Long-held bass record is equaled
It has been said since some caveman downed the first trophy saber-tooth tiger that records are made to be broken.
Some records, however, achieve almost reverent status and the keepers of the records seemingly refuse to recognize when they are broken. Certainly the family of the late Roger Maris knows all about that.
In the world of fishing, no record is held more holy than that for largemouth bass. Over the decades since George Perry of Georgia set the record with a 22-pound, 4-ounce bass caught on Montgomery Lake, June 2, 1932, near Jacksonville, Ga., it has been challenged.
Each time, however, the challenger was turned away, and many though that would be the case last year when Manabu Kurita caught the monster bass of a lifetime July 2 on Lake Biwa, Japan's largest lake and ancient reservoir.
For six months the debate raged while the Florida-based International Game Fish Association weighed, measured and investigated the fish. Then, the decision was made, and this year's edition of the IGFA World Record Games Fishes lists Perry and Kurita as dual holders of the All-Tackle record for largemouth bass with their 22-4 trophies caught 77 years apart.
IGFA rules for fish caught outside the U.S. allows anglers 90 days to submit their applications from the date of their catch, and Kurita submitted his documentation through the IGFA's sister association the Japan Game Fish Association. IGFA conservation director Jason Schratwieser said Kurita's application was received Sept. 19 and meticulously documented with the necessary photos and video.
Kurita, 32, caught the bass using a Deps Sidewinder rod, a Shimano Antares DC7LV reel loaded with 25-pound test Toray and a live bluegill as bait. His first cast was next to a bridge piling where he had seen a big bass swimming.
Twitching the bait a few times, Kurita got a bite. After a short battle of approximately three minutes, he had the bass in his boat.
"I knew it was big, but I didn't know it was that big," Kurita said at the time.
Using certified scales, the fish weighed 22-4. When measured, it had a fork length of 27.2 inches and a girth of 26.7 inches.
When Perry caught his bass in 1932, it won the Field and Stream Magazine Big Fish Contest. When the IGFA took over freshwater records from Field and Stream 46 years later, it became the All-Tackle record and is one of more than 1,100 fresh and saltwater species the IGFA monitors.
"In North America the largemouth bass, and especially the All-Tackle record, is considered by millions of anglers as the "holy grail" of freshwater fish because of its popularity and the longevity of Perry's record," Schratwieser said from his Florida office. "That fish undoubtedly helped to spawn a billion dollar industry that today makes up a significant part of the sport of recreational fishing, and from the moment Kurita weighed his fish, word spread like wildfire.
"We knew this would be significant so we immediately contacted the JGFA for more information, which works out well because they not only translate applications, but can also contact the angler if more documentation is needed. Since the IGFA requires three months from the time of capture before a record can be approved, the official word had to wait until October 2, however, almost right away rumors began to circulate that Kurita may have caught his fish in a no-fishing zone.
"In response, the IGFA immediately corresponded with the JGFA to speak with the angler about this issue and to gather information regarding the legality of fishing where Kurita caught his bass. Official word came back that the location of the catch was not a no-fishing zone, but an area where anchoring or stopping was prohibited - which spurred more correspondence with the JGFA and the angler, including affidavits asking the angler if he stopped his boat at anytime, and the testimony and affidavits that came back indicated that the Kurita did not violate any laws and that his catch was indeed legitimate."
Schratwieser said a considerable amount of time and correspondence continued between the IGFA, JGFA and Kurita, who agreed to a polygraph analysis. This was the primary reason it took so long to come to a decision, but during this time, the IGFA was besieged with letters and e-mails from the bass fishing community.
"Many were incredulous that the All-Tackle record could be tied from a fish in Japan, and others beseeched the IGFA to approve the record and give Kurita the credit he deserved," Schratwieser said. "Others wanted to know why the entire process was taking so long., and it soon became clear to the IGFA staff that this would be a contentious issue no matter if the record were approved or rejected.
"We are sensitive to this particular record because in past years there have been several attempts to sue us over largemouth bass record claims. Although none of these claims have been successful, they have resulted in considerable legal fees for the IGFA.
"Six months may seem like a lot of time to determine if a fish ties a record, but hopefully, people now understand the amount of due diligence the IGFA conducted on this record. Although we treat all records with equal rigor, the All-Tackle largemouth bass record is nothing less than iconic and the bass angling community deserved nothing less."
And, because Kurita's fish merely ties Perry's, the record remains to be broken.