoal bass. After researching the species on MyFWC.com/Fishing and elsewhere, he decided that the upper Chipola was the best place to go. He loaded his family and took them to Florida Caverns State Park. On the way, he tried fishing from shore and was rewarded with a beautiful shoal bass from the Chipola near County Road 278 (Peacock Bridge Road). He described this as his favorite catch, as it slammed a finesse worm and came 2 feet out of the water, giving them all a thrill. It is also a beautiful fish, with tiger stripes along its cheeks, an orange tint and bright red eyes. By the end of April, he had three of the four Florida black basses to his credit.

Needing only the spotted bass, and wanting the best (most recent) information available, he contacted the FWC. I had the good fortune of taking his call and enjoyed a delightful conversation with this avid angler, conservationist and family man. Enthralled by his story, I put him in touch with one of our regional offices, where Katie Woodside and Matt Wegener provided him with the information he needed.

In his words, "Some great folks there shared with me great (and beautiful) locations to find my last species. This trip actually began on my birthday (May 26) and resulted with the accomplishment of my Florida bass slam."

He caught a qualifying spotted bass at the Hightower Springs Landing on Holmes Creek, just by walking the bank with his family and casting a finesse worm.

It must have been a memorable birthday and Memorial Day weekend for him and his family.

That sounds like enough to make a great story and cover a half-year of fishing, but the Walkers had more to offer. Nancy, Jim's wife, is one fish shy of her Florida slam as well.

Jim has his own new goal. Now he wants to catch other species of bass in Florida, and he can already scratch the nonnative peacock bass off his list.



FWC Facts:
While most reptiles have three-chambered hearts, the heart of alligators, and all crocodilians, has 4 chambers – a trait shared with mammals and birds.

Learn More at AskFWC