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Albert McReynolds - His Story
Setting the record straight

By Al McReynolds
The Fish

The night he caught the devil. The true story

78.8 Part 1
78.8 Part 2

Click here for more: The Brigantine Mount
More on a rebuttal to some bad press

Reprinted with permission from Al McReynolds

world record and albert Mcreynolds

First a little backround.
Al McReynolds is 63 years old. He will be 64 on October 12th 2009. AL and his wife Karen have 3 children. Albert Jr., Thomas and Katey. The family are all multiple striped bass fishing tournaments winners and Albert Jr. was an American fishermen sportsmen of the year. They have all been and still are tournament fishermen and Al is most proud of their accomplishments. They currently reside in Florida.
He is a kind and sensitive man with little more than an eighth grade education. Albert is kind to a fault and he often gives away momentos to total strangers whom he meets. His lack of education, inability to read and write and gentle demeanor enabled the exploitation of his record fish.
Abert McReynolds was Born and raised in Atlantic City New Jersey, 3 blocks from where he caught the fish of a lifetime. He had to quit school to support his family after his grandfather died from a ruptured brain aneurism. Alberts eyes well up as he speaks about it. " right there in front of me", he said. "I could read and write up to that point, but then I shut down. My grandfather was everything to me, I watched him bleed out right there.
I know the alphabet but I cant put letters together, so now I try to remember everything".
Before this time little Albert had worked with his grandfather who was a sea captain. "I did whatever I could do to help".
He manned the swabbie bucket, caught and cut bait, wrapped rods, relined reels, mended nets, rebaited traps, painted boats, help build docks and "anything I could that would keep me near the water" he said. "I worked my way on from helper to deck hand, first mate and eventually to captain. I have traveled the earth on fishing boats and still love the sea".
He shined shoes in an Atlantic city club owned by Skinny D'Amato who was partners with Frank Sinatra.
"It was located on the same street that the Atlantic City expressway runs into between Atlantic and Pacific Avenues called the 500 club and it had a walk of fame outside. I met Skinny one day when I walked by him with my shoe shine box. After we talked a little bit, Skinny asked me to come by later because he could use someone to shine shoes. I worked my way up from bar boy to bus boy and eventually after 2 A.M. worked the card games. I worked there from ages was 8 to about 15 or 16 years old" Al said.
"I got to know Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. I was not allowed to talk to them while I worked there. They took a liking to me and were very generous. I even got as much as $100 tips for fetching matches. I was the richest kid in school. When I took the job working for the Atlantic city lifeguard beach patrol, they tried to talk me out of it. But I was always drawn to the water".
He was still working for the beach patrol the day he caught the record. He took the next day off and was docked the days pay.
He has been fishing or working in and around the water since he was old enough to remember. Al was 36 years old when he caught the world record striped bass on September 21st 1982. Fishing in a Nor'Eastern in Atlantic City New Jersey from the Vermont Avenue Jetty the fish took almost 4 hours to land and weighed 78 pounds 8 oz. measured 53 inches in length and 34 1/2 inches in girth.
Albert was born to fish. His years of bad knots, weak hooks, improper drag sets, wrong tides, water temperatures, baits and lures prepared him for the record.
All the mistakes and preparation beforehand had made him uniquely qualified for this remarkable battle with the biggest striped bass recorded and documented to date. He now feels he was born to catch that particular fish. "Everything was right for it" he said.
But nothing could have prepared him for what followed.

Al  Mcreynolds in salem massachusetts in August 2004


Al feels strongly that he was cursed with this fish. The accusations of lying and cheating, hate mail and even death threats were just part of the reasons. Both family members and friends turned on him and demanded money from him. He was called a cheat and a liar. The years following the catch were so bad for him that he says without hesitation that had he to do it over again he would have cut the line.
"Would you believe a guy pulled a gun on me? Over a Fish. Over a #[email protected]# fish
It had to do with fish skin mounts and reproductions. A tackle manufacturer agreed to make him a mount of the fish as long as they could keep one for their own. They also offered to give him 2 free tackle boxes filled with lures. None of which he ever received. "I want people to know the truth, people to get their facts right" The bait and tackle shop weigh master also received $25,000 for having certified the fish as a world record. I will soon publish more in greater detail to explain why he never received the mount. He was told the fish was freezer burnt and thrown away. Al does not believe this happened, because there were at least two inquiries that he was aware of from the west coast and Minnesota to purchase the fish.
The rumor that was perpetuated in his hometown from these same individuals who swindled him out of the fish is that he sold the mount to pay off a bar tab.
(Read the Brigantine mount)
Al says that three corporate tackle manufactures used him and took advantage. The line, rod and reel manufacturers. After he posed for them with their tackle in pictures they no longer had any use for him. None kept their promises. Penn reels offered him a life time tackle and job on the advisory staff if he put their reel in the pictures. When He went to the manufacturer to collect on his promise he was told that the representative had no authorization to offer any of this. They stated that they were just a "Ma and Pa outfit". He was eventually kicked off the premises and told the cops would be called if he didnt leave.
The Palm Beach line company promised him a life time contract and when they reneged they stated they couldnt afford to give him any line. They do now though. The rod manufacturer offered $1500 and then told him some guy took off with the money. Only one tackle manufacturer eventually had to pay him $250,000 and only reluctantly after being exposed by an article written in the New York Times by Nelson Bryant 5 months after the fish was caught. Lloyds of London had denied the tackle companies claim and they in turn tried to deny AL. Nelson Bryant stuck by him and threatened to expose the company if they reneged on the 250,000 world record offer. The owner paid Al personally, fired everybody involved then sold the company.
These groups made millions. They gave him a shirt and a hat. He feels he was treated inferior because he was a fishermen. A tennis player or skateboarder received much more respect. He didnt know how to go about getting endorsements or sponsorships .

"I was so miserable. I have yet to sell a hat, beer or a even a frisbee"

The Ugly

Outright lies about the fish were being told in all fishing circles. Ridiculous theories from the jealous fishing community. Speculation was that it couldnt possibly be caught from the surf, that it must have gotten it from a passing trawler because Al had a relative who worked on a trawler.
Al says thats just ridiculous. " If it was caught aboard a trawler why wouldnt they have claimed the fish as a record for someone aboard ship." He still wants to know why Corky Cambell pulled a gun on him? (more about this later).

A picture of Al in Cambells bait shop.
*Al says He was once married only briefly at age 17 to a Benson & Hedges cigarette heiress. She was now suing him for part of the money.
A cousin was spreading outright lies around his hometown about him. Even assumed Als identity for a time telling everyone that he was a sea captain who had been to Alaska on a crabbing boat in the Aelution Islands, and that he had captained in Hawaii, Florida and Gloucester.
I had written previously that this cousin had managed to sour his once loving grandmother against him. But Al said that was not true. "My grandmother raised me and loved me till the day she died. It was my cousin she couldnt stand she thought he was whacko".
Al says his childhood friend Pat Erdman whom he had given $10,000 to, and was with him when he caught the fish, disrespected his wife with a crude sexual comment at an Atlantic City Club that began the dissolution of their long friendship.

The Good

A bright spot for Al was a letter written to him by Bob Rochetta the former world record holder congratulating Al on his record catch. He also warned him about the difficulties that would lie ahead. Al said "it got my attention"
The fish still had to get sanctioned by the IGFA. You only get one shot at it and there is no procedure for appeal. Al was broke and destitute living with his wife and children in a the Blue Marlin motel. Too proud to ask anyone for help. He had just sold a TV set to pay the rent bill. It was christmas eve 1982 when the president of the International Game and Fish association Edward K. Herry called him and said " You are the new world champ".
He cried.


He says these days he doesnt have the stamina and endurance that it takes to catch that fish, He no longer "runs like a mullet, I got to walk" The good for him turned into a living hell. Nothing prepared him for what came after. The experience deflated him and the hate mail broke his heart. When I think about it all sometimes. Was it worth it? I just dont know.
"I didnt catch the devil that night the devil caught me."


Thomas Mcreynolds Als son with a huge striped bass

Als son Thomas with a nice Trophy from the Chesapeake Bay

©Jim Hannan - stripers
Artricle may be reprinted with acknowledgement. Thank You.

Als most recent fishing report. Fishing near the Merrimack river in a place called Magnolia rocks with chunks herring. The take was 47 and 57 pounders with a 33 pounder the smallest for the trip.

* (A woman claiming to be his daughter from that marraige says that her grandparents owned a tobacco shop and in no way was she any kind of cigarette heir.)

That Trophy Striper

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