Thirty-two years ago, an Iowa couple fishing in Central Florida caught a two-person limit of 20 bass that weighed 148.23 pounds. At the time, Dick and Elaine Hengl claimed it as a record for a single-day catch made exclusively on artificial lures.
This week, a boat given to them by Rebel Lures back in the 1980s went up for auction on eBay. It's a 1984 Rinker — 17 feet long with a 140-hp Mercury inboard/outboard. The asking price is $2,500.
The sales pitch, from "starvingsellers," makes some interesting claims. Among them, she says the Hengls' record "will NEVER be broken."
Come on ... not even if we buy the boat?
Back in 1977, the Hengls, who still live in Iowa, were vacationing in their camper near the Kissimmee Chain. Dick's job gave them two or three months each winter to escape the chilly weather of Iowa in favor of sunshine and soft water in Florida.
On February 10 of that year, the Hengls decided to try to fill their cooler with "specs" (crappie) before heading back to Iowa on the 12th. They stopped at the tailrace of the flood-control gate at South Port Lock and settled in for some panfishing using crappie jigs and 8-pound line. They were having some success, but every so often something much bigger than a crappie would grab their jigs and snap the line like thread.
That's when Dick respooled his crappie rod with 20-pound Stren. He was still fishing a small, light-wire jig on the beefed up line when a giant struck.
"It was the biggest bass — alive or dead — I've ever seen," he was quoted as saying in the May/June 1977 issue of Bassmaster Magazine. "I swear you could have put a football down its throat without touching its jaws."
The behemoth came near enough to their boat that Elaine was able to swipe at it with a net, but she missed. Moments later the fish straightened the hook and was gone.
After that, the Hengls called it a day and headed back to the campground. The next day, the 11th, they'd be armed and ready for big bass.
But when they got to the spot, they couldn't buy a strike. They tried everything — plastic worms, jigs, spinnerbaits, you name it. Then, for some reason, Dick tied on a crawfish patterned Rebel Deep-R, a crankbait designed to dive much deeper than the 6 feet of water in front of him.
Hengl cast beyond the small eddy pool — no more than 15 feet in diameter — that had produced all the action the day before. He cranked the bait down until it struck bottom and then slowed his retrieve until the lure was just maintaining contact with the debris in the area.
And things came alive. A bass grabbed the big crankbait, and Hengl set the hook. This time he was able to put the fish in the boat. She weighed 10 pounds. Elaine tied on a similar Deep-R, and the Hengls were off and running.
The couple alternated casts into the small pool, and every half or so one of them would hook a nice bass. Other boats pulled into the area, but the anglers in them stayed clear of the Hengls' spot.
At about 2 p.m., the flood gates on the lock were dropped, and the current was beginning to create problems. The anchors were barely holding the boat in place and floating debris interfered with the couple's lures. They had 15 bass in the boat at this point that weighed more than 100 pounds.
So they decided to quit for the day.
When they got back to the dock at South Port Park, there was a crowd waiting to see their fish. Dick had called the rangers there to inform them of the catch. The ranger on duty saw the fish and encouraged the couple to get back out there and try to fill out their limits.
"You might just set some kind of record," he explained.
Back they went, and when they reached their pool they discovered that other anglers had moved in to give it a try. No one there had a Rebel Deep-R in the crawfish finish, and no one there had received even a bump from the bass.
But when the Hengls moved back into position and started casting, the bass woke up. They started catching largemouths to 10 pounds and more almost immediately. Just before 6 p.m. they boated their 20th bass — a two-person Florida limit at that time — and immediately stopped fishing. They did not attempt to cull even one bass. The 20 they kept ranged from 1.45 pounds to 11.55 pounds and averaged 7.41 pounds.
"My fingers were so torn up from handling those hawgs I don't know that I could have landed another one anyway," Dick said at the time. "Besides, Elaine and I had agreed that nothing more could have added a single ounce to what we'd already experienced. It was simply time to go home!"
And that's what they did the very next day.
According to the seller of the Hengls' boat on eBay, the couple is "up in their years now and they didn't take it [the boat] out for the past 10 or 12 years."
But once upon a time, the Hengls absolutely tore 'em up.