World-record bass boated in California Largemouth tips scale to 25.1 pounds, then is released back into Dixon Lake By Brett Pauly ESPNOutdoors.com senior editor — March 20, 2006 <LI>Mailbag: Does this bass deserve world-record status? Respond here. He may have released her, but his intentions were good. Now the question beckons: Will Mac Weakley be rewarded with a world record for this 25.1-pound largemouth bass he boated early Monday in southern California. CARLSBAD, Calif. — "Chaos has broken out." Well, what do you expect when you notify the media that you boated a potential world-record bass? That was the story at the home of Mac Weakley, who early Monday caught a largemouth on tiny Dixon Lake in southern California that he and his long-time fishing partner Jed Dickerson weighed out at 25.1 pounds on a hand-held digital scale. If that weight stands up it would shatter what is considered to be the granddaddy of angling records — the 22¼-pound largemouth bass taken in 1932 at Georgia's Montgomery Lake by George Washington Perry. "I feel good, awesome, in fact," said Weakley, 32, of Carlsbad, Calif, who used a white jig with a skirt and rattle on 15-pound line to boat the brute. "I'm just stoked to see a fish that big." Claimed by many to be a mark that could never be eclipsed, the largemouth-bass record has become the thing of legends. It's the Joe DiMaggio 56-game hitting streak of the angling world. "It's simply because there are people who are out there who didn't think a bass can grow to more that 22.25 pounds," said James Hall, editor of Bassmaster magazine. "It's because of how elusive the record has been for so many years." Fortunately for the naysayers, the fish was documented by two anglers with impressive resumes — Weakley and Dickerson each already are officially recognized for boating top-15 bass of all-time at Dixon Lake — and they claim to have witnesses, photo evidence of the catch and video documentation of Monday's behemoth on the scale. "There is no smoke and mirrors," Hall said. Dickerson believes the 25.1-pounder is the exact same fish that vaulted him to the No. 4 spot on The Bassmaster Top 25 list when he caught her May 31, 2003, at Dixon Lake — a 70-acre impoundment in San Diego County. He knows this because she has the same distinguishing black dot under her right gill plate. Back then she weighed 21.7 pounds. "It's the same fish I caught three years ago," said Dickerson, 33, a casino-industry employee from Oceanside, Calif. "I knew this was a world record before we even weighed it. It's the biggest, most ferocious bass in that lake, guaranteed." But, like any good fishing story, this one comes with several sidebars. There's the fact that the fish was foul-hooked. That it wasn't weighed on a certified scale. And, ultimately, that it was released. All of which will no doubt conspire to make Monday's catch much more difficult to be recognized as a world record. Weakley and Dickerson, who fish Dixon Lake as often as five days a week, said they decided to release the spawning fish because they were under the impression it wouldn't qualify as a record because it was foul-hooked. Jed Dickerson claims the 21.7-pound he caught in 2003 (above) at California's Dixon Lake is the same 25.1-pounder taken today by his angling parter Mac Weakley. Only later did they discover that may not be the case. "It may still qualify," Hall said. "The IGFA (International Game Fish Association, the most-recognized keeper of angling records) has a pretty vague rule about foul-hooking, which states you cannot intentionally foul-hook a fish." Weakley now plans to submit his catch for verification by the IGFA, along with photos, video and the scale. "We didn't know" about the foul-hooking specifics, he said. "Now we are learning other things about it. If you accidentally foul-hook a fish and you instinctively set the hook, apparently it counts." We'll certainly learn more about it, also, in the coming weeks as the world-record application is processed. "It's way too early; this one is really up in the air," Hall said. "Ideally it would have been caught in the mouth and ideally it would not have been released and ideally it would have been weighed on a certified scale. "Ultimately, however, the fact that he boated a 25-pound largemouth needs to be recognized." As for the catch itself, Dickerson explained that it was raining and dark early Monday when the anglers came across the bedding bass in 12 feet of water. A male — often much smaller than a female in the world of spawning bass — also was on the bed, and it made several stabs at the jig. The fishermen couldn't tell whether the male or female was hitting the jig when Weakley set the hook at about 6:40 a.m. The fish surged to deeper water, then raced toward a nearby dock — where, Weakley said, three people, including the dock attendant for the city-owned facility in Escondido, Calif., witnessed the action. There Dickerson missed netting the fish on his initial attempt. By this time it was quite apparent that it was the female at line's end, and one extremely large specimen. It again finned to deeper water, and the pursuers followed in their electric-powered rental boat (all that is permitted for use at this 80-foot-deep reservoir). More evidence of big bass at Dixon Lake: Mike Long registered the largest largemouth in two decades when he boated this bubba in late April 2001. But five minutes after it was hooked, it was in the net. To the anglers' great dismay, the fish had been hooked in its side. Soon after that sad discovery — and determining that its own weight might hurt the fish in the handling process — the bassers decided to release it. "If I kept pulling it out of the water, I don't know if I would have damaged it. This was so big, we thought we were going to break its neck," Weakley said. "But we were confident in the scale. It is without a doubt the world record, so we let it go." Hall notes that there is the potential for a lot of cash to be associated with a world-record largemouth bass. It's been fabled by many that such a milestone could be worth $1 million or more to the lucky angler. "Had they not released the fish alive — and I think releasing it is the right thing to do — I think they might have made quite a bit of money," Hall said. He surmised that there might be sponsorships from the manufacturers of the gear used to catch the bass and payments for guest appearances with the fish mount on display. Hall said they still could get a plastic replica mount made, "But I don't know where in the hell they are going to get a mount that large." Whatever happens, Mac Weakley will no doubt become the poster boy for catch and release and, refreshingly, he's all right with that, even if he doesn't break the record or make a dime. "Would I be disappointed? Not at all," said Weakley, who is a supervisor at a casino in Oceanside. "I feel I'm very blessed; everything I care about is family and friends. I really don't care about money. "To tell you the truth, I have a good job and I do all right, and I really don't give a (second thought) about it at all. We're more happy just to see that there is a 25-pound bass still living and in this lake."