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.