Tied But Not Broken
Official Largemouth Size Record Still Stands
By Stan Fagerstrom
Click to zoom
This bass is among the largest I've ever put in the boat over a lifetime of bass fishing. Yet it would have to be more than twice as big as it is to match the size of the world record tying catch made last year in Japan.
The official world record for largemouth bass still stands. It took 77 years for somebody to finally tie it.
The International Game Fish Association has, after six months of investigation, confirmed that a bass caught in Japan is now officially in the record books as having weighed 22-pounds, 4-ounces. The angler who caught it was Manabu Kurita, of Aichi, Japan. His record-tying bigmouth was caught on a live bluegill Kurita fished in Japan’s Lake Biwa.
Original reports were that Kurita’s monstrous bass weighed 22-pounds, 5-ounces. It’s my understanding IGFA rules for fish less than 25-pounds have to beat an existing record by at least 2-ounces to be recognized as a new record. If it’s just one ounce over the existing weight it will be considered as a tie and will be credited as simply sharing the record weight. At any rate, that’s how things wound up. The long standing official record has now officially been tied---not broken.
Manabu Kurita used a live bluegill to take his record catch out of Japan's Lake Biwa.
As dedicated bass anglers know, there have been reports of bass of record size several times over the years. None of them stood up under close inspection. Few records for freshwater fish have held up longer than the one for largemouth bass. The original record dates way back to June, 1932.
Boating a record size bass might be meaningful in more ways than one. There are those who are convinced that if you do catch a largemouth bass of more than 22-pounds, 4-ounces it just might put a million bucks in your pocket. You’ve probably heard that kind of comment somewhere along the line. Perhaps if someone is fortunate enough to put a fat hawg like that in the boat, and then has sufficient smarts to play their promotional cards just right, maybe it could happen.
The story of how the 1932 largemouth record was established is an interesting one. An angler named George Perry caught that fish at Montgomery Lake, Georgia. As noted, it weighed 22 pounds, 4 ounces. That record had been threatened a few times but never “officially” topped.
Most thought that if the record was ever to be broken chances are it would happen at one or another of the lunker producing lakes in the San Diego area of California or perhaps on certain lakes in Mexico. Most weren’t aware that a couple of Japanese lakes also contain whopping big largemouth. They know now.
I put the word officially in quotes for a reason. If you’re butt deep in bass fishing, you’ll likely recall that an angler reportedly caught a monstrous fish a few years ago out of little Dixon Lake in Southern California. When this angler and his pals weighed that fish it came up as 25-pounds, 1-ounce on the digital scales they were using.
That fish never got into the record books, though there were those who maintained it should have. There were just as many who said it shouldn’t. The fish never was weighed on a certified scale and it had also been foul hooked. The fish was released back into the lake it came out of.
Reams have been written about the record bass caught by George Perry in 1932. I’ve never met anyone who knows more about the Perry story and his record setting largemouth than Bill Baab. Baab, now retired, was the outdoor editor of The Augusta Chronicle in Augusta, Georgia for 35 years.
Baab, as did I for more than three decades, usually attended the annual Bassmasters Classic. I had opportunity to visit with him on occasions while we were both there. He knew everything there was to know about how Perry caught his whopper.
Perry was a 20-year-old farmer during the Great Depression when he hooked his record fish. That massive hawg was 32Ĺ-inches in length and had a bulging belly the size of a basketball at 28Ĺ-inches.
There were different stories floating around for years as to the lure Perry used to catch his big fish. A taped interview a writer made with Perry himself finally surfaced in 1973. In it Perry said he caught the bass on a Creek Chub Fintail Shiner, an artificial bass lure that was new at the time.
That was contrary to what we had heard before. I don’t know how many times over the years I read that the fish was caught on a Creek Chub Wigglefish. My friend Bill Baab had a hand in eventually establishing what the lure actually was.
Do you know what Perry’s main concern was as he tried to put that overweight bass into his little homemade boat? It’s not what you think. Remember, his record was established during the Great Depression. Perry said he was more concerned about losing his lure than he was about catching a record fish. He only had one of those lures. He didn’t have the bucks to replace it.
During the Great Depression a poor farmer, and that’s what Perry was, often barely had the bucks to buy his beans let alone new bass baits. I know a little bit about that dismal period myself. I lived through it. I grew up on a farm in western North Dakota. I watched my mother and father, after 19 years of backbreaking labor, lose everything they had. My first hooks actually were bent safety pins. My folks couldn’t afford real fishhooks.
Once he had his huge fish in the boat, Perry took it to a general store in Helena, Georgia. It was measured and weighed on the store’s scales. Later it was also weighed and measured on certified scales at the Helena Post Office.
I expect the Great Depression also had much to do with what Perry did with that monstrous bass after its record size had been confirmed. It didn’t go to a taxidermist. Perry cleaned and ate it.
Perry is no longer around to talk about his record catch. He had eventually learned to fly and in 1974 he died when the plane he was flying crashed near Birmingham, Alabama. He was 61 years old at the time.
I had the good fortune to spend some time once with another man who also caught another of the largest largemouth ever put in a boat. I’ll tell you who that was and what he had to say about it in my next column.