NASHVILLE - A 5-pound, 14-ounce spotted bass caught by Jack Watson of Tellico Plains on Dec. 31 in Parksville Lake, east of Cleveland, has been confirmed as the new Tennessee state record for the species.
Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency reservoir fisheries biologist Mike Jolley confirmed it following DNA testing.
Spotted bass are one of the four species of black bass found in Tennessee. The others are largemouth, smallmouth and Coosa. Anglers commonly refer to spotted bass as "spots."
The previous state-record spotted bass weighed 5-8 and was caught in Center Hill Reservoir on Feb. 4, 1989.
Watson, who works for Denso Manufacturing in Athens, declined to say what lure he used to catch his big spot, but he said he has fished Parksville once or twice a month for three years. He did say he used 6-pound-test line, and he plans to have the fish mounted.
Jolley said he wasn't surprised to see a new state record spot, but he was surprised it came from Parksville Lake.
"Parksville has low productivity," he said, "but spotted bass have been able to thrive. It's a fishery we've seen growing the last few years."
TWRA began stocking bluegill and redear sunfish there specifically to provide additional forage for the larger game fish such as bass and crappies.
"We've stocked over 300,000 bluegill and redear in Parksville since 2007," Jolley said.
TWRA has received several submissions for state-record spots in recent years. However, the agency always must run sophisticated DNA analysis because spotted bass sometimes hybridize with the bigger largemouth bass. TWRA will not certify a new state-record spot without confirming it is genetically pure.
"We've seen a lot of close calls," Jolley said. "Hybridization between spots and largemouth is rare but happens. In recent years we've probably had at least two or three submissions that turned out to be hybrids."
Interestingly, the announcement of a new state-record spot comes soon after a huge sedimentation spill on the Ocoee River, which feeds Parksville Lake.
"It concerns me," Jolley said. "Sediment fills in and covers up potential spawning habitat. It also affects water clarity, which can impact sunlight penetration and productivity in any fishery."