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 largemouth 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.
What's even more incredible is that Perry's world record has stood the test of time despite how many other records have faced scrutiny throughout history. It'swild to think the angling world may never have known about the catch had Perry not submitted it to a fish contest in Field & Stream magazine. In fact, Perry had been more concerned about losing his lure—a Creek Chub fintail shiner—than he was about landing the fish, as such a lure was a valuable commodity during the Great Depression. Additionally, the tiny Georgia oxbow from which he caught the 22-pound bass probably doesn't register as a world-class fishery for many anglers today.
However, the record has faced some fairly close calls, as a number of bass have stirred up controversy and speculation, but alas, Perry's Record still stands. Here are four bass that could have broken the record, but fell short due to bad luck, blurry details, poor choices, or unique technicalities.
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 ability to produce trophy fish.
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 would then take a taxing six months for the International Game Fish Association to rule the catch as legitimate, and affter passing a polygraph test, the Japanese angler earned his certification. But even though Kurita's fish is actually heavier than Perry's record, IGFA rules state a fish has to be 2 ounces heavier to break the record.
So, Kurita's fish currently sits in a tie atop the leaderboard for biggest largemouth bass ever. And, while a tie is nice, it's not enough to satisfy the wait for some lucky angler to snap a 90-year record. To claim bass fishing's most elite status, an angler can't just join the ranks, but rather snatch the throne for keeps.
Because of the technicality, many anglers now consider Kurita's fish the current world record, but a divide in public opinion doesn't amount to much. Additionally, the Japanese government considers bass to be an invasive species, so Kurita was forced to keep this fish, which means we'll never know how large it could've actually grown.
2. Leaha Trew
The story of this alleged bass record 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, which was certified by the IGFA, but 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.
Next, 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 any 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. Much like Mitch Rompola and his alleged world-record deer, Trew strangely quit talking to the media and the story faded from there. Ultimately, the IGFA decided there just wasn't enough evidence to declare the bass a new world record and rejected Trew's application.
3. Paul Duclos
Astonishingly, 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. He ultimately used a bathroom scale to come up with a weight of 24 pounds before releasing his catch. Not only did Duclos rock the fishing world, but he sparked a debate that still buzzes among anglers to this day.
Obviously, the IGFA wasn't about to accept a record catch weighed on a bathroom scale, especially one as coveted as the largemouth bass world record. The decision to release the fish instead of keeping it until better scales could be found opened Duclos and his wife up to a wave of criticism that lasted for months, as many bass anglers questioned why someone who knew the fish could be a world record would ever release it. However, 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 forever wonder if Duclos should really be the rightful holder of the world record.
4. Mac Weakley, Jed Dickerson, and "Dottie"
No fish has come closer to setting 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 was in April of 2006, only this time it was Weakley who was lucky enough to hook and land the 25.1-pound fish. Dottie should've absolutely obliterated the previous record, but Weakley had foul-hooked the potential record, and thus, the anglers believed the fish wouldn't qualify for the record books.
They later found out the big fish could still be eligible, as even though IGFA rules against intentionally foul-hooking, Weakley's foul hook happened by accident. But, 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 at a weight of 19 pounds. The legendary fish will forever stand as the bass that came oh so close, but yet so far, from seizing 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!
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