“We’re going to go ahead and recognize it as a record,” said WDFW angler education specialist Keith Underwood, who maintains state records, this morning.
“Right on!” said Austin Kenyon, 22, when he heard the news around noon today. “Phew, no complications. Yah!”
The 22-year-old angler caught the smallie while bank fishing on the lower Yakima River Sept. 2 with a plastic grub.
“It hit my line so hard I thought I had a carp on,” he told F&H News yesterday.
Fishing partner Laura Herin, who was there when Austin hooked it that Saturday afternoon, says he was very excited to catch the huge fish.
“It was definitely bigger than a football,” she says.
It tops a 40-year-old record, Ray Wonacott’s 1966 Hanford Reach smallie, by 9 ounces.
Underwood was filling out final paperwork and forwarding it to Director Jeff Koening for his signature this afternoon.
WANTS TO GO PRO: A rabid angler, Kenyon says his technique is to “jig, jig, jig” his lure and then let it sit.
“The longer you let it sit, the more likely it is to be bit,” he says.
Kenyon landed his big fish on a Shimano reel and ultralight rod, 8-pound Stren line and a Yamamoto pumpkin-green grub.
He also likes 7-inch YUM green-pumpkin lizards. He snaps their legs off and fishes the tail.
“I’m a very dedicated fisherman. I go out there every single day. I love fishing. I want to be sponsored ... I want to go out in pro tournaments,” the material handler for Apollo Sheet Metal says.
UNUSUAL WEIGHT FOR SIZE: Perhaps the bass downstream of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation have different densities than those elsewhere, or the formulas designed to figure out fish weight can’t account for local variations, but what’s puzzling WDFW and local bass anglers is that Kenyon’s fish is somehow heavier than other fish its size.
“The measurements don’t fit,” says Underwood, referring to standard length-times-girth formulas used to weigh bass.
Three different formulas, which use slightly different calculations, put the fish at 6.65 pounds, 6.85 pounds and 7.95 pounds, he says.
However, Underwood says the fish has a very large belly, and that biologist Paul Hoffarth and a taxidermist at the Kennewick Sportsman’s Warehouse could find no evidence of lead or anything shoved into the fish’s stomach.
“It didn’t appear there was any distortion in the gut ... Paul remarked that the fish felt exceptionally heavy,” Underwood says.
He adds that there is no evidence of fraud.
“We know there are fish that come through that area that are pretty good size,” Underwood says.
Adds Kenyon on the lower Yakima’s bass, “They’re just fat, but not long.”
In fact, there just might be something in the water that’s creating short but incredibly stout fish in this area.
Underwood notes that Wonacott’s 1966 record smallie displays the same characteristics as Kenyon’s bass.
“Its weight was heavier than its size,” he says. Wonacott’s fish was 2 inches shorter, but just 4 ounces under the 9-pound mark.
However, it was also caught in the spring (April 23), when hen bass are typically fat with eggs.
RECORD RE-EVALUATION: Still, the oddity of Kenyon’s bass is forcing the state to re-evaluate how much information is required for potential state records.
“This particular fish is causing us to review our records,” says Underwood. “What we’re going to be doing is look at our record-keeping process.”
While there is a space on Washington’s record application form for a biologist to mark down fish length and girth, records are awarded by weight alone.
“This one is tipping the scale, telling us something is wrong ... How can something that’s 22 inches long and 17 inches around weigh so much?” Underwood says.
“This one does have a pretty good-sized gut. It looks like there’s a softball in there,” he says.
Underwood’s quick to add that standing records would not be revised.
He also says he will bring the issue up with colleagues during a conference at an Arkansas bass hatchery.
“It’ll be a good place to have a talk about this issue,” he says.
FROZEN STATUS CLEARED UP: Underwood says the only way they could disqualify the bass is because it was frozen, which Kenyon readily admits occurred.
The application for state records reads, “Frozen fish will not be accepted for weighing.”
“But this fish was thawed before weighing,” Underwood notes.
Kenyon says he had to freeze it because it was Labor Day weekend. He wasn’t able to bring it in to state offices until Sept. 6.
The regulation against frozen fish is designed to keep out-of-state fish out of the record books, says Underwood.
Potential records can be weighed at certified scales which can be found at most if not all grocers’ meat and produce departments.
Official instructions can be found here: http://wdfw.wa.gov/outreach/fishing/bigfishapplication.pdf