(Editor's note: Following is the text of a release issued today by the International Game Fish Association regarding the world-record status of a fish caught in Japan last summer.)

After nearly 6 months of waiting, Japan’s Manabu Kurita is taking his place alongside Georgia angler George Perry in the International Game Fish Association’s (IGFA) World Record Game Fishes book as dual holders of the All-Tackle record for largemouth bass – each weighing 22-04 and caught 77 years apart.

Today the IGFA approved Kurita’s application for the fish caught from Japan’s largest lake on July 2, 2009. The 70-year old non-profit fisheries conservation, education and record-keeping body received Kurita’s application and documentation on Sept. 19, 2009. The largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) was caught from Lake Biwa, which is an ancient reservoir northeast of Kyoto.

Kurita, 32, of Aichi, Japan, was fishing Biwa that July day using a Deps Sidewinder rod and a Shimano Antares DC7LV reel loaded with 25-pound Toray line when he pitched his bait, a live bluegill, next to a bridge piling. It was Kurita’s first cast to the piling where he had seen a big bass swimming. He only twitched the bait a couple of times before he got bit. After a short, 3-minute fight, he had the fish in the boat.

Kurita was quoted as saying, “I knew it was big, but I didn’t know it was that big.”

But big it was. Using certified scales, his fish weighed in at 10.12 kilograms, or 22 pounds, 4 ounces. When measured, the fish had a fork length of 27.2 inches and a girth of 26.7 inches. The IGFA only has line classes up to 20-pound for largemouth bass, so Kurita had no chance at a line-class record as well.

IGFA rules for fish caught outside the U.S. allow anglers 90 days to submit their applications from the date of their catch. The documentation was received through the IGFA’s sister association the, Japan Game Fish Association (JGFA). IGFA conservation director Jason Schratwieser said Kurita’s application was meticulously documented with the necessary photos and video.

Kurita’s fish ties the current record held for over 77 years by Perry, who caught his bass on Georgia’s Montgomery Lake on June 2, 1932, near Jacksonville, Ga. That 22-04 behemoth won Field and Stream Magazine’s big fish contest and 46 years later, when the IGFA took over freshwater records from Field and Stream, it became the All-Tackle record – now one of over 1,100 fresh- and saltwater species the IGFA monitors.

IGFA All-Tackle records are now free for viewing by the public at IGFA.org. Kurita’s name is now on the IGFA Web site with that of Perry’s and will appear in the 2011 edition of the World Record Game Fishes book – unless that record is broken this year.

The IGFA announced the decision at its headquarters with a live video feed carried on Bassmaster.com, one of the most popular fishing Web sites in the world and the official site of the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (BASS).

In North America the largemouth bass, and especially the All-Tackle record, is considered by millions of anglers as the “holy grail” of freshwater fish because of its popularity and the longevity of Perry’s record. That fish undoubtedly helped to spawn a billion-dollar industry that today makes up a significant part of the sport of recreational fishing.

“The moment Kurita weighed his fish, word spread like wildfire," said Schratwieser. "We knew this would be significant, so we immediately contacted the JGFA for more information. Established in 1979, the JGFA compiles and translates all record applications of fish caught in Japan before forwarding to the IGFA.

“It works out well because they not only translate applications but can also contact the angler if more documentation is needed.”

Lengthy Process

“Since the IGFA requires 3 months from the time of capture before a record can be approved, the official word would have to wait until Oct. 2,” said Schratwieser. "However, almost right away rumors began to circulate that Kurita may have caught his fish in a ‘no-fishing zone’. In response, the IGFA immediately corresponded with the JGFA to speak with the angler about this issue and to gather information regarding the legality of fishing where Kurita caught his bass.

"Official word came back that the location of the catch was not a no-fishing zone, but was an area where anchoring or stopping was prohibited. This spurred more correspondence with the JGFA and the angler, including affidavits asking the angler if he stopped his boat at anytime. Again, the testimony and affidavits that came back indicated that Kurita did not violate any laws and that his catch was indeed legitimate.”

It didn’t end there.

A considerable amount of time and correspondence was to continue between the IGFA, JGFA and Kurita, a primary reason it took so long to come to a decision. During this time, the IGFA was also besieged with letters and emails from the bass fishing community, said Schratwieser.

“Many were incredulous that the All-Tackle record could be tied from a fish in Japan. Others beseeched the IGFA to approve the record and give Kurita the credit he deserves. Still others wanted to know why the entire process was taking so long. It soon became clear to the IGFA staff that this would be a contentious issue no matter if the record were approved or rejected.

“The IGFA was also sensitive to this particular record because in past years there have been several attempts to sue us over largemouth bass record claims. Although none of these claims have been successful, they have resulted in considerable legal fees for the IGFA."

In the end, the IGFA staff concluded it would be both in the best interest of the IGFA and that of Kurita if he submitted to a polygraph analysis. The IGFA reserves the right to employ polygraph analyses to any record application, and this is explicitly stated in the affidavit section of the world record application form.

Again, more correspondence was issued to the JGFA to request that Kurita take a polygraph test. He immediately agreed.

On Dec. 15, Kurita was examined by a professional polygraph analyst in Japan. The many questions he was given included if he was truthful about the information reported on the application form and if his boat ever came to a complete stop while fighting his fish.

The results from the polygraph concluded that Manabu Kurita answered the questions honestly and that the catch was legitimate. George Perry’s 77-year-old record was officially tied.

Due diligence pays off

“Six months may seem like a lot of time to determine if a fish ties a record,” said Schratwieser. “Hopefully, people now understand the amount of due diligence the IGFA conducted on this record. Although we treat all records with equal rigor, the All-Tackle largemouth bass record is nothing less than iconic and the bass angling community deserved nothing less.

“The IGFA wishes to applaud Kurita on his outstanding catch and would also like to commend him on his patience and candor during the entire review process. We would also like to thank the JGFA for their diligence and tireless assistance in corresponding with Kurita and fisheries officials.”

Where Will the Next Record Come From?

Largemouth bass have been introduced in many countries, but in Japan, fisheries officials consider it an invasive species. In addition, because bass are not native and are stocked in Japan, many speculated that the big bass was a sterile triploid. However, when biologists in Japan examined the ova of the big female, Schratwieser said they concluded that the fish was not triploid.

For over 77 years the record stood as bass fanatics theorized when and where it would be broken. Over the years there have been rumors and unsubstantiated reports of bass that could have tied or eclipsed Perry’s record, but nothing ever passed IGFA criteria. Some anglers did come close, however.

Schratwieser said the closest came in 1991, when Robert Crupi caught a 22-pound bass at Lake Dixon in California that still reigns as the 16-pound line class record and the third-heaviest approved bass record in IGFA history.
“Most people thought that the next All-Tackle record would come from California. Until Kurita’s tie, the seven heaviest bass records behind Perry’s came from California lakes. Although not native to California, it appears transplanted bass have adapted quite well to the deep, clear lakes and reservoirs and the abundant trout forage found in some of them.

“Little did people know that introduced bass grew big in places besides California, and that there are true monsters swimming on the other side of the world in Japan.”