SENECA FALLS, N.Y. — A tournament angler caught a new state record smallmouth bass while fishing Cayuga Lake, an 8-pound, 5.8-ounce lunker that eclipsed the previous standard by nearly two ounces.
Thomas Russell of Albion caught and released the big bronzeback during the Finger Lakes Open Trail bass tournament on June 15, the first day of New York state’s bass fishing season.
Russell, fishing with his cousin Eric Sullivan in the two-angler event, was using a drop-shot rig with a Berkley MaxScent flatnose minnow when the big fish hit.
“He come up, jumped a couple of times, and you get all nervous when you see the size of him, and see him jumping,” Russell said. “It was spectacular. Gave me the fight of a lifetime for sure.”
Russell and Sullivan used a digital scale to weigh the big fish onboard their boat, and as the reading bounced back and forth above and below eight pounds they realized it could be a new state record. At the tournament weigh-in the 8-pound, 5.8-ounce weight became official.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation officials have officially certified the fish as the new state standard, topping the previous records – an 8-pound, 4-ounce smallmouth caught in Lake Erie in 1995 and another of equal weight from the St. Lawrence River in 2016.
Most anglers felt a new state record smallmouth would come from Lake Erie or the Lake Ontario/St. Lawrence River waters, generally regarded as some of the finest bass fisheries in the country.
But tournament director Rob Aftuck feels Cayuga Lake could eventually yield a bigger fish than Russell’s record. “I know there’s a bigger one out there, I’m sure of it. It’s been caught, it just wasn’t during season,” he said.
The record smallmouth was part of Russell’s and Sullivan’s tournament-winning bag weighing an incredible 30 pounds, 15 ounces, netting them the top prize of $1,850.
The anglers released the record fish back into Cayuga Lake following the official weigh-in.
“Our main goal was to get that fish back in the water as healthy as we could,” Russell said. “We took him back out to the cooler water so that way he had a better survival rate.”