Despite Mother Nature’s hot and cold mood swings over the last few months, lots of lunker bass have been caught around the state this winter, including a Poverty Point record 14-pounder this January.

With March’s full moon just around the corner, some folks are wondering if this will finally be the year when a new state record is set.

For that to happen, it’s going to take almost a 16-pound hawg to unseat Louisiana’s current No. 1 largemouth bass, a whopping 15.97-pounder caught in 1994 by Greg Wiggins on Caney Lake.

Heck, to even crack into the rarefied air of the Top 10, a bass would have to weigh more than 15.15 pounds. That hasn’t been done since May, 2010, when Regina Womack caught a 15.87-pounder on Valentine Lake and landed the state’s current No. 2 fish.

If you or someone you know catches a potential Top 10 bass, or any record fish - freshwater or saltwater - it’s important to be familiar with the rules you have to follow to get it certified by the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association, which maintains official records for the state.

“The problem with so much of this stuff is a lot of people make the call for records after the fact,” said Chris Holmes, executive director of LOWA. “A lot of times they’ve already not done what they needed to do. 

“That’s one of the worst things: finding out that you’ve screwed up and you could have had it, but for not following the rules.”

First things first - the fish has to be weighed on certified scales and witnessed by at least two other people.

“It’s got to be a certified weight - the scale has to be certified by the Department of Agriculture with the state,” he said. “It can be your local meat market - anybody that’s using a state-certified scale. You can’t do it with a handheld $15 Berkley scale.”

Many people don’t know the fish also must be inspected in person by a biologist with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, or a biologist with a college or university.

“They’re pretty much looking at it for the species more than anything,” Holmes said. “The record determination comes from the weight. They’re making the determination the fish is of the correct species so it goes in the proper category.”

The biologist, who must also sign the application, cannot officially determine the species from a photograph, he said.

“As obvious as some of them are, that’s part of the rules,” he said. “While you could probably determine many species to some degree of certainty with a picture, how do  you draw the line?”

In the case of a big bass the angler might want to return to the water alive, finding a biologist could create problems.

“Obviously, it’s a more difficult proposition getting a biologist for the live ones, but I know at least at Toledo Bend and some places they have the tanks and will put them in and try to hold them so they can eventually be released,” Holmes said. “But it is more of a challenge to find a biologist that’s available and willing to do that.”

The application, which also must include a photograph showing the side of the fish from nose to tail, must be submitted within 60 days of the catch. Additionally, only one angler may handle the rod, reel or line while the fish is being landed, and any fish mutilated by shooting, foul hooking and snagging is not eligible.

“I would certainly encourage anybody who’s even thinking of fishing for trophy fish to read up to see what goes into the process of getting it certified and entered,” Holmes said. “We try to keep the records as clean as possible. That’s why it’s such a strict procedure - it has to be.”

View a LOWA application and complete rules here.