Arkansas is one of those states that is consistently brought up for its more natural environments, diverse wildlife, and generally, great opportunities for outdoorsmen. That goes for everything from hiking to hunting, and it most definitely includes bass fishing.
Arkansas’ records aren’t necessarily the largest, but they are well above what the average angler expects to catch on any given trip, and the state consistently produces fish of that size. So, even if you go out targeting a record-breaking fish, or at least close to it, you won’t walk away empty-handed. The fishing is consistently great at the very least.
We want to go over the 4 top bass fishing records in Arkansas. That includes the coveted largemouth, but we’ll also cover a few other species that are available in the state and considered record worthy. We’ll also cover some ways that you can get yourself into the Arkansas record books and learn from the current record holders.
Largemouth Bass Arkansas Bass Record
First and foremost, we have the most popular bass species’ record. Arkansas’ largemouth bass record isn’t the largest in the world, and it’s not even all that close to some of the most impressive runner-ups here in the states. The Arkansas record is an above-average 16 pounds 4 ounces. It was caught way back in 1976 by Aaron Mardis.
The catch was made at Mallard Lake, a consistent producer of high-quality bass.
This isn’t the largest bass record, and it’s extremely old. So, that doesn’t bode well for Arkansas' potential to truly produce bass that competes on a global scale. However, you have to remember that after Georgia’s George Perry landed his world record, it took almost a hundred years for anyone to get close to it. So, at any moment, Arkansas’ waters may very easily produce a world-record-tier largemouth.
A good thing about this record is that Arkansas is known for frequently producing bass that gets close to that record. It’s not uncommon for experienced anglers to pull out bass larger than ten pounds and tip towards 15 pounds. Those consistently large numbers are far better than states with comparative records and reputations for small average fish.
Largemouth Bass Arkansas Struck from the Records
There is an interesting story that presents itself as a warning to unethical fishermen. The record we listed above has in fact been beaten.
In 2012, just ten years ago, a man named Paul Crowder beat the record by just one ounce. It weighed 16 pounds 5 ounces, and he was all set to dethrone Aaron Mardis’ 1976 record thanks to Arkansas not adopting the 2-ounce rule most states have. Why isn’t that the current record?
Well, Paul Crowder wasn’t a licensed fisherman.
It is possible to fish without a license. It just has to be on your own property, and in water that you 100% privately own. However, catches from those ponds are rarely considered for the record books since the owner can manipulate the fish for unnatural growth, and there’s really no chance of anyone else being able to dispute the catch.
However, Paul Crowder wasn’t on private property. He pulled the fish from Lake Dunn on rod and reel and drove it to the nearest weighing station. The fish was weighed, measured, and checked for any foul play such as weights being added after the catch, and then the issue of Crowder’s fishing license came up.
When it was discovered that he wasn’t licensed, the fish wasn’t just dropped from qualification for the record books. Paul Crowder had to face the legal consequences of fishing illegally without a license, as well.
This is a great example of why fishermen targeting records really need to ensure they understand the rules and general process, but it’s also a great warning about what can happen if you don’t take the time to get a fishing license.
Spotted Bass Arkansas Bass Fishing Record
The spotted bass fishing in Arkansas is consistently good, but it’s not something many record hunters are going after. The record for Arkansas’ spotted bass is 7 pounds 15 ounces. It’s not the largest, but it’s close to the larger records in the nation. It was caught at Bull Shoals Lake by Mike Heilich in 1983. Unlike most of the Arkansas state record holders, Mike is a St. Louis, Missouri native.
The interesting fact about this record is that its location is still a major spotted bass producer. Consistently, Bull Shoals Lake produces spotted bass in the 4 to 5-pound range. Now, those aren't record-worthy, but they are heavy in comparison to the average spotted bass caught in most other places. So, even if you don't beat the 1983 record, you're in for a good trip, regardless.
Bull Shoals Lake isn’t the only place that produces such great spotted bass, either. Lake Norfolk also tends to produce average fish in the 4 to 5-pound range despite not holding the state record.
Smallmouth Bass Arkansas Bass Fishing Record
Acie Dickerson holds the Smallie record in Arkansas, and while it’s not the largest in the country, it’s certainly something to be proud of. It’s a 7-pound 5-ounce fish that was caught in 1969. Like the spotted bass record, it was caught at Bull Shoals lake.
This bass fishing record in Arkansas keeps with the common theme of Arkansas’ record books. The records aren’t excessively large, but they’re only a couple of pounds heavier than large fish that are caught very frequently.
Hybrid Bass Arkansas Bass Fishing Record
Arkansas does boast a population of hybrid bass, and that gives bass fishermen the chance to hook into some considerably larger than average fish if they want something as heavy and hard fighting as the largemouth world record without all the determination and sheer luck involved in getting that.
The current hybrid bass record was set at Greers Ferry Lake in 1997 by Jerald Shaum. It weighed 27 pounds and 5 ounces.
Hybrid bass isn't as commonly targeted as sport fish like largemouth bass is, but they frequently exceed the largemouth bass world record in terms of weight. So, targeting these monster fish can give you a similar experience with less hassle. These “hybrid” bass are the result of white bass mating with striped bass where saltwater and freshwater meet, but many fisheries have started stocking them due to their ability to live in freshwater and grow to such jaw-dropping sizes.
Getting in the Arkansas Record Books
If you’re looking to beat current bass fishing records in Arkansas and get into the Arkansas record books, you should know it’s not as easy as just catching a big fish and snapping a picture. There are rules and regulations.
This is an easy one if you read our entry about the largemouth record struck from the books. The angler who caught a record-breaking bass, and could have dethroned Aaron Mardis, did so without a fishing license. Not only was the record not qualified, but he faced legal consequences.
Arkansas requires record holders to hold a valid fishing license. That’s necessary to fish in general, as well. Without a fishing license, substantial fines, and even potential jail time, should be expected.
There are no exemptions to this, either. The only way to fish without a license (besides on private property) is to be a child under a certain age supervised by a licensed fisherman. Private property catches also aren’t qualified, but we’ll cover that shortly.
Rod and Reel:
There are two categories for fish records in Arkansas. First, there’s the rod and reel category. This requires the fish to be caught with a rod and reel, as well as legal lures and rigs.
You can be considered for the unrestricted tackle category if you catch the fish with a snag system on a snag-legal body of water. This isn’t a category that is regarded as highly as the rod and reel category, but it’s still a record.
There are several types of fishing that aren’t allowed. You cannot use electric eels to stun fish and force them to the top, net dead floaters, and you cannot submit applications for fish caught while commercially fishing.
There are two types of fisheries that are not eligible for the record books.
First, private water catches are not allowed. That’s because the landowner is capable of doing anything to boost the stock’s weight in an unnatural manner, and it is difficult to trust the catch. Pay-to-fish lakes are also banned. This is because pay-to-fish lakes are essentially the same as private lakes, but they’re operated as a business, are overstocked, and utilize unnatural feeding methods to boost the size of the fish.
The fish must be weighed at a weigh-in location officiated by the state of Arkansas. These are scattered across the state, and most decent tackle shops are licensed to handle them.
On top of this, the fish must be identified by an official, and the official must witness the weigh-in. If the tackle shop owner is not licensed to witness weigh-ins, the weigh-in won’t count. These facts must also be signed off on by the official, as well.
As a bare minimum, you must take a photo of the fish upon catching it to submit with your record application. However, it is not ideal to only take a photo. This might be contested by other fishermen who claim you violated a rule. That might sound like paranoia, but it happens fairly frequently.
Instead, it is recommended to also have witnesses. These witnesses will have to be with you to submit the application, but they make it much harder for another record hunter to try to disqualify your catch.
What to Learn About Arkansas Fishing from the Record Books
You can learn some things from bass fishing records in Arkansas, and while you might have picked up on these things on your own, we’d like to highlight them here.
The number-one thing these records show is that the fishing in Arkansas is highly consistent. The records aren’t the most impressive, but for the average fisherman, the chance of catching large, non-record-breaking-fish, is relatively high. Especially at Bull Shoals Lake, the spot that holds the most state records and produces close-to-record catches every year.
That isn’t encouraging if you only care about records, but it’s great news if you’re looking for a fruitful fishing trip.
There’s a reason two of the four records on this list were made at Bull Shoals. It’s a well-maintained spot with plenty of resources for fish to grow naturally. The two we listed aren’t even the only records the lake has to its name; there are several more, but they’re not bass species.
Lake Norfolk, Greers Ferry, and several other Arkansas watering holes are also well-known for consistently producing high-quality fish.
You can learn more about finding the perfect location for record hunting and the best time to go fishing at BassForecast fishing app.
Know the Rules:
You do not want to hook into a once-in-a-lifetime fish, get excited to have your name in the record books, and then find out you’re disqualified from claiming it.
Most of this can be avoided by getting a license, avoiding pay-to-fish spots and farm ponds, and making sure you know where proper weigh stations are.
Know the Records:
Arkansas' records are impressive, but none of them reflect just how large the species in question can get. The bass mentioned in this list has all been caught much larger elsewhere.
You don’t want to expect a record-breaker to look absolutely massive. If the fish is large, use your portable scale to the way it is, and know what the record for that specific fish is. If you exceed it, it’s time to take it in for an official weigh-in.
Now, CPR is the most ethical way to catch fish, and taking every fish that’s remotely close to a record for weigh-in is reckless. The survival rate drops the longer the fish is out of the lake and cramped in a live well, and most fish taken for an official weigh-in aren’t going to get back to the water. Since Arkansas requires the fish to be officially weighed and witnessed by an official, you’ll want a reliable personal scale to ensure every fish you take in has a good chance of qualifying and becoming the new bass fishing record in Arkansas.