The story came from Pete Johnson in a news release, titled "IGFA restores 50 year-old smallmouth bass record," issued five and one-half years ago. It said, "After an intense investigation of documents, many from 50 years ago, the International Game Fish Association, the organization which among its duties maintains world records for both freshwater and saltwater game fishes, has reinstated a record for the biggest smallmouth bass ever caught.
"While fishing Dale Hollow Lake on the Tennessee/Kentucky line, July 8, 1955, David Hayes caught the biggest smallmouth bass of his life. He brought it to a nearby marina which weighed the catch at 11 lb. 15 oz. and measured it at 27 inches long with a 21 and two-thirds inch girth.
"Hayes entered the fish for a record with Field & Stream magazine which, at the time, was the keeper of freshwater records. Field & Stream granted Hayes' fish a record for the heaviest smallmouth bass ever taken on rod and reel, and in 1978, when the IGFA took over freshwater record keeping from Field & Stream, it was then granted a world all-tackle record by the IGFA.
"On August 17, 1955, unbeknownst to Field & Stream or the IGFA, Raymond Barlow (a dock worker at the marina where Hayes brought the fish to be weighed) submitted an affidavit to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stating that Hayes' fish had only weighed 8 lb. 15 oz and that he had stuffed three pounds of metal in the fishes' mouth and stomach to make it a record. It wasn't until 40 years later when the affidavit was uncovered that the IGFA was contacted and informed about the sworn statement.
"The IGFA's policy has always been to investigate standing records when proof is brought forward challenging its legitimacy," said Jason Schratwieser, IGFA Conservation Director. "After reviewing the affidavit, the IGFA in 1996 rescinded Hayes' record and a 10 lb. 14 oz. smallmouth caught by John Gorman in 1969, also on Dale Hollow Lake, was recognized as the new IGFA All-Tackle record.
However, Schratwieser said, recent documentation, including polygraph results, was supplied to the IGFA indicating that David Hayes' fish was never tampered with.
"Further investigation also found that the dimensions of Hayes' fish would make it very unlikely to weigh 8 lb. 15 oz. when you compare it to the previous (Gorman's) All-Tackle fish's dimensions of 26 and one-quarter inches in length and 21 and one-half inches in girth. Based on this information,the IGFA decided to reinstate David Hayes' catch as the All-Tackle smallmouth bass record."
Schratwieser said the IGFA wishes to congratulate Mr. Hayes on a true catch of a lifetime and welcomes him back to his rightful place in the IGFA World Records.
"The decision was officially recognized in the IGFA's 2006 World Record Game Fishes annual, released worldwide."
KENTUCKY RESTORES IT
Upon learning of the IGFA's action, Kentucky acted to reinstate Hayes' catch, too.
"The all-tackle world record smallmouth bass is again Kentucky's state record after David Hayes' legendary 11-lb. 15-oz. fish, taken from Dale Hollow Lake in July, 1955, was recently reinstated by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources," said Benjy Kinman, at the time director of fisheries for the department. "We definitely know the fish was caught in Kentucky waters. We are proud to have the all-tackle world record smallmouth bass back in Kentucky,"
Kinman said Hayes caught the legendary smallmouth in the mouth of Illwill Creek near Phillips Bottom, north of Trooper Island. He was trolling a pearl Bomber 600 in the trough between two weed beds on July 9, 1955. He caught the fish between 10 and 10:30 a.m. while fishing with his family.
"Mr. Hayes' integrity was never in question," Kinman explained. "We removed the fish from our lists after the IGFA disqualified it. We followed the IGFA's lead on the front end and back end of this issue."
Ron Fox, assistant director of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, brought evidence to the IGFA that convinced them to reinstate the record.Some of the most compelling evidence is the length and girth measurements of the Hayes smallmouth bass.
The Hayes record smallmouth bass was between 12 and 13 years old when caught, Kinman said.
"That was probably a pre-impoundment fish," he said. "The fish had that excellent growth rate that comes with new reservoirs. That record will probably never be broken because we will never have those conditions again. We probably will not have another new major impoundment built on a smallmouth stream.".
G. SAM PIATT can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 236, or email@example.com.