A Search For, “The One”
Despite my predilection for fly fishing, I do still appreciate a good pond hopping session in search of largemouth bass. The appeal of pursuing these fish is recognized the world over, and during the course of this article, I’ve been able to see monstrous specimens of bass pulled from all over the world.
Vicious topwater strikes, giant wakes, and a fight that can seem to last unnaturally long are what big bass fishing is all about, so it’s no surprise that bass is regarded as prime gamefish in every hemisphere. This article is about the world record largie and the angler who caught it, but we’re also going to take a look at the characteristics that can make largemouths the king of the pond or a resident spillway monster.
In this article we’ll discuss:
- All-Tackle World Record Largemouth Bass
- Tied All-Tackle World Record Largemouth Bass
- All-Tackle Length World Record Largemouth Bass
- All-Tackle Length World Record Bass on the Fly
- The World Record Black Sea Bass
Let’s Dive In!
Largemouth bass are called a laundry list of different names depending on where they’re found. Largemouths, bucketmouths, wide mouths, green bass, green backs, green trout, the list goes on and on. Whatever you call them colloquially, Micropterus salmoides is a member of the sunfish family, native to the eastern and central US, some parts of Canada and northern Mexico. They can be identified easily because of their large, wide mouths that hinge open wide to suck up all types of prey. They usually are adorned with dark splotches that form a rough horizontal stripe down their lateral line, and are olive/green to pale green/gray, depending upon their region and environmental conditions.
These fish, while often preyed upon while juvenile by herons, carp, eagles, other largemouths and more, can quickly become the apex predators of their particular haunt as they grow larger. When young, they eat scuds, macro-invertebrates, and insects, but they grow large quickly, and soon, when possible, their diet switches primarily to other baitfish. They enjoy weeds and structure, not only because these conditions bring a steady food-source, but also because when juvenile, these places offer a lot of protection from would-be predators. Largemouths can consume prey up to 50% of their own length/weight due to their distinct mouth and jaws, and are incredibly hard fighters that are capable of lengthy drag-ripping runs and digs. Largemouth bass rely on multiple different senses to detect and hunt prey, particularly vision, scent, and a developed lateral line to sense all manner of vibration, topwater or below. I have watched a female bass, in clear Susquehannah water, patiently and intelligently herd mouthfuls of baitfish together and push them to swim near a dam wall to cut off any escape route. These fish are not just brainless eating machines that rely on muscle and mouth to obtain their food.
Because of these characteristics, largemouth bass are very sporting fish, in the US and all over the globe. They have been introduced everywhere, and this is in part due to their resilient and tough constitution. They can thrive in very adverse environments, like still, warm water, ponds, drainage ditches, and canals. Their voracious appetites, however, have caused some noted conservation-related problems when introduced to foreign waters. They can consume a vast number of native baitfish, and in general become real problems to ecosystems when wantonly introduced where they don’t belong. Careful monitoring can prevent them from wiping out native populations of fish, but this is not easy and is usually an afterthought to their introduction. They can live almost anywhere there is food and freshwater.
A largemouth’s diet, when mature and sizable, can shift quickly away from the normal baitfish and crawdad when presented with a meal that they think is vulnerable. Mice, rats, snakes, turtles, baby alligators, and yes, even fledgling ducks and wounded birds have all been observed inside the gullet of the largemouth bass, proving the credibility of their apex predator designation. This is just another reason why anglers get so much enjoyment out of fishing for them.
All-Tackle World Record Largemouth Bass
Angler: George Perry
Size: 32 ½ “ Long, 28 ½ “ Round, 22 lbs 4 Oz
Date: June 2, 1932
Location: Lake Montgomery, Ocmulgee River, Georgia, United States
Bait: Creek Chub Fintail Shiner
The world record largemouth bass was caught ninety years ago in Lake Montgomery, an oxbow off of the Ocmulgee river in southern Georgia, USA. This record was set amidst the worst parts of the Great Depression, when fishing was not just a sport. Food insecurity was very real, especially in rural areas where the drowning economy and the agricultural disaster of the Dust Bowl hit people the hardest. George Perry and a close friend decided on a day of fishing that June day, using a homemade boat and just one rod, one reel, and one lure, switching tackle between themselves while the other managed the oars. George Perry cast to a startling topwater take next to some cover with his CCBC lure, and the rest is still to this day, history.
Despite the monstrous size, width and girth of his bass, weighing it or measuring it was a mere afterthought to getting it home to his family for supper. On their way back to civilization they stopped in Helena, Georgia to show off their catch at a local general store, much to the delight of customers and staff alike. It was measured here, and much gabbing ensued until George and his friend agreed to take the fish down to the local post office and have it weighed on official scales. This is what lead to the fish being entered into Field and Stream, and George Perry very immediately won the publication’s Biggest Fish contest, which gave a struggling fisherman from Georgia a new shotgun, shells, clothing and more, valued then at $75 (nearly $1500 by today’s standards when adjusted for inflation).
Despite George Perry’s bass winning the big contest, it would be several years before it was officially recognized as a world record, and even then, Mr. Perry didn’t receive the immense notoriety that a world record-setting angler would today. However, in a 1969 issue of Sports Afield, Perry was interviewed, and he relates the breath-taking catch much better than I have here. This record still stands today, and any bass angler worth his baitcaster knows Perry’s name and the stats of his catch, nearly a hundred years after it happened. In 2009, someone would tie this record thousands of miles away from Georgia…
Tied All-Tackle World Record Largemouth Bass
Angler: Manabu Kurita
Size: 29” Long, 22 lbs 5 Oz
Date: July 2, 2009
Location: Lake Biwa, Japan
Tackle: 20 lbs Test Toray Line, 5/0 Fina Finesse Bait Hook, Live Bluegill
The culture surrounding bass fishing has spread just as quickly as this fish has been introduced to waters abroad. There is a massive and dedicated bass fishing subculture in Japan, where the introduced largemouth is able to prey on fish that they rarely can elsewhere–stocked rainbow trout and foreign baitfish that are usually completely unprepared for its voracious appetite. Manabu Kurita, a guide who was fishing in Lake Biwa, tied George Perry’s ‘Miracle Bass’ nearly eighty years after the fact. Lake Biwa is an ancient reservoir that was formed millions of years ago, and is the country’s largest lake at 259 square miles.
The story is hauntingly similar–Manabu noticed a large and distinct disturbance and cast his bait to it. Almost instantly, his live bluegill was seized by a bass that just barely tipped the scales to overcome the weight of Perry’s catch (by one ounce!). Even with his modern rod and reel, a fight ensued that lasted three minutes, which is no small feat for the fish. The rules set by the IGFA for a potential world record setting catch state that the challenging entry must exceed the weight of the current world record by two ounces, so despite the fact that his fish was heavier, it didn’t make the cut to dethrone George Perry’s bass. Still, the simple fact that another bass in the caliber of the 1932 world record can thrive and survive is further proof that bass can get big when food is plentiful and conditions are right.
Manabu Kurita was humble about tying the previous world record when the IGFA made their ruling, stating that he would continue chasing the official record. Despite the IGFA ruling, Kurita has truly left his mark on the bass fishing world, successfully catching, playing, and landing one of the heaviest largemouths ever recorded.
All-Tackle Length World Record Largemouth Bass
Angler: Lance Jones
Size: 65 cm (25.6”)
Date: April 24, 2018
Location: Lake Jeffery, Florida, USA
Tackle: Live Shiner
The IGFA added a length category to their roster of possible world record designations in 2011. The above-mentioned records from Georgia and Japan are very tough to even get close to, but the IGFA world record all-tackle length category fish could realistically be floating around in a waterway near you! We know that there has been numerous bass caught over the 65 cm (25.6”) mark, but none have been properly recorded using the rigorous standards that the IGFA demands. This really is a world record that could be broken by you.
Lance Jones caught the current world record bass in Lake Jeffery, Florida in 2018. This waterway is a well known bass habitat, and it has all the conditions necessary to grow big bucketmouths, with plentiful forage and structure as well as deep pockets. He was fishing a live golden shiner, a truly irresistible snack for any bass, but especially largemouth. Lance is first in the IGFA world record all-tackle length category, but I must mention that there is a three-way tie for the number one spot. George Coniglio from Lake Mission Viejo, California and Lane J Kinney, another Floridian who was fishing a private lake somewhere in Washington county, all caught their own 65 cm bass as well, and all fulfilled the rigorous requirements the IGFA set in place. You know the size of the world record, now go find one of these bass yourself!
All-Tackle Length World Record Bass on the Fly
Angler: Jason Schall
Size: 55 cm (21.65”)
Date: April 2, 2022
Location: Ohoopee River, Georgia, USA
We return to Georgia where the IGFA world record largemouth bass was taken on the fly, and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. Jason Schall is a tournament fisher, conservationist, and kayaker who possesses a host of other world records, some he obtained while fishing with his wife, who holds numerous world records of her own. He is very active in the fishing community and an ambassador for the IGFA. His world record largemouth was caught in the same state as George Perry’s miracle bass, proving again that the conditions found in the lakes and rivers of Georgia are home to truly big fish.
Jason Schall really does it all and has won numerous tournaments, crushed multiple IGFA world records, and given back to the community by offering up classes, lectures and doing and hosting events with the numerous clubs and non-profit organizations he’s affiliated with. If you’ve never tried bass fishing on the fly, consider it, because this is another IGFA record just waiting to be broken.
The World Record Black Sea Bass
Angler: Allan Paschall
Size: 10 lbs 4 Oz
Date: January 1, 2000
Location: Virginia Beach, USA
An honorable mention and another world record here, this one for a “bass” that provides the same fighting sport as its freshwater counterpart. Freshwater largemouth bass has a somewhat similar appearance and exhibits similar behaviors as the Atlantic black sea bass. This saltwater counterpart, while not closely related to Micropterus Salmoides, reacts in the same ways as a largemouth would in salt water The world record Atlantic black sea bass was caught on January first of the year 2000 off the coast of Virginia Beach. Allan Paschall was fishing deep structure near an unnamed wreck and caught the fish that surpassed the previous record (nine pounds). I have been unable to find any definitive answers as to what tackle he was using, but the 10 pound 4 oz monster that he reeled in became the new IGFA world record, and it still stands today.
Reeling it in
Whenever I write articles that are centered around world records, I like to think that I’m doing my duty as an angler to feature them and inform others about their exploits. The thing about largemouth bass and world records is that Perry’s “Miracle Fish” still remains at the top of the leaderboard as the world record, and despite introducing bass all over the globe (sometimes with very negative effects on the ecosystem), there has never been another one caught that has sufficiently exceeded its measurements. Even despite our advanced tackle, lifelike and field-tested baits, and space-age line and braid, no one has dethroned the man from Georgia. But all hardcore bass anglers know his story and his name, and I am happy to spread the word myself in this article. World records were meant to be broken, so get out there and get fishing.
You never know!
Tight Lines my friends.