Sturtz Catches State Record White Bass

By Steve Weisman – Outdoor Editor

State fish records are becoming a common occurrence around the Iowa Great Lakes. First a state record perch from a local pond last winter and now local angler Justin Sturtz caught the new state record white bass at 3:30 a.m., on Monday, June 3. Its verified weight was 5.11 pounds and 21.7 inches in length.

Sturtz was fishing under the HWY 71 bridge between East and West Okoboji on the Okoboji Store side! He was fishing a lighted bobber and a shiner for bait. This area is a favorite spot for Sturtz to fish at night. “I was supposed to be home by 3 a.m., but time got away from me. I have a three-pole license, so I was reeling in my other lines when I got the bite. The fish hit so hard that I about lost the pole in the water.”

The fight was on, and it took about 15 minutes before Sturtz could get the fish close enough to see what it was. “At first, I thought it was a big drum, but then I saw it was a huge white bass.” Sturtz, who has spent a lot of time at the Iowa Great Lakes over the years, recently moved to the Lakes area from Ankeny. “I’ve fished hybrid wipers in the Des Moines area, but I was sure it was a white bass.”

So, what do you do with a potential state record at 3:40 in the morning? After all, there are no bait shops open at that time. Luckily, Sturtz has an aerated stock tank in the back of his pickup. “I always have fresh water in it and use it for keeping bait healthy and for fish I catch.” So, Sturtz put the new state record white bass in the stock tank and headed home to show his wife.

While they waited for Kabele’s Trading Post to open, Sturtz did some researching of the Iowa state record white bass, and he was pretty sure he had a shot. “I also wanted to confirm it was a white bass and not a hybrid wiper.”

When Kabele’s opened, Sturtz took the white bass (healthy and full of fight) in to have it weighed. DNR fisheries biologist Mike Hawkins certified that it was a white bass and verified its weight and length. It certainly destroyed the old record of 4.3 pounds taken in 2011 out of Big Spirit.

Hawkins said, “It’s really pretty interesting because there was a huge white bass die off several years ago. White bass numbers have been very slow to recover from that. Because numbers are very low, any survivors of that die off will obviously have very high growth rates.”

The fish will be mounted by Matuska Taxidermy and then put on display at Kabele’s Trading Post. “It was big and shocking,” said Tanya Johnson, who with her husband, Thane own Kabele’s. “Congratulations to Justin for his big catch. It was pretty exciting. It has been seven years since we have seen any white bass come from our chain of lakes. The previous record came out of Big Spirit, so it was shocking to see a white bass that size come out of East Okoboji.”

Photo submitted: Justin Sturtz with his state record white bass.