Is the name Spring Lake Calif., familiar? If you're a student of record class largemouth, you'll remember the giant bass Paul Duclos caught from the 75-acre lake near Santa Rosa March 1, 1997. Duclos weighed his fish on bathroom scales and then released it, forever leaving in doubt whether it actually did weigh 24 pounds, as he stated.
Now comes another giant from Spring Lake, this one reportedly weighing 22 pounds, 8 ounces. It, too, was released before officials could examine it. This one, however, was weighed on Boga Grip scales that had been certified for accuracy. The angler, Leaha Trew of Santa Rosa, has submitted applications to the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) and the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame for largemouth bass world record status. Officials from both agencies say they are studying the application.
Trew would not discuss the catch with Bassmaster prior to receiving rulings on her applications.
If certified, the Spring Lake bass would surpass the all-tackle world record of 22 pounds, 4 ounces, caught by George W. Perry in Montgomery Lake, Ga., June 2, 1932.
It's a big "if."
William Cox, an employee of the California Department of Fish & Game who oversees the management of Spring Lake, acknowledged that, although he signed the angler's application to the Fishing Hall of Fame, he did not personally see the fish, nor can he verify that the angler actually caught the bass in question, or that the fish was even caught in Spring Lake.
IGFA requires that "the fish must be weighed by an official weighmaster (if one is available), or by an IGFA official or a recognized local person familiar with the scale." The fish was weighed by Leaha Trew's son, Javad Trew of Petaluma, and witnessed by a man picnicking along the lakeshore. Since the scales measure only in 8-ounce increments, and the fish reportedly pulled the 30-pound scale to somewhere between 22-8 and 23-0, the lower weight would be the mark recognized.
"If (the angler) had brought the fish to me, and I had been able to verify the weight and that it came from Spring Lake, it probably would be accepted as the world record," says Cox. "I can only verify that I saw a photograph of the bass and that it was big."
Noting that Javad Trew "is an experienced angler who has several other line class records," Cox added, "he should have made some effort to keep the fish for examination, since Spring Lake is not a catch-and-release lake."
The witness, Charles Fleming, was having a family picnic at the lake when the angler brought the bass to him to verify the weight. Fleming, who admits he is not a fisherman, said he was in total awe of the fish and never realized they grew so large in Spring Lake.
According to Ted Dzialo, Director of the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, the bass measured 29 inches in total length and had a girth of 25 inches.
The application also states that the fish was caught Aug. 24 on a Storm Wildeye Jerkbait with Stren Magnaflex line, an 8-6 Shakespeare rod, and a Shimano Stradic reel.
"Our rules for any all-tackle world record fish state that the fish in question must be examined by a biologist," Dzialo emphasizes, "so for us, the fish probably will not be certified as the all-tackle record.
"We are likely, however, to award a line-class world record to the angler, in this case for the 12-pound-test class."
Doug Blodgett, a spokesman for IGFA, would not comment on how his organization might rule on the catch. The application has been forwarded to IGFA record-keeping committee members for study. Many observers believe the next world record largemouth could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to the angler who catches it.
Cox points out that the 75-acre Spring Lake does contain some big bass and that a fish of world record weight is not out of the question. The lake was completely drained in the mid-1980s for hydrilla control, then refilled and stocked with pure Florida-strain largemouth.
That first generation of fish is now approximately 14 to 15 years old, or near its peak in growth. The lake has good habitat and a good nutrient base, including hatchery raised rainbow trout.