Joe Capilupo catches Illinois-record smallmouth bass, smashes Samp’s 1985 record

Joe Capilupo’s 7-3 smallmouth bass smashed Mark Samp’s 6-7 record from 1985.

SHARE Joe Capilupo catches Illinois-record smallmouth bass, smashes Samp’s 1985 record

Joe Capilupo with his Illinois-record smallmouth bass of 7 pounds, 3 ounces at the holding tank at Henry’s Sports and Bait.

Dale Bowman

Joe Capilupo looked at the smallmouth bass in the net Monday night at Monroe Harbor and thought, “I know it’s at least 5 pounds; looking again, I thought it was over 6 pounds.’’

Try 7 pounds, 3 ounces. His smallmouth smashed the longest-standing significant fish record in Illinois.

Mark Samp caught the previous Illinois-record smallmouth (6 pounds, 7 ounces) on March 26, 1985, from a Fulton County strip pit.


File photo of Mark Samp with his Illinois-record smallmouth bass (6-7) caught in 1985.

File photo

Capilupo, of LaGrange, and regular fishing partners Jonny Pitelka and Myles Cooke were night-fishing on the lakefront, where they target smallmouth bass three or four times a week. As Pitelka put it, “the coldest of cold to the hottest of hot.’’ A police officer reminded them that they had 20 minutes until the 11 p.m. park closure. They spread out from the Shedd Aquarium to south of Buckingham Fountain.

At 10:50 p.m., Capilupo had a hit and brought the fish in after a brief, hard fight.

“It even jumped out of the water,’’ Cooke said. “I heard a splash and was going to help net it, but he did it himself.’’

It came on a Z-man Ned rig (California craw). “It is the go-to, swear-by, never-fails bait,’’ Pitelka said.

Capilupo was using a St. Croix Mojo Bass Casting rod with a Daiwa Legalis reel with 14-pound Sufix monofilament.

Earlier in the day, they were kayak-fishing at Busse Woods.

“I lost my rod in the water, and Jonny jigged it up,’’ Capilupo said.

Once they weighed it on hand-held scales between 7-5 and 7-1, enough to smash Samp’s record, they had a quandary.

They went on the Illinois Fishing Addicts Facebook page and got lots of advice. Capilupo, a corrections officer for Cook County, contacted Eddie Louis, brother of a work friend. Louis and Cooke ran to Walgreens for large garbage bags. They filled the garbage bags with water to transport the fish.

Then Pitelka, who has an aquarium, led a late-night trip to Walmart for an aerator and brick.

In the morning, they drove to Henry’s Sports and Bait in Bridgeport, where it weighed 7-3 on their certified scale. Steve Palmisano, one of the proprietors, weighed it on the scale and in a tub of water. He and employee Ernest Blackman officially witnessed the weighing. It was 22¼ inches long with a girth of 16½.

Upon seeing the fish, biologist Vic Santucci, Lake Michigan program manager, said, “That’s a beauty. You don’t even have to hold that one out.’’

Plans are for the fish to recuperate overnight in a special tank at Henry’s, then be released back into Lake Michigan. Capilupo plans to have a replica made.

“It is just unbelievable,’’ he said. “Last night, after it happened, it was surreal.’’


Joe Capilupo caught the Illinois-record smallmouth bass Monday night at Monroe Harbor while fishing with Myles Cooke (left) and Jonny Pitelka (right).

Dale Bowman

Illinois hunting

Showery warm forecast for the opening Saturday of duck and Canada goose seasons in the north zone. Daily bag on Canada geese goes to three.

† Bowhunters harvested 10,167 deer through Monday, compared to 7,349 last year. Harvest during the three-day youth season, which ended Monday, was 3,775, up from 1,659 in 2018.

Wild things

Count on sandhill cranes at Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area, southeast of Valparaiso, Indiana, on Tuesday was 5,420.

Stray cast

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame without Warren Zevon is as legitimate as a fishing museum that has Louis Spray’s muskie as its centerpiece.

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