Fishing Lines: Bass record survives the backbiting

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 At one stage, there was an $8m prize for a record bass, though it was withdrawn in 2004 because of soaring insurance premiums.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.

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister
TVSPOILER ALERT: It's all coming together as series returns to form
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine