Lake Biwa, Japan's largest lake, is a long, long way from Puget Sound.
It’s a long, long way from the southern California lakes that were supposed to kick out the next world-record largemouth bass.
And it’s a long, long way from the native waters of the largemouth bass – the southeast and midwest of the United States.
But the lake near Kyoto, Japan, is where Manabu Kurita trolled a live bluegill through a canal, hooked and landed a 22-pound, 4-ounce largemouth bass on July 2. That fish may tie the 77-year-old world-record largemouth bass.
This is huge news for bass anglers all over the planet. Largemouth and smallmouth bass evolved in the United States, but they’ve been stocked all over the world. Rabid anglers cast lures for largemouth bass in Japan, Mexico, Cuba, parts of Europe, South Africa and even the Philippines.
Bass angling is a billion-dollar business in the United States, and the fish are popular with anglers wherever they’ve been stocked.
It’s been speculated for years that landing a world-record fish would be worth millions of dollars to the lucky angler.
I believe that, as I grew up in Southern California, where giant largemouth bass eat stocked hatchery trout in world-famous spots such as Lake Casitas and Castaic Lake. Giant bass also fin around in small lakes near San Diego.
I fished Lake Casitas once or twice a week when I was in my late teens and early 20s, and recall Ray Easley’s huge 21-pound, 3.5-ounce largemouth that was caught in March 1980. It seemed like every outdoor writer on the planet was fishing Casitas the next day. I know this because I was there.
My biggest bass from Casitas was a puny 8-pounder, which wouldn’t even get a second glance from California’s big-bass experts. Of course, that same bass would be a lunker up here in the Northwest.
Bass experts have predicted for years that the next world-record bass would come from California, since 22 of the 25 heaviest largemouth bass were caught in California lakes, and most of those fish chowed down on hatchery trout to pack on the pounds.
Largemouth bass need lots of warm weather, and plenty of easily grabbed protein, to get giant.
A hardcore big-bass angler named Mac Weakley landed a mammoth 25-pound largemouth on Dixon Lake, near San Diego, in 2006, but he decided to not apply for the new world record, as the fish was accidentally foul hooked.
Weakley’s fishing partner, Jed Dickerson, hooked the same fish back in 2003 when it was 21.7 pounds.
Southern California’s crew of big-bass hunters can often identify big bass, through natural markings, that were caught and released years before.
The International Game Fish Association, which certifies world-record fish, is evaluating the evidence of Kurita’s catch, which includes documents, video footage and photos.
If Kurita’s portly bass – it is 27.2 inches long and 26.77 inches around – wins certification, it will tie the record set in 1932.
Angler George Perry caught the current record bass during a 1932 fishing trip to Georgia’s Montgomery Lake.
I made a quick call to Pete Johnson, who handles public relations for the IGFA, and he said the record application arrived at IGFA headquarters in Dania Beach, Fla., on Sept. 14.
It may take a month to make a final decision.
“The 1932 record has been considered the Holy Grail of bass fishing,” Johnson said.
I like the idea of a world-record bass coming from a big, old lake in Japan.
Japanese anglers love bass fishing, although the fish are rightly considered an invasive species in their islands, and it’s common to see Japanese anglers fishing big-bass lakes in Florida, California and throughout the Southeast.
I also love the idea of a big bass lurking around in a lake far, far away from the conventional bass hot spots. I don’t chase fishing records, but I believe that big fish can be found in strange places, such as under the local boat dock.
I’m pretty sure the next world-record largemouth bass will not come from the Northwest, but I think we’ve got a shot at the next world-record smallmouth bass.
Well, I suspect that a smallmouth that could nudge the 11.9-pound world record is swimming around in the Columbia River and is growing fatter every year on a rich diet of salmon and steelhead smolts, baby shad and plenty of crayfish.
Then again, some kid fishing a cricket for bluegill on a Kentucky lake, or maybe Black Lake right here in Thurston County, will probably land a 12-pound smallmouth.
And wouldn’t that be cool?
Chester Allen: 360-754-4226