Admit it: At some point during your angling lifetime, you’ve daydreamed about catching a world-record fish. Perhaps you’ve set out to try. A few of you might even have succeeded.
Hats off to you if you count yourself among that latter group. Setting an IGFA world record — whether all-tackle, line-class, fly or the relatively new category, all-tackle length — is no minor feat. Great investments of time, energy and yes, in some cases, money, are often required to land that dream fish.
But many records are completely within the realm of possibility. And that’s the beauty that inspires and drives many anglers in their quest.
Preparation Is Key
|Jack Vitek, IGFA’s world-records coordinator, carefully tests a line’s breaking strength on an Instron 5543 Tensile Testing machine. (ADRIAN E. GRAY)|
First off, recognize chasing a world record for what it is: a quest. Sure, occasional catches made largely by accident end up as records, but for the most part, record fishing is a game of preparation that starts well before ever hitting the water.
“I’ll generally spend about 10 hours preparing,” says Dr. Martin Arostegui, a retired medical executive who has set more than 400 records around the world over the past 20 years.
Arostegui’s system entails a detailed, methodical process of steps. He starts by discussing the fishing opportunities with his captain, then researches all the various record categories by species that he might encounter, including any pending records (submitted records that have not yet been formally approved by the IGFA). “I study all this to see what opportunities are there,” he says, “and which records are most vulnerable.”
Then he sets out on his quest. Arostegui has been at the game long enough that he’s already intimately familiar with IGFA’s International Angling Rules. But for those new to the world of record hunting, understanding the rules is of utmost importance, says Jack Vitek, IGFA’s world-records coordinator.
“It’s absolutely the most important thing,” he says, noting that anglers also must be cognizant and in accordance with local, federal, and state fishing regulations. “Everything is spelled out clearly in the rules. You can reduce many possible rejections by simply studying these rules, and doing some preparation and homework.”
The Biggest Boo-Boos
There are several important areas to focus on. The first is using a main line or class-tippet material that conforms to whatever pound-test category you’re targeting.
Vitek explains, “If you’re fishing 12-pound braid, and you catch a fish that could be a world record on 12-pound test, chances are that line is going to test at about 20 pounds, and you won’t have a new record.”
Braid notoriously overtests and is not generally used when pursuing records — at least not in the lighter line-class categories. But many monofilaments also overtest (if by lesser amounts), according to Vitek, who advises anglers to contact him prior to setting out for a record for guidance on lines that have been proved to test at certain breaking strengths. Indeed, Vitek often tests lines submitted by anglers before they ever set out to try to break a record.That’s how important this step is.
But it doesn’t stop at lines; that’s just the beginning. Tackle must conform to specific, time-honored IGFA rules. Specifications for lures, hooks, hook arrangements, leader lengths and much, much more are all chronicled in detail in the official rules.
“But probably the biggest rule infraction and reason for a rejection is when someone else touches the rod, or if a rod and reel are left for an excessive amount of time in a rod holder once a fish hits,” says Vitek.
These are all infractions, of course — but this particular area is incumbent on the angler himself to tell the truth about a catch.
“It’s an honor-based system,” says Vitek. “We have a lot of checks and balances, we conduct lots of interviews and take testimony from many witnesses, but at the end of the day, it’s about the angler’s integrity.”