Tournament anglers know game day excitement. There's nothing quite like returning to the ramp with a winning limit ... except maybe weighing in a new world record. That's exactly what happened on April 21, 2001, for California's Bryan Shishido, and it may have happened again recently for 49-year-old, Keith Bryan of Novato, Calif., CEO of Powell Rods.
Shishido caught the world record spotted bass (10.27 pounds) while competing in an American Bass Big Valley Team Tournament on California's Pine Flat Lake 13 years ago. Keith Bryan bagged a 10.48-pound spot on 12,500-acre New Melones Lake in central California on Feb. 22 — the first day of a California Tournament Trails pro/am event. The bass measured 24 1/2 inches long with a girth of 22 1/8 inches. If certified by the International Game Fish Association (IGFA), it will be the new world record.
Ironically, Shishido's bass was also recorded at 10.48 pounds on tournament scales, but subsequently registered a few ounces less on certified scales. Keith Bryan's bass is a remarkable case of déjà vu.
Tournament weighmaster Bill Cook was amazed by the giant spot.
"I've weighed 13-pound blacks in before," Cook said. "I've seen a 20-pounder first hand. But when Keith pulled his spot out of the bag, that thing just kept coming. It was obscenely big. It was huge! I cannot tell you how excited I was. In over 300 tournaments as a weighmaster, I've never come close to being that excited. We got done and I was shaking ... and I didn't even catch a doggone fish. It was absolutely something special. When we put it on the scale, I thought it had a great chance of being a world record."
Tales of scales
After the tournament weight was recorded, Bryan went in search of a certified scale, eventually finding one at a local market. By then, the bass' weight had slipped about nine ounces, to 9.91 pounds — not nearly enough to claim the record.
But Bryan didn't give up. He contacted the IGFA, completed the record application process and requested the tournament scale be sent in for certification.
Things started looking up on March 10, when the tournament scale was tested. It was confirmed certified by Jack Vitek, IGFA Records Coordinator, who said, "We're going to go with that original weight, because that was the most accurate as far as when the fish was weighed after being caught."
But the big spot is not in the books just yet. That will take at least 60 days.
"It will go through the review process," Vitek said. "We'll test the line, review the photos, testimony and application. His fish was heavy enough to qualify for two records — not only the heaviest spotted bass ever recorded by the IGFA, which is considered the all-tackle record, but also it would qualify for the heaviest in the 8-pound line class."
The catch of many lifetimes
Fishing on the upper end of the lake, Bryan targeted a point and shelf that was near both deep water and a spawning flat. The water temperature there was 56 degrees.
"It was a bluebird sky, and there was enough wind to slap the bank, but not enough to make a mud line," he said. "It was a perfect place for baitfish to move in and give them cover. It had all the ingredients I was looking for."
Bryan's bass struck a wacky rigged 5-inch Senko from Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits (330 color — green pumpkin/purple & copper flake) rigged on a 2/0 Gamakatsu WG Weedless Finesse hook with a 3/32-ounce nail weight in its head. The bait was fished on a Shimano Stradic 3000 paired to a Powell Inferno 6103 MEF spinning rod and spooled with Power Pro braided line and a leader of 8-pound-test Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon.
"I was casting as close to the bank as I could, letting it settle, deadsticking it and then hopping it down the bank a little," explained Bryan. "When I got to about 10 feet it just felt heavy, and I knew there was one on."
It was just after 2 p.m. and Bryan and his nonboater suddenly had a double. They were fighting their bass when the co-angler's came off and Bryan's made a run for deep water.
After a few seconds passed, the fish broke the surface and gave the anglers a glimpse of her massive head. Bryan let her play herself out in deep, open water. After several tenacious runs, his co-angler netted the trophy, and the celebration began.
A tournament to win and one more thing
At the tournament scales, Bryan's bass quickly got a lot of attention.
"They called it the new 'unofficial' world record, and I was freaked out," he said. "I couldn't stop shaking. The tournament director was screaming. Everybody was taking pictures, flashing their phones, telling me to turn around over here, look over there, face this way, step that way. I mean how great is that — a little guy, fishing a little circuit with a monster big league fish."
Bryan's "kicker" boosted his overall catch to 21.39 pounds — the biggest bag of the day. He repeated that honor on Day 2 with "just" 17.10, winning the tournament with a total of nearly 40 pounds.
Once the weigh-in was over and Bryan had weighed the bass on scales at a local market, he still had one thing left to do.
"I knew it was my job to get her back into the water safely," he said.
Some locals anglers who heard about the giant bass joined Bryan as he walked out on the pier and let her go.
"She swam off and we saw her go under a dock toward deep water," he said. "One of the guys got it in on video. It was cool.
"Really though, it's not about a world record. It's about the fact that I was lucky enough to be that guy. I was that guy that went out and had a great day fishing. How much more fun can a guy have in a sport that he loves?"