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Gifford landed his bass in the afternoon using a Terminator spinnerbait.
"As soon as I set the hook, I knew it was big," Gifford said. "But I didn't know how big." The bass has a girth of nearly 23 inches, is over 25 inches long and falls just over three ounces shy of the state record that was landed from Broken Bow Lake in 1999.
The Lake Record Fish Program was initiated Feb. 1 to recognize the biggest fish from certain reservoirs and the anglers who catch them. Currently, thirteen major lakes are included in the pilot program, including Arbuckle, Broken Bow, Canton, Eufaula, Ft. Cobb, Grand, Kaw, Keystone, Sardis, Skiatook, Tenkiller, Texoma and Thunderbird.
Species eligible for spots in the lake records book include blue, channel and flathead catfish and largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass in addition to crappie, paddlefish, striped bass, striped bass hybrids, sunfish (combined) walleye/saugeye and white bass. Minimum weights are set for each species are detailed on the Wildlife Departmentıs Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.
"The largemouth bass and blue catfish caught Feb. 27 are noteworthy catches, and we feel the fish as well as the anglers who caught them should be recognized," said Barry Bolton, fisheries chief for the Wildlife Department. "These are the first record fish actually caught and certified since the program's inception, and we couldn't ask for a better way to kick of the program than with a bass going over 14 pounds and a nice, bragging size catfish."
Anglers who catch a potential record from a participating lake should contact designated business locations around the lake that are enrolled as lake record keepers. A listing of official lake record keepers is available on wildlifedepartment.com.
Once it has been determined that an angler has landed a record fish, the media is notified and the public will be able to view information about the catch on the Wildlife Departmentıs Web site at wildlifedepartment.com.
An easily-operated search feature is available on the Web site that allows those interested to view a wealth of lake record fish information, ranging from the size of record fish caught to what kind of bait or rod and reel was used to catch them.
All past and current state record fish are registered in the Lake Record Fish Program as records for their respective lakes.
As for Gifford, whose new lake record largemouth nearly took state record status, it is not a coincidence that he caught the giant bass this time of year. According to fisheries biologists with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, right now through the next month is among the best time all year for catching big bass. An avid, lifelong fisherman, Gifford agrees this is the time to be fishing, as well as into the spring.
"I've been catching fish all winter to be honest with you," Gifford said. "The fish have got to eat all year long."
Coming out of colder weather means bass are actively feeding and putting on weight for spawning, which in turn means they will be found in shallower waters and may bite more often.
Bass are likely the most sought after game fish in Oklahoma.
"This is such a great time to go bass fishing," said Jeff Boxrucker, assistant chief of fisheries for the Wildlife Department. "You can find them all over Oklahoma, and any angler, whether experienced in bass fishing or not, can catch plenty of them. But you have to be out there to catch them. Now through the next few months will be some outstanding fishing."
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