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Sports >  Outdoors

Lewiston man lands Idaho state record bass from Dworshak Reservoir

May 18, 2022 Updated Thu., May 19, 2022 at 6:27 a.m.

Travis Wendt shows off a 23.5-inch smallmouth bass from Dworshak Reservoir, clinching the latest Idaho catch-and-release record for the species.  (Courtesy of Travis Wendt)
Travis Wendt shows off a 23.5-inch smallmouth bass from Dworshak Reservoir, clinching the latest Idaho catch-and-release record for the species. (Courtesy of Travis Wendt)

Travis Wendt of Lewiston landed Idaho’s latest state-record fish on May 10.

Wendt hooked the massive 23.5-inch smallmouth bass while fishing Dworshak Reservoir, according to an Idaho Department of Fish and Game news release. After a quick photo, Wendt released the bass back into the lake, and secured a catch-and-release state record.

His trophy bronzeback eclipsed the previous record of 22.75 inches set by Dustin Shepard in 2020.

Dworshak Reservoir – formed by the North Fork Clearwater River in north-central Idaho – has a long and well-deserved reputation for trophy smallmouth bass. The reservoir has produced the past two catch-and-release records, but also holds all the certified-weight records for smallmouth bass since 1982.

Wendt’s fish easily competes with some of the heaviest bass recorded from Dworshak Reservoir, and may have been close to the existing weight record of 9.72 pounds (23.75 inches), according to the release.

  • Don Schiefelbein – 7.35 pounds – 20.75 inches – Sept. 4, 1982
  • Dan Steigers – 8.3 pounds – 22.0 inches – Oct. 14, 1995
  • Dan Steigers – 9.72 pounds – 23.75 inches – Oct. 28, 2006 (still current)

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

Fisheries biologist Eli Felts, who works on Dworshak, started noticing the abundant small kokanee in the past two years.

In his March 28 update article, Felts predicted a record bass was likely coming soon.

“The bass growth tends to lag a year, so I expect to really start seeing the effect of the recent increase in kokanee abundance this year,” he said in a statement.

An example is growth data collected from two Dworshak smallmouth bass, growing up in different years.

The bass were the same age when collected – 7 years old – but were dramatically different in size.

The first bass grew up during the lean years in 2014 when kokanee numbers had been low.

The second bass was collected later in 2016 – only one year after near record kokanee numbers – and was almost 4 inches longer at the same age.

After bass reach 10-12 inches, they are big enough to eat abundant kokanee and can achieve tremendous growth.

This is a good example of how reservoir conditions can influence the average size of fish by driving food resources, according to IDFG.

Felts said he thinks conditions in Dworshak could be ripe for another record soon.

“Last fall, I received multiple reports of smallmouth over 8 pounds being caught, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the current state record be challenged over the next couple of years,” Felts said in the statement.

Eli Francovich can be reached at (509) 459-5508 or at elif@spokesman.com.

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