Travis Wendt recently set a new state record for one of the country’s most sought-after species of game fish. Wendt went fishing on Idaho’s Dworshak Reservoir on May 10 and ended up hooking into a chunky smallmouth bass. He measured the big bronzeback and released it.

“On a rare day off, I caught up on the business of life, loaded the pups up, and went on a solo trip to Dworshak,” Wendt, a fishing guide for Reel Time Fishing, wrote in a Facebook post. “I completed my day with my personal best—23.5 inches by 18 inches and 7 pounds, 11 ounces.”

The fish was not only a personal best but it was recently confirmed by Idaho Fish and Game (IDFG) as the new state catch and release record for the species. It beat a 22.75-incher that was caught at Dworshak back in 2020.

man poses with smallmouth bass
Smallmouth bass in Dworshak Reservoir feast on kokanee salmon. Travis Wendt via IDFG

The Dworshak Reservoir is something of a trophy smallmouth hotspot. According to the IDFG, it has not only produced the past two catch-and-release records but also all of the state’s certified-weight smallmouth bass records since 1982. The current state record for weight is a 9.72-pounder that was caught by Dan Steigers in 2006.

“Biologists have learned that big bass in Dworshak have a cyclical pattern, related to the fluctuating numbers of kokanee in the reservoir,” explains the IDFG in a press release. “In years when kokanee are abundant—and usually smaller as a result—they provide the ample food needed to grow supersize smallmouth.”

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IDFG fisheries biologist Eli Felts predicted record-breaking smallies from the reservoir in March 2022—a prediction that was just proven accurate. “Last fall I received multiple reports of smallmouth over 8 pounds being caught,” he wrote. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see the current state record be challenged over the next couple of years.”