OUTDOOR CORNER: Japanese angler catches largemouth bass that ties 77-year-old record

Lyle Johnson
Is that big or what? – Manabu Kurita holds his world record bass for all to see. The fish weighed 22 pounds and 4.97 ounces to tie a 77-year-old record.

Well, it’s finally happened. It stood for 77 years and has been the topic of many a conversation for years and years. Lots of folks that participate in this endeavor could only dream of their possibility to do it, but most knew better.

No other sporting record whether track and field, football, tennis, big game hunting and not even Babe Ruth’s 714 home run record stood as long as George Perry’s large-mouth bass record of 22 lbs 4 oz. Perry certainly didn’t think as much about his lunker as we do for after he weighed the monster caught on Lake Montgomery on June 2, 1932 with a certified scale, he brought it home and had it for dinner.

Well, where did it come from? Certainly it must have come from California’s Lake Dixon as Mac Weakley caught one over 25 pounds but released it because the hook set produced an outside of the mouth catch which is illegal in California while sight fishing. Man they feed them with 2 lb rainbow trout just to get them big. Nope.

Then Florida, right or maybe Georgia? Surely it came from the region where the gene pool of these monster bass originated and have been stocked everywhere in the world. How about Texas? They have a lunker sharing program that rewards the angler that lands a bass over 13 pounds and donates the catch with a replica mount. The eggs are harvested and fertilized with sperm chosen from a very large male bass. Nope.

The 22 pound 4.97 ounce big bass was landed by Manabu Kurita on July 2 in Lake Biwa across the big pond in Japan. Japan? Just how in the heck did a bass get to Japan? Well like most other circumstances, somebody brought them there. In 1925 Akabishi Tetsuma, a Japanese businessman imported 90 largemouth from California into Ashino Lake.

Being a business man, Tetsuma liked the taste and thought it could be a commercial source since Japan consumes large amounts of fish. But the plan backfired and bass are considered a non-native, invasive species by Japan's Ministry of the Environment. Along with commercial interests, an attempt to sink the country's non-native freshwater largemouth and smallmouth bass that it says are wiping out stocks of important food fish from the country's lakes.

Government agencies are reportedly subsidizing gill-netters to remove the fish and pushing regulations that require anglers to keep and kill any bass they land. So much for catch-and-release fishing, the cornerstone of the sport everywhere else.

Ok, that’s enough history, back to the fish and fisherman. Was this a fluke? Hardly. Kurita is a 33-year-old bass angler that started his quest for catching big bass when he was 15 and spends lots of his spare time doing just that. He’s learned well as his techniques for fishing with live bluegills and $350 swim baits averages over 100-bass a year that tip the scales over 9 pounds. His largest before the record setter is 18-8 although he lost one he estimated over 28 lbs and he’s seen them that might top 30 lbs.

His favorite location to fish is the Big Bridge that crosses Lake Biwa and the hangout for the lunkers that swim there are the bridge pilings. On that morning of destiny, Kurita spotted a school of 20 pounders. That’s right, a school of 20-pound bass and spotted one really big one on a piling.  He then headed for the bank to catch some 10 inch bluegills using nightcrawlers for the live bait presentation.

Around 11:30 that morning Kurita returned to the piling where he saw the big bass. A 5/0 hook was tied to his 25-pound line without a weight to free line the live bream, then the dorsal fins were cut off for a better hook set.

It didn’t take very long as the behemoth swallowed the big bait on his first cast as he pitched it to the piling and twitched it away a couple of times to avoid his line breaking if the fish made a run. After a short fight he landed the bass and had to enlist the help of a nearby commercial fisherman to transport the fish to be weighed as his live well was too small.

The certified scales read 10.12 kilograms which translates to a little under 22-5 and then Kurita began the process to get it recognized by IGFA as a world record. It took nearly twice as long to complete the process but proper documentation, photos, videos, biologists’ analysis as well as polygraph tests were conducted and everything checked A OK.

On Jan. 8 IGFA ruled that Kurita’s bass to tie with George Perry’s fish from 77 years ago. The certified weight was 22-4.97 which is actually larger than Perry’s but their rule is that for a fish under 25 lbs, its weight has to be two ounzes more to beat the record. Kurita is happy with a tie but that won’t stop him from beating his own record. Lake Biwa has a 30 pounder swimming in its waters.

Japan may very well be a new bass fishing destination for American anglers that have lived their lives trying to top the world record. They may just have to relocate. Oh yeah, they might have to save a little more money as a normal fishing day in Japan cost over $500. Gas up to $7.20 a gallon; launch fee $30; $125 for using the toll road during the week. We’ve got it good. Remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. So until next time have fun in the outdoors, be safe and may God bless you.