A murky history kept Idaho’s record largemouth bass from being officially listed and properly credited for 75 years.
That changed Nov. 1 when Mary Taylor’s verified record was updated and officially posted by Idaho Fish and Game. But for the better part of a century, the giant catch was just a well-told fish story.
And it took an investigative fish podcaster from Florida to track it all down.
Except for a weight — 10 pounds, 15 ounces — almost nothing was known about the Idaho record largemouth bass, caught out of Anderson Lake in the 1940s, Martin Koenig told Cowboy State Daily on Monday. He’s the Sportfishing Program Coordinator for the Idaho Fish and Game Department.
The length and girth of the fish remains a mystery, he said.
“That might not have been important at that time,” he said. “The records were based only on a weight from a certified scale.”
‘Listed Under Her Husband’s Name’
Anderson Lake is the northern Idaho panhandle, not exactly the sort of place that might spring to mind when record-setting bass are mentioned.
However, it’s one of those “shallow, warm productive lakes that lend themselves to good largemouth bass habitat,” Koenig said.
It’s part of the “chain lakes,” which are adjacent to Lake Coeur d’Alene and one of Idaho’s most popular fisheries, he said.
The largemouth bass record was first listed in the January 1962 edition of Idaho Wildlife Review magazine. There was no exact date of the catch, which was credited to “Mrs. W.M. Taylor.”
Investigative Fish Podcaster
That seemed suspicious, enough so that Ken Duke of Florida, a bass fishing expert and host of the “Big Bass Podcast,” decided to dig into it, Koenig said.
Working with Idaho Fish and Game, Duke was able to unravel the details of the catch, including the actual name of the angler, Mary Hurt Taylor.
Apparently, she had been listed “under her husband’s name, which was a common practice at that time,” Koenig said.
Field & Stream Contest
It was surmised that Mary Taylor was 63 when she caught the record largemouth bass Oct. 22, 1948. And it wasn’t just a lucky snag by a newbie.
“This lady, Mary Taylor, was apparently quite a largemouth bass angler” and was dedicated to catching lunkers, Koenig said.
What’s more, they were able to discover the tackle she used to make her state record catch, Koenig said. It was a South Bend rod equipped with a Shakespeare reel and Ashaway fishing line. The big fish was enticed in by a Pflueger “Pal-O-Mine” lure, a classic wooden crankbait with a metal bill and treble hooks.
The bass was caught during a contest sponsored by Field & Stream magazine, which had official fish scales on site to verify the weight, Koenig said.
While doing his sleuthing, Duke also came upon other interesting details about Taylor.
She was a big believer in catch and release — not only in fishing but in law enforcement.
Duke told KTVB in Boise that Taylor's brother was a bank president who was killed in a robbery attempt.
While the gunman was executed, the "lookout guy" was sentenced to life in prison. But he escaped.
After being on the run for 11 years, they caught him. But Taylor and her surviving siblings decided he had done enough time so pushed authorities to release him.
"When you catch a fish that size, it will put you in a good mood, I don't care what else may be going on in your life," Duke told the TV station. "He was an early catch and release beneficiary no doubt about that."
Not Known For Bass
Bass are usually associated with the Midwest and South, but there are some good spots for bass fishing in Idaho and Wyoming, said Koenig and Jack Schoeb, who works at the Angling Destinations Inc. fishing shop in Sheridan.
The Kleenburn ponds are part of a county-owned recreation area near Acme, which is north of Sheridan.
Schoeb said the ponds are just the sort of shallow, warmer water that largemouth bass can thrive in. Smallmouth bass do better in larger bodies of water, such as the Tongue River Reservoir.
Neither species gets hit very hard, which allows the fish to grow, he said.
“They don’t see a lot of pressure, most people are focused on trout fishing out here,” Schoeb said. So, it’s not surprising that Wyoming’s record largemouth bass came from there.”
Koenig said the situation is similar on Anderson Lake in Idaho. Anglers aren’t allowed to keep any largemouth bass that are under 16 inches, which helps the fish live longer and grow larger.
Only Yellow Trout Record Is Sketchy
A big part of the reason why it took so long to certify Taylor’s record is because it came from a time when everything was recorded on paper, so tracking documents down was tricky, Koenig said.
Present-day digital records make it much easier, and faster, to get big fish certified and posted on the official list, he said.
Meanwhile, Wyoming has Idaho beat when it comes to largemouth bass. The Cowboy State’s current record is an 11.51-pound largemouth bass caught by Caleb Salzman on Kleenburn Ponds near Sheridan on May 10, 2018, according to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
Oddly enough, Wyoming’s only questionable record — for the state’s largest golden trout — comes from the same year Taylor caught her record Idaho bigmouth bass, 1948.
An 11-pound, 4-ounce fish caught by C.S. Reed from Cook Lake in Sublette County is listed as Wyoming’s record for that species. That’s suspicious, because most golden trout aren’t anywhere near that big, so there’s speculation that Reed’s fish might have been crossbred with another trout species, according to Wyoming Game and Fish.
Idaho’s record golden trout is listed at 5.13 pounds, caught from White Sands Lake by Geroge Wolverton in 1958.
Mark Heinz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.