Thomas Russell has most likely boated the new state record smallmouth bass for The Empire State. Russell was fishing on Cayuga Lake at a Finger Lakes Open Bass Tournament on June 15 when he hooked into the jumbo bass. “The first day of New York bass season didn’t disappoint,” wrote Rob Aftuck, the tournament organizer, in a Facebook post. “Congratulations to Eric Sullivan and Thomas Russell for a true mega bag of smallmouth bass with 30-plus-pounds [including] an 8.5-pound lunker for a New York State record.”
“By midday we were sitting on a real nice bag of smallmouth bass,” Russell told NYUp.com. At around 11 a.m. he was using a flipped a Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Flatnose Minnow in 10 feet of water when he hooked into the brute. He was using a St. Croix Avid X Spinning Rod. “I was using 12-pound test line, so it was just a real good fight. He came up, jumped a couple of times, and [I] got all nervous when [I] saw the size of him. It was spectacular—the fight of a lifetime for sure.”
Russell and Thompson weighed the fish about the boat. With their portable scale measuring around 8 pounds, they knew they had a potential record-breaking fish on their hands. But they continued fishing the rest of the day, ultimately finishing with a 5-fish bag of 30 pounds, 15 ounces, which was enough to win the tournament. It was the first tournament for the anglers on the Finger Lakes Open Trail.
In a Facebook post, George Fiorille shared a video of the weigh-in. The video shows the moment Russell places the bass on the tournament scale, which gives a clear reading of 8 pounds, 5.8 ounces. If that weight is certified by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, it will go down as the biggest smallmouth bass ever caught in the state. The current record is 8 pounds, 4 ounces. That record is shared by two anglers, Andrew Kartesz, who caught an 8-pound, 4-ouncer from Lake Erie in 1995, and Patrick Hildenbrand, who caught a fish the same size in 2016.
“Thank you for a great tournament today,” wrote Russell in a comment on Aftuck’s Facebook post. “We had an epic day today and were able to possibly break the New York State smallmouth record.”
Cayuga Lake is the longest of New York’s Finger Lakes at 40 miles long. It’s considered to be one of the best bass fishing lakes in New York for both smallmouth and largemouth bass. That said, the only standing state record at the lake as of press is a 7-pound, 14-ounce American eel that was caught in 1984. With his smallmouth bass, Russell stands to set a highly sought-after record for one of America’s most popular species of gamefish.