Photos: New Rhode Island Record Largemouth

The full story behind Rhode Island’s new record bass.

record largemouth, record bass, new record, Rhode Island
It was nearly dawn on Saturday, April 30, 2016, when Brandon Migliore landed Rhode Island’s largest documented largemouth bass using hook and line. The fish, an 11-pound 2-ounce behemoth, was pulled from Johnson’s Pond, near Coventry, and shattered the state’s previous record by nearly a pound. For well over a decade, Migliore, 29, who lives in Sterling, Connecticut, and his fishing partner Matt Sheldon had spent countless hours trying to land a state-record bass. But targeting a record and actually landing one, no matter how much time one commits, are two very different things. To boot, the duo was casting topwater baits from shore during a time of year when few dedicated anglers would have considered employing such lures.Courtesy of Brandon Migliore and Matt Sheldon
record largemouth, record bass, new record, Rhode Island
Late April is spring in Rhode Island—but just barely. “Matt and I have been fishing every weekend since winter left this year,” says Migliore. “We’ve been out here every weekend night, throughout the night, well before the fish are even thinking about spawning. Up until that particular weekend, we were only catching fish in the 2-pound class. But that night was different.”Courtesy of Brandon Migliore and Matt Sheldon
record largemouth, record bass, new record, Rhode Island
Earlier that night, Sheldon landed a largemouth that weighed more than 8 pounds, a huge largemouth by any standard. It was the pair’s largest fish of the season—until, just hours later, Migliore landed the record-breaker.Courtesy of Brandon Migliore and Matt Sheldon
record largemouth, record bass, new record, Rhode Island
The fish hit Migliore’s lure at around 4:30 a.m. “I knew it was a huge fish the moment I set the hook,” Migliore says. “The fight lasted for about 2 minutes before the fish got within feet of the shoreline, and then I walked backward. The moment the fish’s head made contact with the bank, Matt grabbed it by hand.”Courtesy of Brandon Migliore and Matt Sheldon
record largemouth, record bass, new record, Rhode Island
At first, a digital scale put the fish’s weight at 10.5 pounds, just shy of the 25-year-old standing record of 10 pounds 6 ounces, caught from Carbuncle Pond. But then Migliore and Sheldon tried again, and the scale showed that, in fact, the fish weighed more than 11 pounds. This was when, Migliore says, he knew he had landed the biggest largemouth in state history.Courtesy of Brandon Migliore and Matt Sheldon
record largemouth, record bass, new record, Rhode Island
As the sun was about to rise, Sheldon’s brother was called to bring a cooler large enough to hold the fish until officials with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management could meet up with the anglers. “We’re not just two kids that lucked into catching a state-record fish,” says Migliore. “We’ve spent a ton of time on the water over the years. Bars and nightclubs are where most guys our age go on Friday and Saturday nights. But we spend our entire weekends fishing. We always knew one of us would catch the record.”Courtesy of Brandon Migliore and Matt Sheldon
record largemouth, record bass, new record, Rhode Island
Since state officials must examine a fish in person before it can claim an official record, later that morning, the anglers met fisheries personnel at the Sandy Bottom Bait & Tackle. The official measurement determined the fish was 11 pounds 2 ounces, and 25 inches in length. The taxidermist mounting the fish will send scale samples to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management so that officials can estimate the fish’s age and health.Courtesy of Brandon Migliore and Matt Sheldon
record largemouth, record bass, new record, Rhode Island
Migliore was using a black 3½-inch ⅝-ounce Arbogast Jointed Clicker Jitterbug, tied to 30-pound-test Sufix 832 Superline. His rod was a 6-foot medium-power fast-action St. Croix Premier spinning rod—a birthday gift from his mother when he turned 13, purchased from the very shop where the record fish was weighed—coupled with a Zebco Quantum Energy spinning reel.Courtesy of Brandon Migliore and Matt Sheldon
record largemouth, record bass, new record, Rhode Island
“I know it was Brandon’s plan to release the fish back into Johnson’s Pond after getting it weighed and measured,” says Christine Dudley, the state deputy chief of freshwater fisheries. “There was an aerator in the cooler, and he had the bass in the shop’s aquarium for some time. But a fish as old as that one stresses out more easily than younger ones do, and the fish succumbed to that. But Brandon exemplifies the hardcore yet caring angler.”Courtesy of Brandon Migliore and Matt Sheldon