It’s not often that a state record is broken by 15 pounds (27.3 %), but that is exactly what giant striped bass caught last February 28th by James Bramlett did. His extremely chunky 70 pound striper grabbed a 10-inch gizzard shad Bramlett threw towards the jumbo striper while fishing from a kayak in the Black Warrior River. The Black Warrior River is the major tributary of the Tombigbee River and since it is a long way from the Gulf of Mexico, Bramlett’s fish was almost certainly a freshwater fish. In addition to demolishing the previous Alabama record striper of 55 pounds taken way back in 1959, Bramlett’s striper is under consideration for world record status for freshwater stripers by the IGFA.
An extremely chunky fish, Bramlett’s 70 pound striper was only 46.5-inches in length and probably about the same length as the previous record – but the new record appeared to be in immediate-prespawn shape and at its heaviest. Congratulations to Mr. Bramlett for the fish of a lifetime – and for having a wife that actually encouraged him to go fishing.
The Alabama record striper accomplishes one other thing. It takes a little bit of the sting out of Rodney Ply’s 68+ pound striped bass that was larger than the previous freshwater record striper (67 pounds eight ounces from California). As soon as Ply pulled the huge striper from Bull Shoals Reservoir, bad luck began hounding the otherwise “lucky” angler. For Ply, landing the monster striper in Bull Shoals was the easy part. After landing the lunker, Ply tried to find a certified scale to weigh the fish on as the one at a nearby marina was not certified.
Ply was then directed to drive 30 miles to meet up with a game warden at a grocery store, but the store’s certified scale was too small to weigh the fish – as were several other scales at stores they visited. The original scale at the local marina later had their scale certified and it was found to be accurate. But in the meantime, both the IGFA and the Arkansas Game and Fish Department ruled that the fish was ineligible for state record or world record recognition.
Despite doing everything he could to properly authenticate the striper, the Department of Fish and Game determined that he had not followed proper procedures and the IGFA initially ruled that he lure, an Alabame Rig clone that only had two hooks instead of the usual five was not legal – even though every state had ruled it to be a legal fishing lure subject to the number of hooks allowed by individual states. While a number of states limit the number of hooks on an Alabama Rig to three (often called California Rig when it only has three hooks) no state has yet ruled that two hooks are too many.
One reason that Rodney Ply keeps fighting the obvious injustice dealt him by the two record-keeping agencies is that he was signed up for Mustad Hooks’ “Hook A Million” contest that awards $100,000 to an entrant that sets a state record and $1,000,000 to an entrant that sets a world record.
Ply has not given up fighing for both the recognition and the money and public opinion is definitely on his side. This is not the first time that the IGFA has “robbed” an angler of world record recognition. In 1988, the IGFA ruled that Mike Manley’s 38 pound nine ounce brown trout from the North Fork of the White River, was not eligible for world record status because he caught it on a small treble hook with a cheese bait – like that fished by millions of other anglers. For some reason, most of the IGFA’s misteps have dealt with freshwater fish species.