By Capt. Steve Chaconas
Sports records like those held by baseball greats Hank Aaron and Joe DiMaggio, football kicker Tom Dempsey, and golf legend Jack Nicklaus were held in high esteem by fans. As important as the record itself is the character of the record holder. One of the most relished fishing records belongs to George Perry and his 22-pound 4-ounce bass caught in the backwoods of Georgia on June 2, 1932.
How was it weighted? Did natural resources officials examine that fish? Did the witnesses undergo polygraph evaluations? Was it caught in a “legal” method?
Only one thing seems to be undisputed, it was filleted and fried! Perry’s fish is now entering its 87th year atop the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) record book.
Californian Mac Weakley, a casino gaming worker, admittedly and literally “snagged” the biggest bass ever, 25 pounds 1 ounce in 2006, on Lake Dixon, a 70-acre drinking-water reservoir. Weakley stalked this egg-laden female during her most vulnerable time, the shallow water spring spawning ritual. Catching the “record” and owning the record apparently aren’t the same. By not following IFGA procedures, the “big bass bounty hunter” went home without a big fish and without the record.
Weakley didn’t violate the law when he accidentally foul-hooked the bass. Before he released this fish, he weighted and photographed his fish that has become, on evidence, the biggest bass ever captured!
A bit more recently in 2009, Manabu Kurita tied Mr. Perry’s world record in Lake Biwa, confirmed as legitimate through a polygraph test. But the tie goes to Perry as the reigning record holder with the establishment of a high water mark for bass fishing set in 1932.
Another fine mess we have gotten ourselves into! The largemouth record has been genetically engineered to be broken. Fishing has changed, but, more importantly, fish have too! Introductions of new strains of bass, new food sources, and restrictions creating trophy bass impoundments have elevated the playing field.
Big bass are big due to heredity and environment. Certainly the world record won’t come from Jersey! “Please feed the bass” signs will crop up along shorelines until a record of 50 pounds is set.
A juiced-up ball, a faster track or better shoes may make the game more exciting. Ball sports fans are wrestling with the reliability and the relativity of long-time records falling to flash-in-the-pan record chasers. “Put me in coach, to break the record”, has become the cheer of today’s sports stars. Likewise, the quest for the record largemouth has lured bottom feeders looking for instant fame and instant diminution of the essence of the “sport” in the sport of bass fishing.
This “record” should reward the value in the sport; however, Weakley’s once-in-a-lifetime bass will be center tent at the bass fishing circus. Surely more questions will be raised as to what the pit crew did to alter an engine, or how many steroids were taken, or whether an alumnus paid for a Hummer. Bass fishing has finally become a “reality” sport!
The fishing world has fostered the “dead or alive” pursuit of this record for over a half century! “Show me the lunker” has landed, and with it bass fishing now joins the sports community, a little less sporting. Fishing media hype has raised the bar for fishermen of all ages. Somehow a kid’s 3 pounder just doesn’t bring as much joy. Now I know how my wife feels when she sees skinny supermodels!