The possibility of holding a world angling record, never mind three of them**, was something I had never contemplated, even in my wildest dreams.
I have to admit, it was quite a thrill when the letters and award certificates from the International Game Fish Association finally arrived, informing me that my applications had been accepted, and I was now officially a world record holder.
What started me on my quest for angling gold was a rewards program initiated in the mid 1980’s by the Berkley tackle company.
Berkley was willing to pay $1000 to anyone who caught an International Game Fish Association (IGFA) World Record using they’re Trilene brand of line.
The program was a huge success, with over 1000 world records being caught by Trilene users, but unfortunately I was something of a latecomer to the dance, because I didn’t catch mine until after the program had expired.
To be successful, the pursuit of a world angling record has to be taken very seriously, and is going to require, among other things:
- A thorough understanding of the rules and regulations
- Meticulous preparation
- Proper equipment, and
- Plenty of luck
Internationally recognized world angling records begin, and ultimately culminate with the International Game Fish Association (IGFA).
Founded in 1939, the IGFA maintains world records for both freshwater and saltwater game fishes, in line class, tippet class, length and all-tackle categories.
All-Tackle World Records are kept for the heaviest fish of a species caught by an angler in any line class up to 130 lb. (60 kg).
Line Class World Records are kept according to the strength of the line. Fly Rod World Records are maintained according to tippet strength.
There is a relatively new category - All-Tackle World Length Records - and to qualify, the fish must be released.
Junior World Records are also kept for children up to 16 years of age.
In order to view all of the current world record catches, and have your application processed by the IGFA, you must become a member. Regular memberships are currently $40 per year, and e-memberships can be purchased for $15 per year. In addition, there is a $40 fee for processing your application. All of the foregoing amounts are in USD.
For detailed membership, and other information about the IGFA, visit their website at: www.igfa.org
In the event you are only interested in pursuing a North American freshwater world record, another option is the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum – www.freshwater-fishing.org
They maintain both All Tackle and Line/Tippet Class records for over 125 species of freshwater game fish caught within North America.
Each species is broken down by Rod and Reel, Fly Fishing, Pole/Line/No Reel, and Ice Fishing. They also maintain a catch and release category, which is based entirely on length - much like the IGFA All Tackle World Record Length category.
Many of the requirements to have a world record certified are similar to the IGFA’s, and while there is a fee to process applications, you do not have to become a member to have your catch evaluated.
Detailed criteria and application forms are available on their website.
Having your catch certified as a world record is an extremely complicated, and time consuming process.
Please note that the information I am about to provide is just a high level a summary of the IGFA requirements. For all of the specific rules and regulations – and there are many – visit the IGFA website.
To begin with, you must have a comprehensive understanding of the rules governing catches and the application process, which includes, but is certainly not limited to, specific requirements for:
- Measuring, and
- Identifying your catch
For example, you will be required submit line/tippet samples for testing, the lure you used to catch the fish, a photograph of your tackle, and all applications, with certain exceptions, must be notarized.
I would also recommend familiarizing yourself with the time limits for submitting an application, and the IGFA International Angling Rules and Equipment Regulations.
Find a niche, and by this I mean examine the record book to see what record(s) you have a reasonable chance of breaking. If, for example, you have your heart set on breaking the All Tackle world record for Lake Trout, the chances of breaking that record are remote at best, as the current record stands at 72 pounds. My advice is to review both the line and tippet class records, and you may just find one that is within reach.
You might also consider focusing on some of the less “popular” species, because the records may not be as difficult to beat as those for Bass, Pike, Walleye and the more popular saltwater species.
In the event there is even the slightest doubt about the species of fish you are entering – some hybrids can be tricky to identify – consider freezing, transporting and having the fish examined by an ichthyologist or certified fishery biologist, otherwise it is likely to be disqualified.
If staying at a lodge, or using a charter service, make enquires regarding their ability to safely package, freeze and transport your fish.
Have your reels serviced on a regular basis, and spool them with fresh line, or tie on fresh leader/tippet material, as the case may be. Check the inside of the guides on your rods to ensure the inserts, if any, are solidly in place, and there are no nicks or burrs that could cut your line.
Your work will be cut out for you even if you are only a witness to a potential world record catch.
In 1991 I witnessed the catching of what was then, the All Tackle World Record for Lake Trout. This monster weighed an incredible 66-½ pounds, breaking the previous record of 65 pounds, which had stood for over 20 years.
Because I was listed on the application as a witness to both the catch and weighing of the fish, I was asked by the IGFA to submit an independent report, pictures, and even some video I had shot as part of the comprehensive verification process.
Fish must be weighed on scales that have been checked and certified for accuracy, at least once every twelve months, by government, or other qualified and accredited organizations.
Because of the strict weighing requirements, access to a certified scale is essential, and the more remote your location, the harder it will be to find one. If a certified scale is unavailable, there are several brands of portable hand held scales available that can be certified.
The brand I prefer is Chatillon – www.chatillon.com. They manufacture a quality line of portable fish and game scales that are IGFA certifiable.
If not using a certified scale, calibrate your scale beforehand, using an object of known weight, such as a bag of flour or sugar. If your scale is too far out, then it is unlikely to be certified once officially tested.
The IGFA does offer a scale testing service to members, for scales up to 100 - pound capacity; therefore consider having them check your scale for accuracy prior to using it in the field.
In the event there is no certified scale available, the IGFA does allow a scale to be certified after the catch.
Please note, that except when applying for a Junior World Record, you must weigh your catch on land, otherwise it will be disqualified.
While I may be starting to sound like a broken record, let me say it again - there is no substitute for meticulous preparation.
Not unlike an Olympic Athlete, you must prepare, and be at the top of your game when the moment arrives that will put your skills to the ultimate test, because believe me, you won’t get very many opportunities to strike gold.
Together with doing your homework regarding the rules and regulations, prepare a field kit to take along on your fishing trips.
This kit should include:
- Small Notebook and Pen/Pencil. You will need this to record such information as the length and girth or your fish, where it was caught, together with specific witness information, such as their name(s), address, telephone number etc.
- Certified Scale(s). I always take my own, so as not to be caught short. It also avoids having to transport the fish to the scale, during which time it can loose precious weight. Depending on the size of fish you are targeting, you may need more than one scale. I carry both a 100 - pound scale, and one that weighs up to ten pounds, with scale graduations in ounces for smaller fish.
- Measuring Device. Because precise measurements of your catch are required, you will need a measuring device of some kind. A standard - preferably waterproof - tape measure will do in most cases, unless of course you plan on applying for a World Length Record. In that case, your fish must be measured using an official IGFA measuring device, which you can purchase at: http://store.igfa.org.
- World Record Game Fishes Book. It’s always a good idea to know the size of fish your going to have to beat, and have a summary of the rules handy. If you don’t want to lug around the entire book, and won’t have access to a computer, write down the records for the fish you will be targeting in your notebook.
- Camera. You will need a good camera with a quality lens, because you must submit a series of pictures together with your application. Pictures must include one of; the rod and reel you used to make the catch, you holding the fish, a very clear one of the fish itself, so it can be positively identified, the scale, and one showing the full length of the fish, with the measuring scale next to it, if possible. If submitting a claim for a World Length Record, you must include a picture of the fish on the approved measuring device, showing the position of the mouth and tail, and another with a close up showing the position of the fish’s nose and tail on the measuring device.
- Blank Application Forms. Keep several in your field kit, and unless you live close by, don’t wait until you are back home to start drafting your application. These forms also contain valuable information you can use to refresh your memory when processing your catch.
- Four Leaf Clover, Rabbits Foot or Similar Talisman. While being prepared is certainly important, fact is, you’re going to need a great deal of plain old luck to become a world record holder. I always pack a small, woven bracelet in my field kit given to me by my eldest daughter as a good luck charm. Hey, it worked for me.
Pack all of these bits and pieces in a small, easy to transport waterproof bag, and you’re good to go.
Location, Location, Location
The odds of catching a world record are astronomical at best. It’s unlikely that there is any species of fish recognized by the IGFA that does not have a world record of one kind or another associated with it, meaning you will probably have to come up with a damn good fish to beat it.
Potentially, a world record can be caught just about anywhere, but having said that, there are definitely some places that will significantly improve your odds of catching the biggest fish this planet has to offer.
Serious world record hunters travel around the globe to fish waters that have had the least amount of pressure, and are known for producing some of the biggest of any given species.
Scan the record book and take note of where many have been caught, and you will see what I mean.
Is It Worth the Effort?
There are likely as many answers to this question as there are fishermen.
Chasing down world records is certainly not for everyone. As you have no doubt come to realize, there is a ton of work to do, both before and after the catch.
It can get very expensive, particularly if you plan on travelling around the world in search of record fish, and invest in the equipment you will need to be successful.
If you are seriously into catch and release, then don’t even bother, because with all of the measuring, photographing, weighing and such that is required, it’s highly unlikely the fish will ultimately survive the ordeal.
But getting back to the question at hand - personally, there is no feeling quite like it.
It’s incredibly satisfying when all of the planning, and hard work you have been doing, for years in many cases, finally pays off, and you bring home some world angling gold.
Hey - you never know – maybe I will see you up on the “podium” one of these days!
**I previously held one tippet class, and two line class world records for Lake Trout and Arctic Grayling. Currently I hold the IGFA 6 pound test, line class record for Arctic Grayling.