Documenting Your Record Catch

One of the most sought after angling achievements is the taking of a world record largemouth bass. The current record has stood for 75 years.

On June 2, 1932 George Perry caught a 22-pound, 4-ounce largemouth that has been the benchmark of many serious anglers. A couple of events have recently taken place in the state of California that have gotten a lot of bass fishermen to think about how to correctly document a potential record fish. One was the taking of what is surely to be recognized as a world record spotted bass on Pine Flat Reservoir. The angler was pre-fishing for a tournament when he hooked up this huge spotted bass. The catch was weighed, documented and has been submitted for a world record. The second event was a largemouth bass caught at Spring Lake, near Santa Rosa, California, that was possibly close to a World Record.

On March 1, 1997 a huge fish was caught that some believe may have surpassed Perry's record. This fish was weighed, photographs and released. Unfortunately there is a lot of skepticism because of the method used to weigh the fish (a bathroom scale). While these two catches vary in how they were handled afterward, they have many anglers wondering, "What should I do to document a record fish?"

There are two record keeping organizations that we will look at in this article. The California Department of Fish and Game and the International Game Fish Association (IGFA). First I want to say that just because a fish is caught in the state of California and becomes a World Record it doesn't mean that it will become as state record. By this I mean, if you don't apply for the record it doesn't happen automatically. You must complete and submit an application for either of these records. These organizations that keep them won't come looking for you.

The California state records are kept by the California Department of Fish and Game. The Department keeps records on the largest fish caught for each species. These records are used as a informational source only. They don't get involved in line class records or monetary awards from manufacturers and magazines or anything else. They also don't track records for individual bodies of water. Lake records are loosely kept by local concessionaires, marinas and tackle shops.

An application for a state record can be obtained from the Department of Fish and Game. It is form FG 737, California Inland Water Angling Record Verification. To apply for the state record you will need to have the fish examined by a permanent employee of the Department of Fish & Game and have the application completed by that person. When that person signs your form they are conditionally certifying the authenticity of the record. It should be noted also that the fish must be legally taken under the provisions of a current California sportfishing license.

Required information on the application is date of the catch, name of angler, address and phone number of angler, and the body of water the fish was taken from. In addition, the application also asks for a photograph or news paper clipping if available. While photos are not necessarily required they are strongly recommended. The weight of the fish in pounds and ounces, as measured on a certified scale, along with witnesses names and addresses must be entered. Next is the common name of the fish. Measurements of the catch are listed in the next section. Length and girth in feet and inches as well as other measurements that a biologist might use to identify species are to be noted.

Once the conditional certification is received, the application must be reviewed and approved by the California Department of Fish and Game Inland Fisheries Division. If there is a dispute regarding the authenticity of an application for any reason, the determination of the Inland Fisheries Division will be conclusive. The fish does not have to be killed to be authenticated. However, the applicant should be informed that in the event of a dispute regarding size, species or other information related to the legitimacy of the record, the fish may be required for ultimate resolution of the dispute. It is the responsibility of the angler to retain the fish in a condition for possible further examination until the new record has been officially acknowledged.

The International Game Fishing Association has more stringent rules for their record keeping. They also have numerous different categories for each species, such as line class records and all-tackle records. The rules are quite lengthy and I would suggest that anyone seriously interested in a world record should send for a rule book. The IGFA Rule Book can be obtained by sending $1.00 to IGFA, 1301 East Atlantic Blvd., Pompano Beach, Florida 33060 USA.

The IGFA has rules that cover line used, line backing, leaders, rods, reels, hooks for bait, and lures and hooks. There is also a section that covers angling regulations and acts or situations that will disqualify a record. Fly fishing is covered in detail under it's own specific section. Some of the regulations for submittal of a record catch include details for species identification, witnesses, minimum weight requirements for vacant records, time limit on claims, weighing requirements, and certification of the scale. They also offer instructions on preparation of the claim. Instructions are given for completing the official application, sending line or tippet samples and supplying photographs.

In addition to the world and line class records kept by the IGFA they also have several clubs that you can become a member of. The Thousand Pound Club for anglers who have fought and subdued fish weighing 1000 pounds or more. There is also a club for anglers that have catches that far exceed the breaking strength of a line or tippet. The weight of the catch must exceed the breaking strength by five, ten, fifteen or twenty times what it is rated. A Ten Pound Bass Club acknowledges anglers for freshwater bass catches of ten pounds or more. Eligible species include largemouth, smallmouth, spotted and peacock bass.

The bottom line, if you believe you have a record catch you should get it weighed, as soon as possible, on a certified scale. Have your catch witnessed when it is weighed, preferably by a Fish and Game employee and get them to attest to this in writing. Take lots of pictures of the fish, including some laying down on it's side next to a ruler or scale. Get the proper forms for the record you are seeking, carefully follow all of the instructions and send the application in quickly.