New Illinois State Record Smallmouth Bass Caught

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For roughly 35 1/2 years, Mark Samp’s Illinois smallmouth bass state record was comfortably intact.

Samp, who was not accustomed to fishing so early in the season, did so at the urging of his close friends. He remained skeptical, however, about his chances fishing frosty Illinois in late March, 1985.

Of course, Samp was wrong!

Even after landing his epic catch, however, Samp initially did not believe he had captured a record fish. It’s better to be pleasantly surprised than terribly disappointed, we suppose…

But the catch-of-a-lifetime, caught on a brown jig and pork trailer on a strip-mine lake outside of Farmington, would be one for the record books!

Estimates suggest that Samp’s then-record catch — a 6 lb 7 oz, 22.6 inch beauty — may have been a twenty years old fish. Few imagined, however, that this older fish would be tied to a fishing record that would stand for three and a half decades.

Mark Samp's Illinois State Record Smallmouth Bass
Mark Samp’s Illinois state record smallmouth bass was king for over 35 years! (photo via

A New Illinois Smallmouth State Record Emerges

Samp had quipped in an interview that he was always bugged by the catch, wondering if there was “one in there bigger than that.”

While the location was different and generations had passed, Illinois now officially has that bigger fish.

On Monday, October 14 (2019), Joe Capilupo etched his name in the record books. Fishing with friends Myles Cooke and Jonny Pitelka, the LaGrange resident was night-fishing on Lake Michigan in downtown Chicago. The trio often target those water in search of smallmouth bass up to four times per week.

But this catch was different…

Ten minutes before the park closure (at 10:50 p.m.), Capilupo felt the hit and the fight was on. Fishing a Z-Man Finesse TRD, a St. Croix Bass Mojo Casting Rod, and a Daiwa Legalis reel with 14 lb monofilament line, Capilupo pulled in the record fish.

At first, Capilupo assumed it weighed around five pounds. At second glance, maybe closer to six pounds.

In reality, however, the new Illinois state record smallmouth bass checked in at an impressive 7 lbs 3 oz. At a full 12 ounces heavier than Samp’s 1985 monster, how long will it before we see this record broken?

For curious anglers, Capilupo was able to release this fish back into the water after recording an official weight. If you’re in the Chicago area, now is a good time to try your luck!

Know of any other great state record catches we should know about? Let us know in the comments section below.

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