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Rick Leonard’s record spotted bass

March 15, 1992

Illinois hunting and fishing

Big Fish Info

Species: Spotted bass

Size: 7 pounds, 3.125 ounces; 22 3/4 inches long

Date: March 15, 1992

County: Fulton

Had he not recently been fishing at Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks, Rick Leonard might not have been certain the fish he had was unique.

Big, yes. But many would have assumed the 7-pound, 3.125-ounce fish was a hefty largemouth. Instead, Leonard’s fish was later confirmed as a northern spotted bass. And not just any spotted bass. The 22 3/4-inch bass remains an Illinois state record.

Many have seen the picture of Leonard’s fish in years since and remarked that it looks a great deal like a largemouth. But at the time it was caught, veteran Peoria Journal Star outdoor scribe Jack Ehresman felt so strongly about the fish he wrote, “If the fish Rick Leonard of Cuba caught Sunday in a Fulton County strip pit isn’t a state record Kentucky or spotted bass, I’ll eat it.”

That was later confirmed by fish biologist Wayne Herndon.

“It has teeth on the tongue, and the lower jaw only comes to the middle of the eye. The only reason we recognized it (as a spotted bass) is because we caught a lot of them last week on Lake of the
Ozarks,” said David Howard of Farmington, Leonard’s fishing buddy who was on the bank when the fish was landed.

Leonard had two witnesses—Michael Plotts and Greg Johnson—sign the tape of the official weight taken at the store.

Although spotted bass are more abundant in southern Illinois, the 6-pound, 12-ounce previous state record also was caught in strip-pit waters of Fulton County, perhaps even the same lake
Leonard was fishing. Jim Kyle of Peoria (pictured below with a fish that is not his former state record) landed it in 1982.

Illinois hunting and fishing

“We caught 16 to 20 other `spots’ Sunday and only one largemouth,” Howard said at the time.

The bass jumped on a jig and No. 1 Uncle Josh black and blue pork chunk trailer.

“We were fishin’ from shore, and it was right near the bank,” said Leonard, who was using Triple Fish 12-pound camo line.

Leonard, who previously had caught largemouth bass of 9-13 (Lake Fork in Texas) and 9-8 (Fulton County), said it didn’t take long to land the potential record fish—only a minute or two.

This fish wasn’t Leonard’s first experience as a record-holder. He also has caught a 4-pound, 4-ounce white crappie, presently listed as the world record for unlimited line in the
National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame book of angling records.

After being caught, Leonard’s fish spent some time swimming in an aquarium at the South Side Worm Ranch in Peoria before it died.

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