So what’s the greatest IGFA world record of all time? That's a subjective question — but Sport Fishing tapped some of the top experts in the field to get an answer, as well as determine the 100 best world records ever caught.
We sought input from seven angling experts, historians and authorities (Michael Farrior, Enrico Capozzi, Martin Arostegui, Mark Sosin, Raleigh Werking, Gary Carter and Mike Leech), each of whom suggested catches and then ranked the top 100 as they saw fit.
The cumulative results of their rankings are represented in the following gallery.
Of course, ranking record catches will always be a subjective exercise. The truth is that each catch over the following pages represents a phenomenal accomplishment, requiring great skill and patience to achieve. Enjoy the gallery.
No. 100 — Roosterfish
This legendary catch, which still stands nearly 60 years later, just goes to show that Peru's Cabo Blanco wasn't only a phenomenal fishery for huge marlin. (Actual photo of record catch unavailable.)
No. 99 — Bluefish
A truly huge bluefish, caught from the Outer Banks’ surf in the dead of winter.
No. 98 — Pacific Snook
Pictured is actually Betsy Bullard's 37-pound, 7-ounce record snook caught on 16-pound test in 2008, a fine catch in its own right. Now, imagine a fish 15 pounds larger, caught 50 years ago. That was the size of Jane Hawood's monster, a photo of which was not available. It still stands today as the women's 30-pound record, however.
No. 97 — Goliath Grouper
Specimens close to the size of this monster still swim throughout Florida’s waters — but they can’t be kept.
No. 96 — California Yellowtail
An absolutely huge California yellowtail, caught fairly recently.
No. 95 — Great Barracuda
Impressive 11-to-1 barracuda catch on a fast, jumping fish; no easy task on 4-pound test.
No. 94 — Giant Black Sea Bass
A picture of Richard Lane's huge sea bass was not available — pictured here is another record from yesteryear: R. Gautier's 448-pounder, taken in 1975 off the Coronado Islands on 30-pound test. (The giant black sea bass is now a protected species in California waters.)
No. 93 — Greater Amberjack
What a monster! Researchers say AJs can reportedly grow to more than 170 pounds; this one certainly taps the upper limit.
No. 92 — Narrowbarred Mackerel
Awesome 13-to-1 catch of one of the world’s fastest fish taken on very light line.
No. 91 — Cobia
Imagine bringing this fish aboard! While scientists say cobia can grow to 150 pounds, this one was legally caught and its weight recorded, so it is officially the largest on record.
No. 90 — Giant Trevally
Impressive catch of a true battler on light line.
No. 89 — Pacific Cubera Snapper
Dick Love was reportedly fishing for black marlin with live bait when this monster hit.
No. 88 — Permit
A relatively recent catch, this monster proves that all-tackle-caliber fish (even popular species) still swim the world's oceans.
No. 87 — Atlantic Sailfish
Absolutely giant Atlantic sail caught on respectable-size line.
No. 86 — Hammerhead Shark
A lengthy battle resulted in this truly huge fish. However, great hammerheads are now protected in Florida waters.
No. 85 — Tarpon
Legendary catch by a legendary angler. Pate was a driving force during the golden age of fly-fishing for tarpon at Homosassa, Florida.
No. 84 — Mako Shark
Very large mako caught on light gear by a female angler. Impressive stuff.
No. 83 — Cobia
18-to-1 comeback catch came only one day after Cunningham lost another 70-plus-pounder on 4-pound line after a grueling five-hour fight that lasted well into the nighttime hours, ending with a missed gaff shot and a lost trophy.
No. 82 — Red Drum
Fish caught in the surf — what’s more, catch came exactly 11 years to the day after Elvin Hooper caught what was formerly the all-tackle record (and still the 30-pound line-class record), a 90-pound red taken in Rodanthe, North Carolina, just north of Avon.
No. 81 — Pacific Sailfish
Not the most amazing line-class record, but without a doubt the biggest sailfish ever landed in the history of mankind. The record has stood for more than 60 years. (Actual photo of record catch unavailable.)
No. 80 — Yellowfin Tuna
Marked the first yellowfin tuna ever caught on fly gear and led to the now-common practice of dead-drifting flies in a chum slick. “Twice the tuna totally stripped all the line off the reel right down to the knot on the spool,” recalls Sosin.
No. 79 — Atlantic Snook
A monster snook on any line-class, let alone 6-pound.
No. 78 — Yellowfin Tuna
“Consider the tackle at the time of this catch.” — Mark Sosin
No. 77 — Yellowfin Tuna
Tremendous six-hour battle with one of the world’s toughest fish. A fine 11-to-1 catch.
No. 76 — Roosterfish
The biggest roosterfish ever officially recorded. This record has held up for 53 years, which is amazing given the popularity of this species.
No. 75 — Swordfish
One of only a couple swordfish ever to be taken on fly tackle. A very rare catch. (Actual photo of record catch unavailable.)
No. 74 — Bonefish
While this picture may not do the fish justice, Batchelor's bonefish ranked as the largest specimen ever caught — anywhere.
No. 73 — Bonefish
Amazing catch, considering the light tippet — required a prolonged, 30-minute battle.
No. 72 — White Marlin
Required a lengthy battle on an extremely light tippet.
No. 71 — Striped Bass
This recent catch of what is arguably America’s most popular saltwater game fish supplanted a long-standing all-tackle world-record striper of 78 pounds.
No. 70 — Pacific Sailfish
One of the very few photos available of Dr. Webster Robinson and his wife Helen, this shot may not encapsulate Robinson's light-tackle accomplishments, but his Jan. 18 Pacific sailfish catch marked the first-ever specimen caught on fly, one that eventually led to the development of bait-and-switch techniques now common to that type of fishing. Robinson would also go on to catch the first striped marlin on fly, as well, though his fish were not recognized as official IGFA records.
No. 69 — Tarpon
While not an official IGFA world record, “this catch set a standard at the time — it showed how big a fish could be landed on light, plug tackle.” — Mark Sosin
No. 68 — Dogtooth Tuna
Outstanding fly-rod catch considering the brutal strength of this species.
No. 67 — Pacific Halibut
The sole IGFA world record on our list stemming from Alaska, this 30-to-1 catch is a dandy.
No. 66 — Pacific Bluefin Tuna
A recent catch, proving yet again that all-tackle-record-caliber fish still can be caught.
No. 65 — Atlantic Bigeye Tuna
Incredibly long battle by one of the sport’s best big-game anglers of all time.
No. 64 — Striped Marlin
Catch ranks as the largest marlin ever caught on fly tackle by a female angler. The fact that it was taken on mere 12-pound tippet is extraordinary. (Actual photo of record catch unavailable.)
No. 63 — Atlantic Blue Marlin
The first blue marlin ever caught on a fly rod in angling history. “I actually weighed the marlin, used our record board and wrote the IGFA application for him,” remembers friend Enrico Capozzi. “Funny enough, almost 20 years since then, I have been trying to best his record, but for one reason or another have not succeeded yet.”
No. 62 — Pacific Blue Marlin
Only 3 ½ pounds shy of a grander! Still, a fabulous women’s catch.
No. 61 — Wahoo
One of the coolest catches on our list, the all-tackle record wahoo was actually caught by a 15-year-old girl on vacation with her family. This catch holds three records: all-tackle; women’s 80-pound line-class; and junior all-tackle. The charter boat was headed back to the docks after a slow, half-day trip when the monster hit.
No. 60 — Pacific Sailfish
Impressive longevity of this huge sailfish record on light line — it was set almost 40 years ago. The fight time indicates this was a real battle.
No. 59 — Pacific Sailfish
Fabulous light-line billfish catch. At one time, Dunaway actually held records for all nine billfish species simultaneously, a record that will never be duplicated, says Mike Leech. Those fish were Atlantic and Pacific blue marlin, Atlantic and Pacific sailfish, swordfish, black marlin, white marlin, striped marlin and shortbilled spearfish. The abbreviated fight time indicates that adroit boat handling played a big role in this and other ultra-light-tackle records.
No. 58 — Pacific Sailfish
A very large sailfish on the lightest of line — ratio of more than 55-to-1. Note how quickly this fish was boated, an indication of close teamwork between the captain, crew and angler.
No. 57 — White Marlin
Absolutely enormous white marlin caught on relatively sporting gear.
No. 56 — Mako Shark
75-to-1 catch on one of the toughest, fastest fish in the sea.
No. 55 — Dolphin
Outstanding catch, 29-to-1, on a tough, jumping pelagic species. A giant dolphin this size is tough on any gear, let alone 2-pound test.
No. 54 — Bonefish
Not an official IGFA record, but a legendary catch nonetheless. Brooks’ bonefish is generally considered the first ever specimen targeted and specifically caught on a fly rod.
No. 53 — White Marlin
“This is the only marlin ever caught on 2-pound tippet,” says Mike Leech. “Capozzi also holds the 2-pound tippet sailfish record.”
No. 52 — Tarpon
More than 50-to-1 on a difficult-to-catch jumping fish. Fabulous light-tackle catch.
No. 51 — Lemon Shark
One of the largest saltwater fish ever caught on fly gear. Fish was safely released after being weighed.
No. 50 — Pacific Blue Marlin
Over 20-to-1 on light fly tippet of a jumping fish. Catch came three days before Capozzi’s girlfriend, Stacey Parkerson, became the first female angler to catch a Pacific blue on fly.
No. 49 — Pacific Blue Marlin
Catch marked the first Pacific blue marlin ever to be landed on fly gear by a female angler — and it remains to this day the largest blue caught by a female on IGFA fly tackle. The catch required an epic, 4-hour, 20-minute battle.
No. 48 — Pacific Blue Marlin
Nice 42-to-1 light-tackle marlin catch from one of the most famous fishing lodges in the world, Tropic Star. The two-minute fight time reflects close collaboration between boat crew, captain and angler.
No. 47 — Permit
One of the greatest flats fly-rod catches ever, likely never to be broken. The flat that this fish was caught on is now known as the “Scene of the Crime.”
No. 46 — Pacific Bluefin Tuna
While not an official IGFA world record, Holder’s catch kick-started the sport of big-game fishing and is generally regarded as the first bluefin tuna to be caught on rod-and-reel. These fish were previously believed to be uncatchable on recreational fishing tackle.
No. 45 — Pacific Sailfish
Catch marks the only billfish caught by a female angler with a fly rod and 2-pound tippet. It was over quickly, as the two-minute fight time indicates.
No. 44 — Atlantic Blue Marlin
The largest IGFA-record Atlantic blue marlin caught to date on fly gear, this catch actually exceeds the species’ record on 20-pound tippet.
No. 43 — Black Marlin
Excellent light-line marlin catch by a “fantastic light-tackle fishermen who has been a pioneer in fishing,” says Enrico Capozzi.
No. 42 — Pacific Blue Marlin
Epic battle by one of the best female anglers in the world that lasted well past sundown. “I was saturated and cold from the waves breaking at the back of the boat, but I just kept winding as if beating eggs,” remembers Jacobsen.
No. 41 — Striped Marlin
Another excellent marlin catch on fly gear. Evans caught this fish only a couple months before he would record the largest-ever IGFA-record Pacific blue marlin on fly, a 288-pounder.
No. 40 — Tarpon
The only 200-plus-pound IGFA-record tarpon to be caught on fly.
No. 39 — Atlantic Blue Marlin
The largest IGFA-record Atlantic blue ever caught by a female angler, this record has stood for more than 30 years.
No. 38 — Pacific Blue Marlin
An historic catch, it marked the first official sport-caught blue marlin in the Pacific Ocean. “The catch actually created the Pacific blue marlin record category following years of discussion, because at the time, scientists did not believe there were blues in the Pacific,” says IGFA librarian Gail Morchower.
No. 37 — Tarpon
A celebrated catch that eclipsed his previous record-182-pounder and continued to push forward the notion that catching a 200-pound tarpon on IGFA-regulation fly tackle was possible.
No. 36 — Pacific Blue Marlin
Big marlin; light line; long fight — a classic record that has stood for more than 30 years.
No. 35 — Pacific Sailfish
Fabulous 35-to-1 light-tackle record on a jumping pelagic fish.
No. 34 — Yellowfin Tuna
This is the famed “million-dollar tuna.” Guy Yocom set out with the express purpose of catching an all-tackle world record yellowfin — he was registered in Mustad Hooks’ “Hook A Million” world-record contest, which promised $1 million to anyone who caught an IGFA all-tackle world-record fish with a Mustad hook. Amazingly, Yocom and his team pulled off the impossible.
No. 33 — Atlantic Blue Marlin
Note the fight time — this was an extended battle with a very large marlin on light line, a 35-to-1 catch.
No. 32 — Striped Marlin
A truly giant striped marlin, which has held up for nearly 30 years as the all-tackle world record.
No. 31 — Black Marlin
This famous catch ignited the concept of taking a fish over 1,000 pounds on rod and reel. It served as the first all-tackle world record black marlin and held firm until it was replaced by Alfred Glassell’s 1,025-pounder in 1954.
No. 30 — Pacific Blue Marlin
This catch was never recognized as an official world record, as it was shark bitten. Still, it is considered the first fish over 1,000 pounds ever landed on rod and reel — caught by one of the most famous anglers of all time.
No. 29 — Black Marlin
It is believed to be the first black marlin over 1,000 pounds taken on rod and reel. While not officially recognized as an IGFA record, Schmidt was presented with a special certificate. A dogged angler, he had only one arm and one leg, resulting from a childhood injury, and fought the giant marlin for 4 hours before requiring relief on the rod when the fighting chair and harness broke. Not a record, but certainly one of fishing’s most amazing accomplishments.
No. 28 — Bluefin Tuna
One of the great tuna records of all time. “It’s over 18-to-1, the highest-ratio tuna catch ever,” says Gary Carter. The catch even exceeds the existing men’s 50-pound record, an 897-pounder caught in Spain in 1977.
No. 27 — Bluefin Tuna
The biggest tuna ever caught on IGFA-regulation fly tackle.
No. 26 — Pacific Blue Marlin
The largest IGFA-record blue marlin ever caught on fly succumbed after a grueling hour-long battle with one of the world’s best blue-water fly-rodders.
No. 25 — Atlantic Blue Marlin
A short-lived fight, but at 70-to-1, a fabulous light-line catch.
No. 24 — Swordfish
The largest IGFA-record swordfish ever taken by a female angler, this fabulous record still stands after 59 years.
No. 23 — Tarpon
“The current all-tackle record is 3 pounds heavier (286 pounds, 9 ounces, caught in 2003 at Guinea-Bissau), but this fish was caught 57 years ago, before the modern-era of fishing tackle.” — Mark Sosin
No. 22 — Tiger Shark
A very large animal taken on relatively light line — a 45-to-1 catch. (Actual photo of record catch unavailable.)
No. 21 — Black Marlin
The first IGFA-legal marlin over 1,000 pounds caught by a pioneering angler of the famed Cabo Blanco Fishing Club. A benchmark fish that “set the mark for all,” says Mike Leech.
No. 20 — Black Marlin
Better than 60-to-1 ratio on a very large marlin fought over a lengthy time period on light line — a terrific catch.
No. 19 — Tarpon
The greatest IGFA fly-rod tarpon catch of all time, amazingly only 8 pounds shy of the 20-pound tippet record. An outstanding catch on 12-pound tippet, likely to never be beaten.
No. 18 — Atlantic Blue Marlin
“The first-ever (IGFA-record) Atlantic blue marlin grander that showed all big-game anglers that granders in the Atlantic were possible.” — Mike Leech
No. 17 — White Shark
The second-biggest fish ever caught on IGFA-approved tackle — caught by the same angler who holds the outright largest. The great white has since become a protected species in the region, and using marine mammals such as porpoise for bait is now an unethical practice, no matter where you fish.
No. 16 — Atlantic Blue Marlin
Campbell holds four records in our rankings — more than anyone — and this fabulous 51-to-1 marlin catch ranks as his highest-rated.
No. 15 — Striped Marlin
Enormous striped marlin on any class tackle, let alone 6-pound test. Note the brevity of the battle, an indication of highly effective coordination between angler, captain and crew. (Actual photo of record catch unavailable.)
No. 14 — Pacific Blue Marlin
“This record has stood for 31 years in defiance of some of the world’s best anglers and captains.” — Mike Leech
No. 13 — Atlantic Blue Marlin
Took the big-game fishing world by storm. Few predicted the next all-tackle record Atlantic blue would come from Brazil.
No. 12 — Pacific Blue Marlin
This outstanding marlin catch of nearly 37-to-1 is made even more remarkable by the fact that Everette lost his right leg and nearly lost his right hand in an Alaskan pipeline accident 11 years earlier. “Kelley would never complain about anything,” says Raleigh Werking.
No. 11 — Black Marlin
One of the great all-time record catches that required a legendary quest to achieve: “She pursued this record for 7 years before success,” says Mike Leech.
No. 10 — Black Marlin
“The only marlin grander over 50-to-1.” — Gary Carter
No. 9 — Striped Marlin
A member of the ultra-rare 100-to-1 club, this catch ranks as Jacobsen’s crowning light-line achievement.
No. 8 — Atlantic Blue Marlin
The line tested under 4 pounds, according to former IGFA president Mike Leech, and at 160-to-1, Cloostermans’ marlin ranks as the greatest weight-to-line-strength-ratio catch of all time.
No. 7 — Black Marlin
The line tested well under 6 pounds, with the catch ratio settling at 146.2-to-1. How such a huge marlin could be caught on such whisper-thin line boggles the mind. A fight-time of just 15 minutes is indication that boat handling played a crucial role.
No. 6 — Tiger Shark
Caught from a pier, this legendary catch produced an epic stand-up battle for Maxwell, with more than 100 spectators cheering him on. “The fish was taking out line so fast that the reel would start smoking,” remembers Marilyn Small, who snapped the only known photographs of the shark, including this famous picture.
No. 5 — White Shark
The largest fish ever taken within IGFA regulations. Period. With great whites now protected, this IGFA record is destined to stand for the ages.
No. 4 — Swordfish
Even with today’s massive recreational pressure on swordfish, Marron’s giant remains the only IGFA record for this species over 1,000 pounds. “This record may well be unbeatable even with modern-day tackle, ”says former IGFA president Mike Leech.
No. 3 — Bluefin Tuna
What a monster! Fraser’s famous 1,496-pound bluefin ranks as the largest IGFA-record tuna ever caught. Though it is a relatively recent catch, it's also “another record that will likely never be beaten,” according to Mike Leech.
No. 2 — Black Marlin
This is the largest IGFA-record marlin ever caught by a female angler. Mrs. Hughes' huge black is bested only by Alfred Glassell’s famous 1,560-pounder, taken at Cabo Blanco a year earlier. Hughes, a New York public-relations account executive (then known as Kimberly Wiss) had only caught a few mahi in her fishing lifetime before latching into this epic fish.
No. 1 — Black Marlin
It stands as the largest marlin ever caught on IGFA regulation tackle. Glassell was a famed sportsman who fished the world over and helped found the legendary Cabo Blanco Fishing Club in Peru. Throughout the 1950s, Cabo Blanco produced the greatest scores of giant marlin the planet had ever seen — and this fish was the grandest of them all, ranked by our experts as Sport Fishing’s greatest IGFA world-record catch of all time.