Now that a potential new world record largemouth bass has been landed — and in Japan of all places! — what needs to happen to seal the deal and get the fish entered in the record books?
And, perhaps more importantly, what hurdles does the potential record face?
The International Game Fish Association's International Angling Rules and World Record Requirements are stringent, and rightly so. Largely composed in the 1930s, they have undergone few revisions because they haven't needed many.
Every applicant for record holder status must go through the same rigorous procedure to earn a spot in the IGFA's annual book of World Record Game Fishes. This process is all that stands between us and a bunch of fishermen's lies.
Quite naturally, the IGFA is big on supporting photographs. And while it's true that Field & Stream didn't have any photographs of George Perry's record largemouth from 1932, because they weren't required (see "Some 'Records' That Aren't"), it's just as true that no future records will get into the books without several photos.
The first reason for photos is to make a positive identification of the fish species involved. If the photos are not determinative, the IGFA has a procedure for making identification that involve an ichthyologist or qualified fisheries biologist.
There must be at least one photo showing the full length of the fish, the rod and reel used to make the catch and the scale used to weigh the fish. There must also be a photograph of the angler with his catch.
The photos of the fish must include one shot with the fish in a hanging position and another with the fish lying on its side on a flat surface, preferably with some sort of ruler or tape measure alongside it to give it dimension. Finally, the IGFA notes that "an additional photograph of the fish on the scale with actual weight visible helps to expedite the application."
Generally, claims for record fish must be received by the IGFA within 60 days of the catch. International anglers (those outside U.S. continental waters) have three months to submit their application.
This means that Kurita has until October 2 to have the application in front of IGFA personnel.
The scales used to weigh a potential record fish are always subject to scrutiny. Here's what the IGFA requires:
First of all, the fish has to be weighed in front of an "official weighmaster" or by an IGFA official or person who's familiar with the scale. The IGFA encourages the use of disinterested witnesses whenever available. While the fish is being weighed, the tackle used to catch the fish has to be shown to the weighmaster and any witnesses.
Of course, the scales used to weigh a potential record need to be certified for accuracy, but this isn't nearly the stumbling block that many would have you believe. If the scale used hasn't been certified within the preceding 12 months, it can be certified (and the weight of the fish adjusted for any error) after the fact.
The IGFA has an official form that is used for all record applications, and it must be filled out completely by the applicant. In addition to information like the date of the catch, and names and addresses of the weighmaster and any witnesses, the application must be notarized.
All record applications — whether for an all-tackle record or just a line class record — must include information about the specified strength of the line used to catch the fish. If the angler is applying for a line class record, he must also include at least 50 feet of the line that was closest to the hook so the IGFA can test it.
There seems to be no requirement that a line sample be included for those anglers who seek all tackle record recognition.
Some confusion has surrounded the eligibility of the Kurita bass for world record recognition based on the line the angler was rumored to have used. According to reports, Kurita used 25-pound-test Toray fluorocarbon line. The IGFA's heaviest recognized line size among the line class records (not all tackle records) in the bass category is 20 pounds. Based on these facts, some have mistakenly assumed that the fish could not gain record status. That's simply not true.
While Kurita might not be eligible for the 20-pound-test line class record, his catch is still eligible as the all-tackle record since the IGFA allows submissions in all freshwater and saltwater categories up to 130-pound test.
(George Perry caught his record bass on 24-pound-test line.)
As this story is being posted on Bassmaster.com, the IGFA has not yet received a record application from Manabu Kurita. It's likely that his application will first go to the Japanese Game Fish Association, a sister organization of the IGFA, to circumvent the language barrier. The JGFA will do its due diligence in evaluating the application before passing it along to the IGFA for a final decision.
It stands — and, based on angler interest, deserves — to be the most closely scrutinized record application in the history of the IGFA or any other record-keeping organization.
After all, 77 years of history and millions of dedicated bass anglers are waiting.