Catch “the big one” – fishing record tips to use on your next trip out
These fishing record tips come from experience meant to serve all anglers. Back when the world’s crust was just beginning to cool, I had the good fortune to luck into a weakfish of mammoth proportions one late fall day off the south shore of Long Island, New York. The encounter occurred in a small cove of pocket water well back near a marsh where smallish school bass and an occasional shad would often stack up.
Having had my fill of shorts on several recent trips, I opted to play around with some ultralight tackle, which was a “thing” at the time. I wasn’t disappointed as schoolies to 20 inches waited in line to put my 4-pound test freshwater trout outfit to the test. All was going swimmingly, as I gingerly played each fish to the net for a quick release without busting my line, an important consideration since I had only one other small hook aboard.
Six schoolies into the trip, the big one ate, instantly doubling-over my rod in a surprise attack on my finger-length live shiner. Instantly outgunned, I eased off on the drag and hoped the big yellowfin might tire before busting free. Amazingly, she stayed buttoned, and the gossamer thread held long enough for a brief visit aboard my 16-foot garvey-style clam boat. It took several minutes to revive that 13-pounder, and I proudly watched her swim away. Later that winter, I read that the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) 4-pound line class record for weakfish was a little more than 11 pounds. UGH!
My tale of releasing a potential record catch isn’t unique. In fact, it happens all the time. Even worse, many possible records are eaten by anglers having no idea they’ve topped the charts.
Tip One: Know The Current Record
Have you dreamed of setting a fishing record? If so, the place to begin your quest is with a visit to the IGFA website, says Zack Bellapigna, who is charged with keeping the official files updated for the association, which runs an office in Dania Beach, Florida.
“We keep a variety of records,” explains Bellapigna, “including all-tackle world records that honor the largest individual of a specific species of fish caught within accordance with the organization’s International Angling Rules, all-tackle length records which honor the longest individual of a species measured on an official IGFA measuring device and released, line-class records that recognize the largest of selected species caught on a specific line class, and tippet-class (fly fishing) records for a number of game fish species.”
All IGFA records, along with the required International Angling Rules, can be found at igfa.org through a world-record database search engine that sees records updated daily. Access is free, and you don’t need to be a member to enter a search. In fact, you don’t even need to be a member at the time you catch a potential world record because you can join the organization ($50/year) when submitting a catch for consideration.
Tip Two: Take Your First Steps To Claiming A New Fishing Record
According to Bellapigna, to qualify for IGFA records, anglers must fill out a World Record Application Form which is available on the website. Anglers must also submit four photographs:
- the angler with the fish
- the rod and reel used
- the scale
- and the scale certification sticker/documentation.
Along with these photographs and the completed application, you’ll need to send in your terminal tackle, including 16.5 feet of your line to be tested.
Tip Three: Find An Open Category
For those interested in chasing world records, Bellapigna suggests looking at the current records while paying particular attention to fish you target. Note that species not listed are currently vacant categories awaiting their first entry—which could be made by you. To fill a vacant record, the fish just has to be caught in accordance with the International Angling Rules, weigh more than 1 pound, and be in the top 50 percentile of its maximum potential size.
Potential Challenges (other than the catch)
Of course, with the advance of time, it’s even more challenging to set new fishing records, especially in the all-tackle category. Still, if you do a little digging, you’re likely to find a few that don’t seem out of reach. In just the past year, several records have been broken along the East Coast from Florida to Maine.
- Gary Jennings with a tautog from New York setting a new IGFA Men’s 4-kg (8-pound) Tippet Class World Record in June 2022.
- Jacob Elleson scored with a 91-centimeter black drum from Florida to set the IGFA All-Tackle Length Fly Record.
- Randy Morton drilled an 8-pound, 9-ounce sheepshead from Virginia last July to set the IGFA Men’s 8-kg (16-pound) Line Class World Record
- and Kathryn Vallilee bested a 26-pound, 8-ounce permit from the Florida Keys back in August to claim the IGFA Women’s 4-kg (8-pound) Tippet Class World Record for the species.
Tip Four: Start Local
While anglers like to set their sights on world records, it should be noted that most state fish and wildlife agencies keep state records. So, where world and even-line class records for some species seem out of reach, state records may be more achievable. Contact your state fish and wildlife department for more info about this option.
“Records are made to be broken,” concludes Bellapigna. “We receive new applications every day from anglers that headed out with their eyes set on a record they were looking to break. If worst comes to worst, you’ll at least have some great fishing stories to tell from your pursuit of a place in the record books.”
No doubt. Which reminds me, did I ever tell you about the 4.5-pound sea robin I submitted some years ago?
-by Tom Schlichter