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World Record Bass: Why It was Released

By Ernie Cowan

Many questions still swirl around Mac Weakley’s catch of a potential new world record largemouth bass from a Southern California Lake Monday, but the biggest question is why did he release the fish?

“Yep, that’s what everyone wants to know,” said an exhausted Weakley a day after nailing a 25-pound, 1-ounce largemouth from Dixon Lake, located about 30 miles northeast of San Diego. “My phone has not stopped ringing and I feel like a broken record. I’ve probably told the story about 200 times now.”

Ol_bass_3 Controversy surrounds the fish that could shatter the previous world record of 22 pounds, 4 ounces which has stood since George Perry pulled the largemouth from Montgomery Lake, GA in 1932.

Weakley quickly admits his fish was snagged in the side, was not weighed on a certified scale and was not measured before being released. With millions on the line for the person who sets a new world bass record, everyone wants to know why it was not kept.

“That’s easy. We had six witnesses to verify how it was caught, and the size. It’s not like it was just a hair bigger than the world record. It blew out the record at 25 pounds.” Weakley said. “We’ve been after this fish for so many years it was like a pet just laying there and we decided we just had to let it go.”

Weakley has been fishing with buddies Jed Dickerson and Mike Winn for years. Three years ago, Dickerson may have caught and released the same fish, then weighing 21-11. His fish had a distinctive freckle below the right eye, and Weakley’s fish also has the same freckle.

“What really matters, between you and me, is this IS the world record bass and we know it,” Weakley said. “I don’t care about the money. This was personal between the three of us who have been fishing together for years.”

Weakley said, however, that he will formally file an application with the International Game Fish Association in hopes of being awarded the all-tackle world record for largemouth bass.

“We did take plenty of photographs and video and we have saved everything, including my rod and reel, line, lure, net and digital scale,” Weakley said.

At the IGFA, conservation director Jason Schratwieser said their phone has not stopped ringing as news of the Dixon Lake catch spreads.

“You don’t know how many calls we have had today. We have been flooded,” Schratwieser said.

He said once the IGFA received the application from Weakley, a review process will begin that will take about a month to complete. The issues of the fish being snagged, not measured and not weighed on a certified scale may not disqualify the fish from being designated as a new world record.

The IGFA rules say that a catch will be disqualified for any fish intentionally snagged, or foul-hooked. The key word is intentional. Weakley said he did not intentionally snag the fish, but instead saw his lure disappear, felt his pole “go vertical” and he reacted to set the hook. Witnesses confirm his story.

“There have been cases where we have certified snagged fish,” said Schratwieser. “We often see marlin that were snagged because it was incidental to a normal catch.”

Photographs taken by Weakley of the fish and the weigh-in will be examined by the IGFA along with the digital scale used to determine the weight.

“We may be able to verify the size from the photographs and we have certified scales after the fact,” he said.

Schratwieser also had praise for the fact Weakley released the fish.

“He caught a big fish and he knows it, but he still wanted to make sure he got it back in the water.

“This is a huge female with a lot of quality eggs,” Schratwieser said.

For Weakley, what started out as a cold and rainy Monday morning has turned into a day that has turned his life around. He has been flooded with phone calls, and interviews, with ESPN even flying in a crew to interview him. He is satisfied with his accomplishment, but anxious about the weeks ahead as the IGFA jury decides the fate of his monster bass.


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Ron Ames

If the man is willing to give up his scale and all the equipment and pictures and movies and certified statements for the whitnesses and has any scales from the fish he should be awarded the honor of largest bass caught.

There are many ways for his record to be verified.


Well, the biggest problem wasn't verifying the weight, it was whether or not the fish was foul-hooked. It's hard to determine if the bass was intentionally snagged, and the IGFA states clearly in its rule book that if a fish is foul-hooked it will be disqualified.

Micheal May

The difference between George Perry's catch and Weakly's is that George Perry didn't set out to take a record it just happened. George P. was told about the fishing contest (held by Field & Stream) after catching the fish. Also according to an article, written by Bob McNally in Outdoor life in April 2005 issue, G.P.'s fish was also re-weighed at the Helena post office after it's first weigh-in at the general store. Another point is that Weakly's fish was snagged not caught. There are procedures to follow to certify a record fish and they didn't follow them according to Ray Scott the founder of BASS and an advisor to the IGFA (this last bit of info was according to an e-mail story from Field & Stream about Weakly's catch 03/22/06). If you look at the April 2005 issue of Outdoor life on page 42 you will clearly see the differences between the catches.

Overly Hackled

Not a fair chase, or fair catch ,or verified weight . This should be listed as a Barry Bonds Bass.


World record or not it's a huge fish! Congrats on your catch.

John Charles Magdych

Did not "intentionally snag", 6 witnesses,
photos and video, scale verified later, tackle given. It is a new world record and should be so credited. He should not be penalized because he was such a fine sportsman that he released the fish live.

We need more Mac Weakley's in this world. Let him have the rightful honor of having caught the biggest bass on record up till now.


This man deserves this record. You cant pick the way you set the hook on bass. Im 17 yrs. old and have major respect for the man turning that huge fish back. THAT FISH IS HUGE!!!!!!!!!

larry hall

He should be admired if he released a record fish,yet the fish should not be considered for world record status because it wasn't officially weighed.How much did the picture weigh?

Bill Dean

What a monster bass. That must have been a thrill regardless of how he was hooked. As I understand the current situation, he has said that he wasn't going to try to claim the top spot. Probably the best solution. Fisherman are always on the spot as they claim we all are liars anyway. It would seem to me that if he was fishing for a tropy bass that he would have had some idea what was necessary in order to validate it. But that's all history now. Maybe he will be lucky enough to catch it again.




As someone who ran a state citation fishing program, the irony is this: there are too many people giving monetary rewards for trophy fish, and there are too many scoundrels willing to cheat to win. Yes, this fish is AWESOME! but I had to establish a strict set of rules to stop cheating. You have to have the body of the fish to certify its weight. The "millions" promised to the next world record bass catcher can inspire a "team" to put together a provacative plan to capture the reord. Bottom line is, you should have the physical evidence to document the record. Photographic angles (holding the fish straight out)and video angles can be deceiving. The real truth lies in the body of the catch. Great fish, yes, world record,.. uh, no!


Most bass fishermen release every fish they catch; thousands over the course of a fishing career. This was the WORLD RECORD. Financial security for his family, college tuition for his kids. He lets it go without measurements or certified weight. How many times has this happened in the last 15 or so years? I know of at least 2 fish that were alleged record size but were dis-allowed because of improper handling. As a life-long bass fishermen, I want a record that can be verified with certainty, without speculation. Mouth hooked, weighed, and examined by a DFG biologist (remember the 3 lb lead weight inside Sandy Di Fresco's bass?). Keep her alive if possible, but if not, it's just one fish. One fish that has already spawned at least 13 times. The DFG says that we can keep 5 fish per day. I'm okay with him keeping one.


awesome fish congrats!!!!


He stated that he and his buddies fished that same tiny lake up to 5 times a week.
So he let it go. It's a small lake, and with persistence, he'll find it again.
Humor me, and set it free in the everglades.
Now theres fair chase.
Those bass in California are 1 step away from being pen raised trophies.

James Kerber

If anyone thinks that California bass are like pen raised fish has never spent time fishing here. I lived in Florida and now live in Cal and I can tell you one thing. It's a lot tougher catching bass in Cal than Florida. I have caught huge largemouth in South Dakota in small pothole ponds up to 11/lbs and that is like pen fishing. This man deserves the record. If you fished Florida ponds everyday and caught alot of fish you'd have a fishing show...


Don't be a moron Jim.
I live in New york, and caught and released the state record largemouth, trolling for muskies last
Whats your point? He does'nt deserve a thing.
He got all the recognition he deserves already.

The guy setout specifically to catch this monster. Logically, how could you possibly argue that he didn't intentionally foul hook the fish. Big fish, but it doesn't count. Its like throwing a baseball out of the park and yelling, "homerun!" It just doesn't add up.


It's a huge fish; however, i have to agree with Roy's post on this. Yes it's on video and photos, but the fish was not examined by a biologist. Were weights added to the fish??? I wouldn't trust that record until that fish is x-rayed and cleared by all authorities on the matter. I'm not saying the guys lying, but c'mon, would anyone really release a multi-million dollar fish, I find it hard to believe. I'm going to be honest and say that I know I wouldn't have released it.

Ronnie Halter

The guy caught A HUGE FISH. catch it again and show all of us another great day of fishing. This time lip hook her. prove all the world she was legal and worthly.


This fish is huge give the guy credit it takes time to catch a fish like that!

bg fish aoa06

good fish good job letting it go but GA still has the record

Ben Bundy

Yes, big fish but the picture makes me wounder, we all know that holding a fish way out at arms length gives the apperance of being bigger than it is, and that's what I see here, having caught several bass over 10lbs in Florida this fish (in) the picture looks more like maybe 15lbs at best, if it was held close to his body and then photographed at a normal range then it would be alot easier to judge the size of the fish. And we all know you can't win the bassmasters classic with just pictures. He did the right thing returning her to the water, but I don't believe it should be counted as the new record without weighing the fish. I don't see how checking someones personnel scales or rod and reel or photos can justify a new record.


great points by all. i was inclined to agree with the "let him have the world record" argument, but the points about weight are compelling. without an actual fish, it's hard to say what they caught, witnesses or no


I think it should have to be weighed on a certified scale and measured and x-rayed. That is the only way to decide a record as big as this one. Come on, a multi-million dollar fish!?!?! I would have done the measuring, kept it alive, and released it alive back into the body of water. I couldn't dream of catching a fish that big. If i did, i wouldn't know what to do. we can all sit back and say we'd release it or keep it, but its a whole nother thing when you actually land it. yes, catching a fish of that size is truely amazing, BUT if he feels he should have the record, why not just have it weighed on a certified scale!!!!! Thats what gets me. no record.

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