Hayes reclaims top smallie honors

If the new world record smallmouth bass looks a lot like the old world record smallmouth bass, there's a reason for that. It's the same fish.

When David Hayes caught his 11-pound, 15-ounce brown bass from Dale Hollow Lake in 1955, he knew it was bigger than any smallmouth he had ever seen before, but he didn't know it was a world record, and he had no idea once it was recognized as such that he'd receive two world record certificates.

In 1996 — 41 years after the catch — when a long lost document was located that cast doubt upon the integrity of the catch, the record keeping authorities at the International Game Fish Association, National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame and state of Kentucky had a feeding frenzy with Hayes' catch, disqualifying it and striking it from their record books.

Only Tennessee reserved judgment. Instead of jumping on the disqualification bandwagon, they sent Ron Fox, the Assistant Executive Director of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, on a fact-finding mission. What he found cast doubt on the nay-sayers, not on Hayes or his catch.

In October, BASSMASTER published a story titled "The Case for David Hayes," which spelled out the facts and circumstances surrounding Hayes' catch and the many reasons for believing in its authenticity.

On Nov. 22, 2005, Fox and BASS' Ken Duke met with Mike Leech, Ambassador at Large of the IGFA, and Jason Schratweiser, the IGFA's Fishing and Science Director, to discuss Hayes' case and possible reinstatement. The evidence was compelling, and on Dec. 12, 2005, IGFA reinstated Hayes as the world record holder.

"I feel great about this," Hayes said from his Leitchfield, Ky., home. "It's good to be vindicated after all these years.

"I'd pretty well given up on it," Hayes added, "but you guys [BASSMASTER] put the pressure on them. I thought something might happen after the article came out."