Nick Dulleck was 100 percent certain the world record spotted bass lived in New Bullards Bar Reservoir in northern California, and he believed he had a 1-in-a-million chance to catch it.
But the 33-year-old from San Jose, Calif., came prepared on his birthday weekend trip and beat those odds. Dulleck caught, recorded and released an 11-pound, 4-ounce spotted bass that he hopes will become the IGFA all tackle world record.
“The IGFA already has everything. They have my packet, my scale. They have already seen the videos. It’s 99.9 percent in my head right now. I think I’m good,” said the trading specialist with Loring Ward, who paid $105 to ship his entry.
The International Game Fish Association in Dania, Fla., is the keeper of fish records. Its current listing for spotted bass is a 10-6 caught at New Bullards Bar by Timothy R. Little on Jan. 12, 2015.
Larger spotted bass have since been caught there, namely Cody Meyer’s 10.80 on Dec. 16, 2016 among them. In 2015, Paul Bailey caught a spotted bass there that weighed 11-4, but he couldn’t get its weight certified. California state records list Louis Ferrante as the spotted bass record-holder for the 11-3 he caught from New Bullards Bar in February, 2015.
Mark Zona and Elite angler Brent Ehrler took a trip to the lake in January, 2016, to tape “Zona’s Awesome Fishing Show.” Both caught personal best spotted bass but not a record, although Ehrler predicted one should come from there soon as the fish are fattening up on Kokanee salmon. (See story)
Dulleck had fished New Bullards Bar a number of times and was addicted to his monster hunts. He has caught two double-digit largemouth from small lakes, and said he begs friends with boats to visit the mountain lake 3 ½ hours from San Jose. It was a longshot, but something he desperately wanted to pursue.
Dulleck celebrated his birthday Friday, Feb. 10, and he and partner Adam McAndrews left the city by the bay around 3 a.m. Saturday. They only caught two small fish Saturday, and the normally gin clear water had muddied from recent storms. Dulleck stayed up late respooling his reels with heavier line, and they actually slept in and started fishing at the late hour of 9 a.m. Sunday. He held hope, even if it was slim.
“The odds that I knew a record was still alive in there, 100 percent,” Dulleck said. “The odds of me catching it, 1 in a million. I knew that even that 1 in a million, if it happened to me, that I wanted to be 100 percent prepared with the equipment and the process to make it happen.
“And I think that’s why it happened. I was completely ready. If it did happen, I wasn’t going to be surprised.”
Dulleck’s catch came at approximately 10 a.m. Sunday. It was the first and last bite of the day for him and McAndrews. Dulleck needed only 64 seconds to reel in the 24.5-inch-long bass with a 20.75-inch girth. He plans to release details on his tackle at a later date.
“I knew it was big, but I didn’t know it was this big,” he said of when it bit. “When we both saw it, we took a quick breath. It was a moment of shock when we knew how big it was. Adam netted her and pulled her on the back of the deck. We’re both freaking out.
“I said, ‘That might be it.’ He’s like, ‘That might be it.’ I doubted myself. ‘Maybe not, but either way it’s a giant.’ He said, ‘No, that’s it. That’s the world record.’”
McAndrews, who fished college bass events with San Jose State University, had caught an 8-6 spot and knew this fish was considerably larger. Dulleck said they were in complete shock, and McAndrews began breathing heavily and said he felt like he might pass out.
The fish went in the livewell as the men tried to calm down to calculate their next move. After a few minutes, they hung the fish on a scale for the moment of truth. The weight flickered between 11.24 and 11.26, the definite record.
They started contacting people who could help verify the catch. Little, a game warden with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, was gone skiing in the mountains. He had helped Meyer try to certify his spotted bass, even though he was the record holder at the time.
Dulleck and McAndrews went to shore and again videoed another weighing of the fish. The weight fluctuating between 11.24 and 11.26 on a Brecknell Electrosamson scale and buried past the 11-pound mark on a Boga Grip. Then they went to find witnesses. A group of five people, including a man and his 9-year-old daughter, were fishing from shore, and Dulleck asked if they wanted to see a world record weighing.
“One guy said, ‘Hell yeah!’ And the little girl starts jumping up and down, ‘World record!” Dulleck said. “I started to get a little emotional.”
One in the group clapped when the reading again fluttered between 11.26 and 11.24. Dulleck and McAndrews weighed it three more times. The catch and much of their day was recorded by GoPro cameras, the footage of which Dulleck is contemplating how to best release.
“I have the entire day on film,” he said. “I overly documented this because of everything that’s happened and how many records have been rejected.
“I was overly prepared for a once-in-a-lifetime thing to happen. Did I think it would happen? Not necessarily. Did I think it was a possibility? Definitely.”
With all their running, texting, calling and weighing, the record fish was with them in the boat for close to five hours. Dulleck said the last thing before releasing her was to take more photographs.
“We took a pictures for maybe a minute, put her back in the water and worked water through her gills,” he said. “Had a perfectly safe release. She swam away — I have it all on film. It’s awesome. A perfect ending. It worked out great.”
After the initial freaking out over indeed catching a potential world record fish, Dulleck said he thought everything he and McAndrews did was professional. They did have a little scare going home. They stopped at the nearest gas station and learned that there was an evacuation order downstream from nearby Lake Oroville. Their path home led them directly through the potential flood zone.
Dulleck said there was a bit of chaos as they drove through the Feather River region for the first hour or so in harm’s way. He was trying to email himself clips of the catch in case disaster struck. Once home, Dulleck went mum.
“Until I had that packet in the mail to the IGFA in Florida, I didn’t hardly tell anyone,” he said. “These past four days, I haven’t slept more than 2 hours a day. I wasn’t sure if when I woke up it’d still be real.”
The story got out once he posted the image on his Facebook page. His phone, as they say, has since blown up.
“I dropped that picture of me holding it, knowing the Internet was going to freak out, and my phone was going to turn from a regular person’s phone to a crazy, insane phone with a million notifications and calls,” he said, adding fishing news outlets have led the list.
Dulleck said he has been hooked on bass for nearly 20 years, hitting lakes and ponds in Almaden Valley and fishing float tube tournaments while dreaming of getting a bass boat and joining a circuit. He chose to get an education at Santa Clara University with hopes of one day circling back to fishing. San Jose, on the south end of San Francisco Bay, has a high cost of living, and a month ago Dulleck said he told his bosses at Loring Ward he wanted to transfer to their Sacramento office.
“Purely so I could afford to finally buy a house, to get a boat, have a dog and actually live like I wanted to, because it’s so expensive in San Jose,” he said. “And part of that is because I’m addicted to this lake. It’s super surreal.”
See more photos of Dulleck’s catch on Instagram @supranick