A New World Record will need a Tangible Catch

In deference to recent giant bass taken the last couple of seasons. Good stuff. Clean catches, decent guys.

But boy, the bass fishing world is sure desperate for a record-breaking performance! If ever so much ado was given for non-records, this is the sport. My whole life I was reminded, “Nobody remembers second place.” But we sure do.

Furthermore, the prospects of big bass (aren’t we just talking about one?) seem to so whip the imagination of some folks, even simple reasoning power gets scrambled. I read Internet chatter about Paul Duclos and his “24 pounder.” I see speculation about the postal scales in 1932 with George Perry’s catch. Did you know they’ve had accurate scales around since before the Gold Rush? Why not use one?

Over the years we’ve had every kind of story emerge from the Lake Miramar fish that supposedly swallowed 2 1/2-pound diver’s belt weight, to a Lake Castaic lunker left to dry out in the bottom of a boat before being certified.

Did it ever cross anyone’s mind that the problem with a new world record bass is not whether such a fish exists or even that an individual could be tempted to cheat for an $8 million dollar payoff? No, the problem is whether any bass fisherman is actually smart enough take the steps to get the fish, which he or she caught, to the scales (with witnesses) in a timely fashion.

And when I say timely fashion, I mean unfrozen and still wet. But I don’t mean necessarily alive and in a condition to swim another day. It’s a fish, it’s not family member. If you want to be a closet PETA member, get off the flipping lake.

Duclos has been the latest poster boy for “Have your cake and eat it too.” While it was very “sporting” of him to release his fish, it is also absurd that he or anyone else should then think Duclos’ unsubstantiated weight should be accepted—and his fame and fortune enhanced--all because his guilty feelings.

Thankfully, his story is just a footnote among the many muffed record attempts. If catching the world record bass were Mt. Everest, this guy would already be dead—another casualty near the summit.

Likewise, for all the other unrecognized “record” bass shrouded in dubious angler behavior, remember--there are standards that need to be kept. Joe Jackson is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame, neither Pete Rose. Likewise, that juiced up Canadian sprinter who beat Carl Lewis does not hold the 100-meter world record.

In bass fishing, the mark is 22-4. Until further notice.

The above appeared in June in Western Outdoor News, but a couple of other thoughts come into play on the world record theme. Poway’s Mike Long told me straight up, “We’ll have a 23 next year,” at least until I pressed him on the issue.

His point was there is certainly as many as half a dozen fish in little Lake Dixon that are in the 20-pound class. Many have looked them right in the eye. Also, having seen the “before and after” photo series of the latest 21-and-change—the one with the “birth mark”—it’s pretty obvious this fish had grown about 12 ounces in nearly two years. (They don’t all look alike, even to trout fishermen.)

On the other hand, projecting that continued growth—and an angler making connection—is not such a sure thing. Barry Bonds may have had 30 homeruns at the break, but that doesn’t mean he’s a sure 60 come September. He could take a Big Unit fastball in the ear, or worse, get an undercooked cheeseburger while in Chicago.

Bass in the 20-pound class are senior citizens to begin with. They may have already reached their prime and are losing weight. Likewise, the $8 million dollar bounty from the BBWRC may increase the fishing pressure and turn the bass off during park hours. Or heck, the groundskeeper might lose control of his mower and dump a couple of gallons of gas on the spawning beds.

Of course, if the new record does get caught, the guy would do well to have the Pope and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir picnicking on the shore nearby. He’s going to need some witnesses no matter what.