News Releases

Two of Florida's riverine black basses tie for state record

News Release

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Media contact: Bob Wattendorf, 850-488-0520

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Tucker Martin, 17, from Chipley, with his state-record shoal bass, which was 4.49 pounds (4 pounds, 8 ounces), 20.3 inches in total length, with a girth of 14.4 inches. (Photo courtesy of FWC State Record Program)


The state record for shoal bass was broken not once but twice during March.

Tucker Martin, 17, from Chipley, set a new state record for shoal bass on Sunday, March 8. He was bank fishing with a friend on the Chipola River in Jackson County. He cast a spinner bait up under a bridge and the fight was on. He was expecting to catch a spotted bass or largemouth, but landed a shoal bass that weighed 4.49 pounds (4 pounds, 8 ounces), measured 20 inches in total length and had a girth of 14 inches.

Martin and his grandfather met Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) regional biologist Chris Paxton at the Main Street Market in Chipley. After congratulating the young angler and verifying the species, the fish was weighed on certified scales. Martin’s bass surpassed the previous record by nearly 6 ounces.

“Whereas central Florida is especially renowned for trophy largemouth, northwest Florida has numerous species of uniquely evolved black bass that we are proud to promote and manage,” Paxton said.

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Jamie Coleman, 18, of Altha, with a 4.5-pound shoal bass caught on St. Patrick’s Day. (Photo courtesy of FWC State Record Program)


Barely a week later, Jamie Coleman, 18, of Altha caught a 4.5-pound shoal bass on St. Patrick’s Day. The fish’s species and weight was verified by FWC biologists Scott Bisping and Andy Strickland. In honor of “going green,” Coleman released his catch. The fish measured 20 inches in total length and 14 inches around. It was the third state-record shoal bass caught in Florida since December 2014. Because it was only 0.01 pounds heavier than the previous record, the Martin and Coleman bass are now co-state-record fish.

Coleman is an avid angler who developed a fondness for bass fishing and the Chipola River by angling with his father. He was actively seeking a state record, fishing with a 2.5-inch, green topwater lure when he got this strike. Stickland, a biologist intimately familiar the river, said, “This was a prespawn bass; shoal bass typically bed from April to May on the river.”

Shoal bass are one of five black bass species found in Florida. Black bass are members of the sunfish family, which includes bluegill and crappie. The Florida largemouth bass is the most common and largest of the black basses in the state. In addition to the shoal, Florida has Choctaw, spotted and Suwannee basses. All four are found in northwest Florida rivers, whereas largemouth are found statewide.

It is easy to distinguish largemouth bass from other black basses because the first and second dorsal (back) fins on shoal, Choctaw, Suwannee and spotted basses are connected. The dorsal fins appear separated in largemouth bass by a notch between the spiny and soft dorsal fins. In addition, the upper jaws of shoal, Choctaw, Suwannee and spotted bass do not extend back past the eye, as they do in largemouth bass.

People can tell shoal bass from Choctaw, spotted and Suwannee bass because, unlike those other species, shoal and largemouth basses do not have a patch of teeth on their tongue.

Because these northwestern Florida black basses don’t grow as big as largemouth and have limited ranges, the FWC is proposing new rules to help sustain their populations. Anglers can learn about the proposal and comment by visiting If passed by the FWC Commissioners, the rule would go into effect July 2016.

The Choctaw bass is a special story of its own. Choctaw were thought to be spotted bass. However, FWC biologists conducting genetic sampling discovered the Choctaw bass is a different species. Geneticists Mike Tringali and Brandon Barthel, of the FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, along with freshwater fisheries research biologist Wes Porak and management biologists Chris Paxton and Katie Woodside, unfolded the true nature of this fish in recent years. It took analyses of the nuclear DNA to document the significant evolutionary differences.



A Choctaw bass chapter is in “Black Bass Diversity,” a book just published by the American Fisheries Society ( Choctaw Bass are externally distinguishable from spotted bass and Alabama bass (two other species of black bass) only with considerable effort and careful measurements. The northern spotted bass is found in Gulf, Liberty and Calhoun counties, but is considered to be a nonnative transplant. The simplest way for anglers to identify Choctaw Bass is based on their distribution. They occur in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Holmes and Washington counties, and possibly Walton County.

You can find other Florida freshwater state records, as well as the rules and an application form by going to and selecting, under “Freshwater Fishing,” “Angler Recognition” then the “state record fish” link. The FWC also recognizes anglers with a Big Catch certificate for landing shoal or spotted basses heavier than 2 pounds or longer than 16 inches, and Suwannee bass heavier than 1.5 pounds or longer than 14 inches. Visit to register and submit any of 33 different species of Florida freshwater fishes for recognition. In addition, anglers can claim a Black Bass Slam by catching a largemouth bass, a spotted bass, a shoal bass and a Suwannee bass within a one-year period.

It may take a biologist to fully appreciate the evolutionary differences among black basses and their ecological roles. However, these programs help anglers to better understand and appreciate the distinctions and the need to conserve these species and their unique habitats.

Instant licenses are available at or by calling 888-FISH-FLORIDA (347-4356). Report violators by calling 888-404-3922, *FWC or #FWC on your cell phone, or texting to Visit and select “more news,” or for more Fish Busters’ Bulletins. To subscribe to FWC columns or to receive news releases, visit

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Black bear dens in Florida are usually shallow depressions on the ground lined with leaves and are most often found in very dense vegetation.

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