- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 27, 2009

When Australian angler Frank Bluch visited Canada’s Northwest Territories and the famed Coppermine River this summer, he hooked an Arctic char that weighed 7 3/4 pounds. Bluch’s fly line was connected to a 2-pound tippet, proving the Aussie’s fishing skills are remarkable because any fish that weighs 7 pounds or more ought to be able to break a weak line in an instant. But Bluch landed it and soon discovered that his catch broke the char world record by an entire pound.

During the same trip, the Australian also fished the Wigwam River in British Columbia and caught a world record bull trout. The fish weighed 14 1/4 pounds and was landed on a 6-pound tippet.

The sad fact, however, is that the only way 60 million Americans who enjoy fishing would care about a world record trout or Arctic char would be if it had been hooked by a visitor from outer space. There are not that many regular sport anglers who will take notice of Bluch’s accomplishments - notwithstanding the good work of the International Game Fish Association as it notified the fishing world.

Yet there is one fish species that will have anglers everywhere buzzing with excitement in the event a world record is caught. It’s the largemouth bass.

No other fish even comes close. No tuna, marlin, striper, shark or other species generates the level of excitement that rivals the largemouth bass. Never mind that a world-record bass can earn the angler around $1 million when numerous cash awards from tackle companies, personal appearance fees and sales of fiberglass reproductions are taken into account - the popularity of the fish is connected to its accessibility. This gamefish is found in every state but Alaska. It lives in ponds, lakes, rivers and even brackish bays and thus is more readily available and often is easy to catch. To hook one, relatively low-priced equipment will do - lower at least than that required for most other glamour fish species.

Among the millions of largemouth bass devotees, I’ll wager that most can readily provide the name of the man who holds the world record and the year it was hooked and landed (George Perry in 1932).

An astonishing number of anglers also will tell you that it occurred in Montgomery Lake, Ga., and that a Creek Chub lure fooled the gargantuan 22 1/4-pounder. It is a fact that the typical weight of a largemouth bass, hooked by a recreational angler, is around 2 pounds. Perry’s bass was an incredibly huge specimen.

During a number of fishing shows and seminars that I’ve hosted over the years, I’d offer some kind of door prize to the first person who could shout out any of the particulars regarding the record bass and there always was a thunderous responsive chorus, never just a single reply.

Imagine then how many of these happy bass loonies still await word of a decision by the IGFA - the official keeper of all gamefish records - if a largemouth bass that also weighed 22 1/4 pounds, caught by Manabu Kurita, 32, of Aichi, Japan, will be recognized at least as a co-record.

IGFA conservation director Jason Schratwieser said Kurita’s “World All-Tackle” application is still under review after it was received in mid-September.

“We’ve been corresponding with the angler via our sister organization, the Japan Game Fish Association,” Schratwieser said.

Schratwieser said Kurita’s fish was caught in Lake Biwa, an ancient reservoir northeast of Kyoto. What isn’t said aloud are the numerous suggestions by envious American anglers who believe something isn’t right with Kurita’s bass. More than a few skeptics think the bass was raised and fed while in confinement, perhaps in a tank of some sort, then released in the lake with a hook and line already in its mouth.

To be sure, the largemouth bass has not only become the “Holy Grail” for millions of North American anglers, it also has touched the fancy of the Japanese, not to mention other countries where this species now thrives after it was introduced by Americans. Included on the list is Mexico, Cuba, Honduras, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Italy and Spain.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com. Mueller’s Inside Outside blog can be found at www.washingtontimes.com/sports.