Seventeen-year-old Tyler Shields of Murphy, N.C., thought he was fishing for largemouth bass when he visited Hiwassee Lake on March 31. What he boated instead was a 66-pound striped bass that shattered the state's freshwater record-and topped by 2 pounds the North Carolina saltwater striper record as well.
Shields and several buddies were fishing in three boats at Hiwassee, a 22-mile-long reservoir surrounded by the Nantahala and Cherokee National Forests in North Carolina's southwestern corner. The boys (from left to right: Lucas Hayes, Caleb Davis, Logan Howard, Lucas Kilpatrick, Shields, Logan Davis and Bobby Pisciotta) are avid outdoorsmen who enjoy turkey and deer hunting in addition to fishing.
Shields hooked up an hour into the outing. "I thought I had a catfish, and I tried to fight it at first," he says. "But after we figured out how big it was we decided to use the trolling motor to fight it. It took about 45 minutes to tire it out enough to pull it to the boat."
Shields typically fishes for largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass (the biggest fish he'd caught before were a 5-lb. largemouth and a 20-lb. catfish) and the 66-lb. striper tested the limits of his equipment: A Pfleuger Trion spinning reel, a medium heavy Bass Pro Shops Bionic Blade rod, 10-lb. Bass Pro Shops Excel line, and a Gamakatsu 4/0 Skip Gap hook rigged with a black Zoom Trick Worm.