Dominic Montalto holds a replica taxidermist mount of the giant bass of 16 pounds, 12 ounces that he caught and released on his way to first place in the 2016-17 TrophyCatch competition. Members of Montalto’s family joined him at the recent TrophyCatch Hall of Fame awards presentations at Bass Pro Shops in Orlando.(Photo: Photo courtesy FWC)

 

There was never any doubt that Dominic Montalto, 19, of Estero would win the fifth season of competition in the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) TrophyCatch program.

 

His unprecedented catch and release of a 16-pound, 12-ounce largemouth bass last April in a small private lake in his Lee County neighborhood is the heaviest of 6,868 bass of 8 pounds or larger entered in the five-year program that offers awards to anglers releasing their trophy catches.

Montalto commanded the spotlight at the recent annual Hall of Fame ceremony at Bass Pro Shops in Orlando for the 16 anglers who released giant bass of 13 pounds or heavier during the fifth season (2016-17) of the statewide program.

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Bill Sargent (Photo: FLORIDA TODAY FILE)

Tom Champeau, the director of the FWC’s Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management, praised Montalto, a college student, for releasing his bass along with the other anglers recognized for their Hall of Fame catches.

“We now have 47 Hall of Fame anglers in the TrophyCatch program,” Champeau said. “This event honors their skill in catching a bass of a lifetime and submitting their data to the FWC to assist in the management of our trophy bass fisheries.”

Each Hall of Famer received Bass Pro Shops gift cards, Spiderwire merchandise, a custom fiberglass replica mount of their catch by New Wave Taxidermy and a plaque from American Registry.

Montalto’s huge egg-laden female was

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