Watts earns new Lake Okhissa record
BUDE — Earl Watts has been fishing Lake Okhissa regularly for years, but this past March, his fishing day on the lake was anything but ordinary.
By the time it was over, Watts had set a Lake Okhissa record by catching an 11-pound, 9-ounces largemouth bass, big enough to earn his a replica from the lake’s catch weight photo release program.
Watts recalled pulling up to Lake Okhissa in Franklin County March 8 — “That’s a good time of the year to catch them on the bed,” he said — and pulled out a Zoom worm after entering one of the lake’s coves.
“I don’t generally use a worm,” Watts said. “It was just something I tried that morning.”
After casting the line into approximately 12 feet of water, Watts was able to reel the largemouth bass in, and he immediately weighed it with his scale. After the scale showed it to be 11.5 pounds, Watts said he called his dad to let him know about the catch.
“When I talked to him on the phone, he told me the lake record was 11.2 (pounds),” Watts said.
But Watts said he remained skeptical — until the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks measured it at officially 11.9 pounds.
“I didn’t believe it at first,” Watts said. “I knew it was a double-digit bass, but once the Wildlife and Fisheries department told me it was a record, it was a pretty nice feeling.”
After the measurements of the fish were recorded, Watts released it at the north landing of Lake Okhissa. The measurements were given to Brookhaven resident Allen Margen, who created a replica of the fish for Watts to display. Watts’ also said Lake Okhissa has his name displayed along with the weight of the record catch.
“When you drive into the entrance of Lake Okhissa park, my name is up on a brass tag with the weight and day it was caught,” he said.
The largemouth bass was also the first one Watts caught at Okhissa Lake, but Watts said the most important thing to him was that someone else would possibly have the chance to catch the same fish in the future.
“It’s more important to me that they have a catch-and-release program where you can still get a memorabilia made,” Watts said.
“Catch-and-release is a good thing, because you stand a chance to catch a record bass, turn it loose, then catch it again. He could end up being even bigger.”
A Denham Springs, La., resident, Watts said Lake Okhissa is approximately 80 miles from his house. He said he always enjoys taking a trip to Franklin County and fishing the lake.
“Really, it’s the closest man-made lake to my house that has deep-water and big fish in it,” he said. “You always stand a chance to catch a double-digit bass when you go there.”
Watts said he’s been fishing at least 35 years, and the sport runs in the family for him.
“My daddy was always an avid fisherman,” Watts said. “He fished tournaments and stuff, and I just took after him.”