A Florida largemouth bass angler thought he saw something other than the near-state-record fish he ended up catching out of a private pond in Estero last month. It was good he took a second glance.
"When I first saw the fish, I thought it was a log with a volleyball under it — until it moved," Dominic Montalto said. "Once I realized it was a big bass, I started targeting it and just kept trying until it took the bait."
It ended up being a great move.
Montalto's 16-pound, 12-ounce largemouth took the lead in this season's Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's (FWC) TrophyCatch program, according to a news release, but it also was only a half-pound lighter than the current state record, which is more than 30 years old.
The current certified state record for a largemouth bass is the 17-pound, 4-ounce bass caught in Polk County in 1986.
Montalto's catch was verified by a team of FWC biologists, the news release stated.
Montalto, 19, who said he learned to fish from his father Joe, was fishing from shore, using a Johnny Morris Titanium 8 heavy-action rod, Bass Pro Shops Pro Qualifier 7.1:1 reel and XPS Z9R Perch Swimbait lure in bluegill color.
He is a physical therapy major at Florida Gulf Coast University.
More from FWC:
TrophyCatch is a partnership between FWC biologists, anglers and fishing industry leaders, such as Bass Pro Shops, that rewards the catch, documentation and release of largemouth bass weighing 8 pounds or heavier in Florida. In order to be eligible for prizes, anglers are required to submit photos or videos of their catch to TrophyCatch.com, showing the fish's weight on a scale, before releasing it back into the water. FWC biologists use TrophyCatch data for bass research, to make informed decisions about the management of Florida bass fisheries, and to promote the catch-and-release of trophy bass.
Dominic's trophy bass qualifies him for the TrophyCatch Hall of Fame Club, which offers rewards for catches weighing 13 pounds or heavier. Hall of Fame Club catches are celebrated at a ceremony each year and club members receive $100 gift cards to Bass Pro Shops and/or Rapala, a fiberglass replica mount from New Wave Taxidermy, a $50 SpiderWire merchandise credit code, and a Fitzgerald Rod, among other prizes. Since the beginning of Season 5 in October 2016, 12 Hall of Fame bass have been approved. Dominic's catch also puts him in the lead for becoming the TrophyCatch Champion, which is awarded to the angler with the heaviest catch of the season. Anglers have until the end of Season 5 on Sept. 30, 2017, to submit their catches and try to take the lead.
Anglers are also eligible to win the TrophyCatch Grand Prize, which is awarded to the angler with the heaviest combined weight of approved catches throughout the entire season. The Grand Prize includes a Shimano prize pack of G. Loomis and Metanium combo, and a Lake County tourism prize pack of a three-day, two-night stay in Lake County with a fishing trip guided by professional angler Tim Frederick. Second prize includes a Shimano prize pack of Expride and Chronarch MGL combo. Third prize includes a Shimano prize pack of Exage and Casitas combo.
The FWC encourages anglers to join TrophyCatch as citizen-scientists to assist in fisheries management and the conservation of Florida's lakes and rivers. A new TrophyCatch mobile app is available for download on both Apple and Android devices. For more information about the TrophyCatch program, email Amber Nabors at Amber.Nabors@MyFWC.com.