Here on the West Coast, during winter months, a lot of us anglers will head to San Diego and Baja Mexico to get an early jump on the fishing season. On the East Coast, Florida offers a most welcomed, warm-water destination for anglers. Florida has a wide range of fantastic fishing options, everything from off-shore pelagics and inshore giants for saltwater enthusiasts, to big bass opportunities for freshwater fishermen.

For bass anglers, Florida offers a truly unique program with their Trophy Catch program. The program is open to both residents and out-of-state anglers with big bass dreams. Judging from the early results, many dreams will be fulfilled this year.

trophycatch2While much of the rest of the southern USA lingers under snow, ice and unseasonable cold, largemouth bass – big Florida bucketmouths – are being recorded in abundance this winter via the Sunshine State’s new Trophy Catch program. Based on the pace of big bass entries into this program, an outstanding year is being projected by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) biologists.

2013 was the inaugural year of Florida’s TrophyCatch program which rewards anglers for catching, documenting and releasing largemouth bass heavier than 8 pounds in Florida.

Bob Williams of Alloway, New Jersey (the program’s open to residents and non-residents) earned the TrophyCatch Championship ring for the first season. It was presented at Bass Pro Shops in Orlando last month by Keith Alan, from the American Outdoors Fund, and Tom Champeau, director of the FWC’s Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management. Williams’ winning catch was a 13-pound, 14-ounce largemouth from Rodman Reservoir. He previously earned a free ($500 value) fiberglass replica of his catch and other awards totaling approximately $1,000.

Photos: Fins ‘n Tales