Fred Stepp of Dana, N.C. caught the biggest spotted bass of his life last week at Lake Summit. Actually, it was the biggest spotted bass of anyone’s life, at least in North Carolina. The fish weighed over 10 pounds, and would have dwarfed the Tarheel State’s current spotted bass state record of 6.5 pounds, but some things are more important than state records, and such was the case in this instance.

After checking out all the identifying details, Stepp was sure it was a spot, and he also knew it would be a new state record, so he put the fish in his livewell and called the NCWRC to find out if someone could meet him to certify the fish’s species and weight. He was waiting for a return call, so he continued fishing, checking on the fish periodically. Before getting a call back, Stepp noticed the bass was beginning to struggle in the livewell, and he decided to let it go.

“It was a little bit of a tough decision, but what it came down to was that I’d rather have that fish’s genetics continue in the lake than set a new state record. It would have been nice if I could have had it certified, and released the fish, but I knew if I kept it much longer, it would die. The most important thing to me was releasing the fish alive, so that’s what I did,” he said.

Stepp was prefishing for an upcoming tournament when he caught the fish with his Daiwa Steez 103 SHA baitcasting reel paired to his Daiwa Steez Compile-X casting rod. He was using a 6.5-inch Yamamoto Senko lure on a ball-head jig with a 2/0 Owner hook, and fishing it along a rock pile on the way into a cove.

The fish measured out at 27.75 inches in length, and weighed 10.3 pounds.

Stepp lives on the lake, and has caught his share of big bass over the years, often as part of his television show, which features a variety of fishing and hunting episodes that are mostly filmed in western North Carolina.