Fishing Lines: Bass record survives the backbiting
Sunday 04 June 2006
Mac Weakley reckons he is one of the world's top poker players. But even if he won the world championship, the winnings would be far less than he could have earned from catching a fish.
Weakley, from California, has just caught a 25lb 1oz largemouth bass. It would have beaten a 70-year record that is the most sought-after target in freshwater fishing. But even though the fish would have been worth millions, Weakley won't be claiming a record.
The largemouth bass (technically not a bass but a sunfish) has spawned a huge industry, said to be worth $12 billion (£6.4bn) in the US alone. The Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (Bass) was sold in 2001 to ESPN for $40m, giving the sports network a club membership of 547,000.
Bassmaster magazine has a readership of 4.2m. There are around 2m bass-fishing-related websites, and even two fantasy leagues. Several of the sport's top anglers are millionaires, and competition prizes can be as high as $200,000. Bass Pro Shops' flagship store in Springfield, with 300,000 sq ft of retail space, is Missouri's top tourist attraction. The fish itself may not be that big, but its influence is huge.
That's why millions dream of breaking the record set by George Perry, a poor 19-year-old Georgia farmhand who went fishing when it was too wet to work in the fields, and caught a 22lb 4oz fish that he took home to feed his family.
The quest to eclipse Perry's record has consumed many anglers. Some have spent years, ruining their health, their marriages and their lives trying to do so. At one stage, there was an $8m prize for a record bass, though it was withdrawn in 2004 because of soaring insurance premiums.
Weakley, with his companions Mike Winn and Jed Dickerson, has been targeting Dixon Lake in Escondido, California, for some years, convinced that it holds a whopper. The day before his record fish, Weakley saw another angler fishing a spot that he knew held a monster. He offered the fisherman $1,000 and some fishing rods to move. His rival stayed put - but didn't catch the fish.
The next day, the trio were first on the water. An hour later, Weakley hooked a huge bass. Only when he brought it to the boat did he realise the fish had been hooked in the back, not the mouth. It was weighed, photographed and returned to the water.
The capture prompted huge debate across all those internet sites. About 50 per cent said that it had not been legally caught, though the record-keepers, the International Game Fish Association, said it would consider the bass because it had not been foul-hooked intentionally.
Weakley pre-empted further vitriol by saying: "I don't want to break the record with so many people doubting it. I want it to be 100 per cent, with no controversy. I'll be back with a record bass that everyone will get behind."
What would it have been worth? An immediate $1m, maybe a lot more, in endorsements. All the tackle he could want for the rest of his life. Probably his own TV show. It takes quite a guy to put all that back in the water.
Latest in Sport
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Best memes and Tweets, including Lukas Podolski selfie with Angela Merkel
Shakira performs at World Cup closing ceremony at the Maracana
World Cup 2014 final: Vladimir Putin takes seat next to Sepp Blatter at the Maracana
Alan Hansen retirement: How Twitter reacted to the pundit's final appearance on BBC
World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi suffers humiliation of walking past World Cup trophy TWICE after being crowned player of the tournament with Golden Ball
- 1 Belgium fan Axelle Despiegelaere lands L'Oreal campaign after World Cup viral photo
- 2 Why I'm on the brink of burning my Israeli passport
- 4 Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
- 5 Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
War is war: Why I stand with Israel
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
Socialist Worker called to apologise over ‘vile’ article saying Eton schoolboy Horatio Chapple's death is ‘reason to save the polar bears’
Emergency data law: David Cameron plots to bring back snoopers’ charter
NUT strike: David Cameron announces crackdown on strike action ahead of mass industrial action
competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...
competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading marketing agency is currently ...
£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Software En...
£40000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Software Tea...