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.