Waiting for a World Record

Why have IGFA records for the most popular inshore gamefish remained unbroken for decades?

Look at the list of International Game Fish Association World Records for the most popular inshore gamefish and one thing becomes evident: time. The most recent all-tackle world record, Greg Myerson’s 2011 striped bass, is over a decade old. And the longest-standing record for common snook was set more than 50 years ago. Tired of waiting for these records to fall, we tracked down pundits and professionals to ask when they think the biggest inshore records will be broken.

Striped Bass: 81 pounds, 14 ounces

All Tackle World Record Striped Bass
Gregory Myerson’s All Tackle World Record Striped Bass Courtesy IGFA
  • Gregory Myerson
  • Long Island Sound, Connecticut
  • August, 4 2011

Who better to ask about the next World Record striped bass than the current record holder. It’s been over a decade since Greg Myerson caught one of the world’s most famous fish and he’s ready to set the next mark. “If they ever lift the slot limit, I’ll catch the next world record, too,” he says. His boasts aren’t hot air, Myerson holds the several striped bass records and striper tournament trophies. Myerson credits the deep ocean bottom and strong tidal currents off Connecticut and Rhode Island for bringing a steady stream of bait and big bass. “Big bass don’t like to move a lot so they are looking for a live lobster.” Myerson even predicts how the next world record bass will be caught; he has developed a rattling sinker that imitates the sound of a startled lobster. “The fish hears the sound and comes to investigate, that’s where he finds my eel.”

Red Drum: 94 pounds 2 ounces

All Tackle World Record Red Drum
David Deuel’s All Tackle World Record Red Drum Courtesy IGFA
  • David Deuel
  • Avon, North Carolina
  • November 07, 1984

Forty years ago, Frank Folb was working at the tackle shop that weighed the World Record red drum. Today, Folb has retired from tackle shops and taken up gardening, but he remembers the day the world’s biggest red drum was hanging from the scale. “Gosh, it was a fat fish,” he recalls. He says David Deuel fought the trophy drum down the Hatteras Island beach almost a mile before landing it. Due to the current slot limit on redfish, the red drum record will most likely never be broken. Back in the heyday of beach drum fishing, Folb rigged up a mobile scale to weigh a potential record on the beach. “We never had a fish large enough to break the mark,” he says. Folb has heard credible stories of redfish passing the length and girth test, but the fish were released. Despite the difficulty in setting a red drum record, Folb believes a 100-pound redfish is swimming somewhere off the Virginia or North Carolina coast.

Common Snook: 53 pounds, 10 ounces

All Tackle World Record Common Snook
Gilbert Ponzi’s All Tackle World Record Common Snook Courtesy IGFA
  • Gilbert Ponzi
  • Parismina Ranch, Costa Rica
  • October 18, 1978

The oldest record on the list is one of the most coveted. While Florida accounts for the largest population of snook anglers, Costa Rica holds the all tackle world record. Stuart-based Capt. Mike Holliday has landed snook up to 40 pounds, but beating the record in his home waters is almost impossible to imagine. “The next record will come from Costa Rica,” he says. Holliday explains the warm Latin American climate allows the snook to feed year-round and reach extraordinary size. Why hasn’t a bigger fish been caught in Costa Rica? Holliday says the fish in the 1970s and 80s were bigger. “People used to brag about the 40-pound club, now they brag about the 40-inch club.” Once again, fishing regulations are the biggest obstacle to breaking the record. Slot limits throughout the snook’s range keep the record safe from American anglers.

Spotted Seatrout: 17 pounds, 7 ounces

All Tackle World Record Sea Trout
Craig F. Carson’s All Tackle World Record Sea Trout Courtesy IGFA
  • Craig F. Carson
  • Ft. Pierce, Florida
  • May 11, 1995

Capt. Mike Holliday has personal experience with the World Record spotted sea trout. “I interviewed the guy who caught it,” he remembers. The long-time contributor to local and nationwide publications was on the beat when the fish was caught. “Craig Carson was visiting from Daytona and caught the fish on a Zara Spook off Dynamite Point.” Even though he didn’t witness the weigh-in or see the actual fish, looking at photos of the catch gives Holliday suspicions. “It doesn’t look like a 17-pound trout,” he insists. And the angler weighed the fish on a grocery store scale. And then there’s the incredible size. Holliday shakes his head, “I’ve never heard of a trout even close to 17 pounds.” The speckled trout record has stood for almost 30 years and Holliday thinks it will never be broken. “I’ve fished the same area for decades and caught one fish over 13 pounds,” he says.

Tarpon: 286 pounds, 9 ounces

All Tackle World Record Tarpon
Max Domecq Rubane’s All Tackle World Record Tarpon Courtesy IGFA
  • Max Domecq Rubane
  • Guinea-Bissou
  • March, 4 2003

Close your eyes and picture a 300-pound tarpon jumping through the air, diving under the boat and rolling on the line and you’ll understand the difficulty in breaking the silver king’s world-record mark. Zack Bellipigna, angler recognition manager at IGFA, is confident the record can be broken. “As sure as I’m sitting in my chair, there is a 300-pound tarpon swimming off the coast of Africa right now,” he insists. Bellipigna attributes the long-standing record to a lack of angler interest. “Hardcore tarpon anglers are more interested in setting line-class records in the Keys or along the Gulf Coast than going to Africa and catching a giant tarpon.” Bellipigna says IGFA’s Grand Slam awards are also seeing a lot of interest. “Catching a tarpon and two other trophy species in one day is a hell of an achievement but it is achievable.” Still, many of the line class records pale in comparison to the massive 286-pound beast.