For decades, we bass anglers have been telling ourselves that a world record largemouth would be worth $1 million — maybe more — to the fisherman lucky enough to catch it. After all, the largemouth is the most sought-after and prized record in the entire world. Surely there’s a king’s ransom to be had.
We’ve had fantasies of ticker-tape parades, television appearances and full page advertisements in all the outdoor magazines. But just how realistic are those fantasies? And how much can Manabu Kurita make on this fish — assuming it’s certified and bigger than the 22-pound, 4-ounce bass caught by George Perry more than 77 years ago?
Well, the news may not be good for Kurita. It seems the pot at the end of the world record rainbow may be more hype than gold. Here are 10 reasons Kurita’s bass — even if properly certified — might not be worth a fortune.
1. Made in Japan
No offense to the Land of the Rising Sun here. They’ve been a wonderful ally to the United States for the past 64 years and make some of the finest fishing tackle in the world. But if you’re looking to cash in on a record bass you might want to consider catching it in California, Florida or Georgia rather than halfway around the world. It’s going to be tough for most of us bass anglers to identify with the fishing in Japan and almost none of us are going to pack up and trek out there to give it a try.
2. English Please
Manabu Kurita is probably a fantastic angler, and he’s certainly caught the fish of a million lifetimes, but if he doesn’t speak English and can’t communicate effectively with an American audience and the American outdoors media, he’s going to have a very tough row to hoe when it comes to selling himself and the story of his catch. If there are big bucks to be made off this fish, they’re to be made in the United States and before an English-speaking audience.
3. The Right Lure
The really big dollars to be made off a world record come from marketing the lure that was used to catch it. Unfortunately, the most reliable reports available at this time indicate that Kurita caught the giant bass on live bait — either a bluegill-type fish or some sort of koi. Without a bait to promote, the lion’s share of Kurita’s sponsorship opportunities may be gone.
4. The Right Distribution
The Deps tackle company obviously makes some terrific equipment. After all, Deps made the rod that Kurita used to catch the monster. The problem is that virtually no one in the U.S. — the biggest part of the bass market — has ever heard of Deps or held one of their rods. In order for Deps to take advantage of the buzz created by the new potential record, they’re going to have to mobilize a whole lot faster than most companies could ever hope to mobilize.
5. Wanted Dead or Alive!
In years past, several companies — usually tackle manufacturers trying to ensure that a new record was caught on their bait, rod, reel or line — offered bounties on the world record largemouth. Creek Chub Bait Company, Berkley and BASS were just a few of the companies that had bounties ranging from $10,000 to $100,000 on the fish. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Big Bass Record Club offered as much as $8 million for a record caught by a member. It appears that none of these bounties are offered anymore, and their absence will definitely cut down on how effectively Kurita can monetize his catch.
6. (Insert Cricket Sounds Here)
The latest word from Japan is that Deps is creating a video with Kurita offering details on his catch. Supposedly they’ll be offering it for sale. That might be OK for the casual fan, but for the hardcore and especially for the American media, this simply will not do. We need more and we need it faster. When it comes to record bass, the story is a lot like justice — story delayed is story denied. Kurita, with or without Deps, needs to get his story out, and the sooner the better.
7. Bass of the Great Depressions
What is it about economic strife and big bass? When George Perry caught the record in 1932, the world was in the middle of the Great Depression. Now, as Kurita applies for record status with his fish, the world is in another financial abyss. Just as the tough economic times are hurting us, they’ll likely cut into what Kurita can get for his accomplishment.
8. Fool Me Once
We’re a tougher, savvier audience today than ever before. Back when George Perry caught his record, or even in the ’70s and ’80s when California was establishing itself as the place to go for record class fish, bass fanatics might have believed that the key to catching a record was having the same gear as the angler who caught it. Not anymore. Now we realize that tackle is just one element in the mix, and we’re not going to go out and buy a Deps rod or Toray line just because Kurita used it. That kind of savvy is great … unless you’re trying to make a buck.
When Mac Weakley foul-hooked “Dottie” a few years back, the angling world got a look at a 25-pound, 1-ounce largemouth bass that few could have anticipated. After all, who knew they got that big?! Well, Dottie opened more than a few eyes and plenty of bass experts felt it was just a matter of time before Perry’s record fell to a California bass — Dottie, to be specific. Of course, it didn’t happen. But once you’ve seen the bright lights of a 25-pounder, it’s tough to get fired up over a garden variety 22-pounder, right? Kurita may have earned a share of the record, but his fish was no Dottie, and he’ll suffer the financial ramifications of that.
10. When is a Record Bass Not a Record Bass?
That question is really one for the International Game Fish Association. According to their rules, “To replace a record for a fish weighing less than 25 pounds, the replacement must weigh at least 2 ounces more than the existing record.” Since Kurita’s bass weighs less than 1 ounce more than Perry’s, the two will be considered a tie for the all-tackle mark. Ties, they say, are like kissing your sister, and Kurita’s bank account isn’t going to benefit from that. To really cash in, he needed to break the record, not tie it.
So is a world record bass really worth $1 million? Maybe, but it’s likely worth nowhere near as much as it could have brought a decade or more ago — when a million bucks was really a lot of money and things were a little different. It looks like the record may not be all it’s cracked up to be … at least if you’re talking about dollars and cents.
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Till next time tight lines and good fishing….