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Saturday, July 22, 2006

25lb Large Mouth Bass

25 pounds, 1 ounce Largemouth Bass

UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER

March 21, 2006

It should have been the greatest day in the history of bass fishing, and Mac Weakley should have been on top of the bass angling universe for catching a beach ball-sized, 25-pound, 1-ounce bass yesterday at Escondido's Dixon Lake that would be a world record.

But Weakley and his crew, longtime buddies Mike “Budda” Winn and Jed Dickerson, knew something was missing from a catch that, if somehow approved by the International Game Fish Association, would shatter the Joe DiMaggio-like “unbreakable” mark of bass fishing, the 22-pound, 4-ounce bass caught by George W. Perry at Montgomery Lake in Georgia in 1932.

“It's a great day, but it's a bad day,” Weakley said at his home in Carlsbad. “It was a valiant effort. We've been trying and trying to catch this fish for years. It's the world-record bass. Unfortunately, it was foul-hooked.”

Weakley's catch faces an uphill battle for world-record consideration because Weakley unintentionally foul-hooked it off a spawning bed, snaring it on its left side and just below the dorsal fin during some wild, sight-fishing action in the wind and rain and early-morning light.

Yesterday, news of the catch quickly spread cross country via the Internet, where anglers discussed the possible world record – a holy grail that has been pursued for decades and a catch that many have said would be worth a fortune in endorsement money, especially in this big-money, big-bass era.

Weakley's monster bass, caught on a Bob Sangster handmade white rattlesnake jig (on 15-pound P-Line monofilament) from Angler's Arsenal, was weighed on a Berkley BogaGrip, a hand-held scale, but no measurements were taken of the biggest bucketmouth landed in the history of black bass fishing.

The Department of Fish and Game regulation on fishing states that for a fish to be legally caught, “the fish voluntarily takes the bait or lure in its mouth.” The IGFA rule only states a catch may be disqualified if the angler “intentionally” foul-hooks a fish. Weakley, who was fishing alongside Dickerson with Winn running the boat, said the fish was not foul-hooked intentionally, and several witnesses agreed.

IGFA officials couldn't be reached for comment.

Dickerson said he recognized the fish as soon as he saw it in their net after Winn missed on the first try, but scooped it on his second. The bass has a black mark on the underside of its right gill plate. Poway's Mike Long caught a 20-pound, 12-ounce bass at Dixon with the same mark in 2001. Dickerson caught a 21-11 with the same mark in 2003, also at Dixon. But Long said he discovered a huge bass with that same marking floating at Dixon and identified it as the same bass he caught through a scale sampling, adding more mystery to this fish.

Dixon supervising ranger Tony Smock said they should call it “Spot,” and Jay Cowan, supervisor at Escondido's Lake Wohlford, said it should be called “Beauty,” as in beauty mark.

Weakley, who runs a banking corporation for casinos with Dickerson and Winn as his main hands, often teams with his buddies on these big-bass hunts. They are not strangers to big bass. Dickerson's 21-11 is the fourth-largest bass ever caught. Weakley's 19-8, also from Dixon in May of 2003, is tied for 13th on the all-time list. Winn landed a 15-pounder earlier this month.

The crew videotaped and photographed the weigh-in before releasing the fish. The short video shows the excitement and fulfillment of these diehard bass fishermen's longtime dream.

“That's the beast right there,” Weakley can be heard saying on the video he shot as Winn lifts the bass out of the water.

The video shows the hand-held scale recording a weight of 24-15, 25-0 and finally 25-1 for the last few seconds.

Dixon Lake dock attendant Chris Bozir, one of three witnesses, watched from the fishing pier.

“They were definitely fishing for it, and it was a hook-set,” Bozir said. “After he landed it, I could see the lure sticking out of the fish's dorsal fin when he got it on the boat. It was a gorgeous fish.”

Weakley can be heard on the video saying, “Hurry up, get it back in the water.” And the world's largest bass ever caught was released.

“We figured that was the right thing to do,” Weakley said. “I didn't want to put it on the dock, measure it and then take a chance it would die.”

Dickerson described how the big bass just rested calmly on a rope tied to the dock after the catch.

“She sat there like she'd done all this before,” Dickerson said. “She was so docile. That fish probably thinks this is all just part of the spawning process.”

Rancho Bernardo youngsters Steve and Dan Barnett also witnessed the catch from shore. Steve, 18, who recently fished in the Junior Bassmaster Classic in Florida, took his brother, Dan, 15, to the lake to try to get a junior world record bass.

Steve Barnett said Weakley missed the fish four times and caught it the fifth time he swung on it.

Said Weakley: “I felt a thump and saw the white of its belly swirl around. I set the hook and knew I had it.”

He just didn't realize where it was hooked until it tumbled into the boat.

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