These are the legendary records. For decades, these fish records have stood unbroken, and while some of them may be unseated at any time, we won’t be holding out breath. In some cases, it is simply because landing a record-sized fish and bringing it out of the water is much more difficult—or outright illegal—due to a fish’s protected status. In other cases, it’s simply because the record was so large and dominating, they brushed aside all other contenders.
Here are the five of the oldest fish records currently recognized by the International Game Fish Association. Over the years there have been a fair bit of competition for these coveted spots in the record book, and numerous cash prizes have been offered for any angler lucky enough to surpass them. So far, none have yet managed to unseat them.
1. Largemouth bass
This is arguably the most famous and supposedly unbeatable record on this list. Back in 1932, George Perry caught a 22-pound, four-ounce bass from Montgomery Lake, Georgia and promptly ate it for dinner over the course of two nights. Luckily for him, he stopped by a local grocery store on a whim earlier and had the fish weighed. He then submitted the certified information to Field and Stream, and for nearly 80 years, his fish has held the undisputed world record—until a Japanese fisherman brought the first serious contender for the title. In 2009, Manabu Kurita caught a 22-pound, four-ounce bass in Japan’s Lake Biwa. Kurita’s fish was just the tiniest bit heavier, but not enough to hold the record solo. Nw Perry’s fish shares the spotlight with Kurita’s equally massive bass, waiting for the day it will be surpassed.
2. Smallmouth bass
If the record for largemouth bass is the most famous, then the record for smallmouth bass may be the most controversial. In 1955, David Hayes reeled in a 11-pound, 15-ounce bass from Tennessee’s Dale Hollow Lake while fishing with family. In 1996, a written statement from a dockhand claimed that the fish Hayes reeled in was tampered with, and the angler’s record was almost immediately stricken from the record books.
Only Tennessee still recognized his fish as a state record. It seems that state officials didn’t want to give up on Hayes, and a subsequent investigation by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency found that the testimony against Hayes was fabricated. The dockhand was likely not even present at the time of the catch and the allegations against Hayes were determined to be without merit. At 80 years old, Hayes lived to see his record restored.