Matt Williams, For The Daily Sentinel Sunday, April 02, 2006
California's Mac Weakley has elected not to pursue having the biggest largemouth bass ever caught certified as a new International Game Fish Association world record.
The fish in question weighed 25.1 pounds, nearly three pounds heavier than the 74-year old world record caught from Montgomery Lake in Georgia by George Washington Perry.
The huge bass was reeled in from 72-acre Dixon Lake in San Diego County on the morning of March 20 after Weakley accidentally foul hooked it with a jig.
Weakley released the fish after photographing it and weighing it on a digital scale not certified by the IGFA.
For those reasons, and the swarm of controversy surrounding them, the Carlsbad, Calif. angler has trashed the idea of attempting to have the bass certified as a new world record.
Probably pretty good thinking. Here's why:
The next IGFA world record largemouth will be a potential golden nugget with fins. The angler who catches the mighty fish stands to make a mint in endorsements, possibly millions if he or she plays their cards right.
To fully capitalize on the goods, however, the angler needs to be sure the catch is squeaky clean.
The fish needs to be caught in the mouth. Not in the head, tail or side.. The weight must be certified. Ideally, the bass should be kept alive and retained, at least long enough for the right people to authenticate the feat.
There is no reason to believe Weakley's bass didn't weigh 25 pounds, possibly more.
Photos drifting around the Internet depict a truly spectacular fish. It has eyeballs the size of 50 cent pieces and a belly that looks as if there is a bowling ball trapped inside.
The angler holding the fish (Weakley's friend, Mike Winn) copped a serious scowl as he strained to raise the heavy fish with one arm.
I have never seen a 25-pound bass. But I have been within arms reach of an 18 pounder, several in the 14-16 pound range.
Weakley's bass is larger. Much larger.
How much bigger? We will never know that for certain.
Weakley and the two friends (Jed Dickerson and Winn) with which he was fishing that fateful day released the fish back into Dixon Lake before anyone could retrieve a certified scale.
The angler said he chose to release the fish because he didn't want to kill it, and because he didn't think IGFA would certify it as a world record due to the fact it had been foul hooked. He later learned that the automatic IGFA disqualification applies only to fish that are intentionally foul hooked.
Weakley and everyone involved with the catch claims the bass was not foul hooked on purpose. The big bass was reportedly huddled around a spawning bed in about 12 feet of water. A smaller male bass was nearby.
The anglers took turns casting to the bigger fish. Weakley happened to be the one holding the rod when the bite came. He felt a thump and jerked. Unfortunately, the hook buried in the bass' back, just beneath the dorsal fin.
News of such a big fish coming from California didn't come as much of a surprise.
Largemouth bass have a long history of growing fat and sassy out there. The Golden State has produced nine of the 10 heaviest bass ever recorded, including several over 20 pounds.
Nor did it come as shock to learn the angler was unable to close the deal.
Potential world records have been reported from California before. But it always seems like there is some sort of strange hitch in those Western fish stories.
Someone will surely get it right someday. Maybe. Until then, the late George Perry can rest easy. My guess is his record is safe for at least another year.