World Record Follies, Frauds and Hoaxes (Part 1)

Throw enough zeroes at something and you’re bound to create some interest. That’s the way it’s been for the world record largemouth bass ever since the mid 1970s when someone decided that a new record would be worth more than $1 million.

In the 79 years since George Perry caught his 22-pound, 4-ounce largemouth from Georgia's Montgomery Lake, there have been several claims to usurp the top spot. Of course, it wasn't until July 2, 2009 — with Manabu Kurita's 22-5 — that anyone could fairly claim a better fish.

Here are a few of the most memorable record claims that fell very, very short.


From the realm of good-natured fakes comes the late A.J. “Junior” Samples and his claimed 22-pound, 9-ounce largemouth bass from Georgia’s Lake Lanier in the spring of 1967. As Junior told it, he was out on Lanier fishing with a live spring lizard when the behemoth struck.

Samples battled her to the boat with his little “Zeby-co” reel and managed to lift her aboard. After that, things got a little hazy because Junior was impaired by the effects of a number of adult beverages, but he still had the head of the bass when reporters appeared — and it was huge! Junior couldn’t quite remember which marina weighed the bass for him, but he did recall the weight. He had eclipsed the world record by five ounces!

The problem was the giant fish head in his yard wasn’t a bass; it was a grouper that had been caught by a friend. Samples saw it and decided to concoct the world record story. Perhaps the funniest part was that several lakeside marinas confirmed his story and claimed to have weighed the bass for him. When he appeared on the Atlanta television news telling his tale, he was spotted by some talent scouts and parlayed his prank into a long run on “Hee Haw.”

Everybody Doubts Raymond

In 1974, a Pennsylvania transplant living in Madeira Beach, Fla., claimed to have caught a 24-pound, 12-ounce bass from Lake Tohopekaliga on a plastic worm. Raymond V. Tomer reported his catch to the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission in order to enter it in the Florida State Fishing Contest. He and his witnesses claimed that the lunker measured 39 1/2 inches in length and 30 inches in girth. Tomer tried to preserve the bass on ice, but his cooler wasn’t big enough, so he decided to filet it. Unfortunately for Tomer, the bass had spoiled, so he nailed the head to a post where raccoons ate it overnight.

Not surprisingly, state officials did not certify Tomer’s catch, citing a lack of remains, indefinite photographic evidence and inconclusive evidence of accurate measurements as their reasons. Applying some well-regarded formulas to the claimed dimensions of Tomer’s bass indicate it would have weighed at least 35 pounds. Judging by the photographs, it seems unlikely that his fish weighed more than half what he claimed.

Dive! Dive! Dive!

Catch a big enough bass and someone will surely assume you stuffed the fish full of lead. Well, when Sandra W. DeFresco caught a largemouth weighing 21-10 from Lake Miramar in March of 1988, no one suspected a thing … at first. After all, Miramar had produced giants before, including a 19-8 just two weeks earlier from the very same area.

But when DeFresco sent her bass out to be mounted, the taxidermist found a 2 1/2 pound diving weight inside the bass.

No one fessed up to any wrongdoing, but area biologists surmised that the bass had swallowed (or, more likely, been force-fed) the weight quite a bit earlier since the fish was regenerating tissue to hold the weight in place. Suspicions eventually died away, and the bass was certified at 19-1 — the original total less the diving weight.

But if speculation is your thing, you could take the weight of the bass that had been caught a few weeks earlier (19-8), add the diving weight plus a baitfish (trout) or two (that might have been regurgitated during the fight) and conclude that it’s at least possible that someone thought it would eclipse the existing world record.

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