These big bass came oh so close to breaking the most elusive fishing record out there.
When it comes to freshwater fishing, there is no world record more elusive than the all-tackle record for largemouth bass. There is no way George Perry could have known back in 1932 that the 22-pound, 4-ounce bass he pulled out of a remote Georgia oxbow named Montgomery Lake would STILL be sitting atop the record books well into the 21st Century.
But it hasn't been without its close calls. Here are four bass that could have broken the record, but due to dumb luck, sketchy details, bad decisions, or technicalities, did not.
1. Manabu Kurita
Japan quietly became a big bass factory, but until Manabu Kurita landed a 22-pound, 5-ounce bass in 2009, most anglers had no idea of the country's lunker potential.
Manabu Kurita caught this huge fish on July 2, 2009 on Lake Biwa while using a live bluegill as bait and it immediately rocked the bass fishing world. It took six months for the International Game Fish Association to rule the catch as legitimate. After passing a polygraph test, the Japanese angler's catch was certified. But even though Kurita's fish is actually heavier than Perry's record, IGFA rules state a fish has to be two ounces heavier to break the record.
So Kurita's fish currently sits in a tie atop the leaderboard for biggest largemouth bass ever. A tie is nice, but let's be honest, everyone is waiting for this now 86-year-old record to fall and a new king to sit atop the throne alone.
Because of the technicality, many anglers now consider Kurita's fish the current world record. The Japanese government considers bass to be an invasive species and so Kurita was forced to keep this fish and we'll never know how large it could have actually grown.
2. Leaha Trew
The story of this alleged bass record came and fizzled out almost as quickly as it arrived. In August of 2003, a woman named Leaha Trew claimed to have caught a 22-pound, 8-ounce bass in Spring Lake, California.
But the story immediately seemed fishy (pun intended). The fish was weighed on a Boga Grip scale. While the type of scale was certified by the IGFA, there were other problems with the story. Namely, there were only three witnesses. Trew's son and a man said to be having a picnic on shore at the lake.
There was only one photo. Trew claimed they unknowingly only had one photo left on the roll of film and they didn't want to chance the fish dying while they went to go get more. They also didn't have documentation of the fish's reported length of 29 inches and 25-inch girth. Many bass fishermen became even more suspicious when Trew's son claimed to catch an 18-pounder a week later.
Strangely, much like Mitch Rompola and his alleged world record deer, Trew quit talking to the media and the story faded from there.
Ultimately, the IGFA decided there just wasn't enough evidence for a world record bass, and rejected Trew's record application.
3. Paul Duclos
Spring Lake's bass fishing controversy isn't limited to just the Trew fish. Years earlier, on March 1, 1997, Paul Duclos stepped into bass fishing infamy forever when he caught a monster of a bass on the same lake using a Castaic swimbait.
There was just one problem. He couldn't locate a certified scale despite his best efforts. In the end he ended up using a bathroom scale to come up with a weight of 24 pounds. Duclos then released his catch. The news rocked the fishing world, and became the subject of much debate that continues to this day.
Obviously, the IGFA wasn't about to accept a record catch weighed on a bathroom scale, especially a record as notable as the world record bass. The decision to release the fish instead of keeping it until better scales could be found opened Duclos and his wife up to much criticism in the months following.
Many bass anglers questioned why someone who knew the fish could be a world record would release it. But Duclos stuck to his guns and told Outdoor Life magazine, which ran Duclos' photo on the front page, that he had no regrets about the decision.
The bass definitely looked the part in the photos, and anglers will no doubt be wondering for years if Duclos should really be the rightful world record largemouth bass holder.
4. Mac Weakley, Jed Dickerson, and "Dottie"
No fish has come closer to a new world record than the southern California largemouth bass known as "Dottie." Named for a distinctive black dot on her gill, this fish was caught twice from Dixon Lake, and both times it missed being the world record due to different circumstances.
Dickerson, Weakley, and their fishing partner Mike Winn then spent the next three years obsessing over this one fish and the inevitable holy grail of fishing titles.
The first time it was caught by Dickerson, it took California Game and Fish officials three hours to reach the anglers with a certified scale. By then it had lost weight and came in at 21.7 pounds, just short of world record status.
The next time the trio caught up with the fish, it was in April of 2006. This time it was Weakley who was the lucky angler to hook and land the 25.1 pound fish. Dottie should have absolutely obliterated the previous record. There was just one problem. Weakley had foul-hooked the potential record and thus, the anglers believed the fish wouldn't qualify for the record books.
Later on they found out the big fish could potentially still be entered because the IGFA rules against intentionally foul-hooking a fish, but Weakley's foul-hook happened by accident. For whatever reason, Weakley still decided not to pursue the record application.
In 2008, Dottie's story came to an abrupt end. After spawning one final time, the record fish was found floating dead in the lake. She was 19 pounds at the time of her death.
The big bass will still forever be the stuff of fishing legend, and stand as the bass that came oh so close, but yet so far, from fishing's most prestigious record.
After surviving all these close calls, it seems George W. Perry's bass record is safe in the record books for the time being!