When Brian Beam landed a monster, five-foot-long white sea bass on his Hobie Outback, the Southern California angler wondered if he had a new world record. Months later, after a frenzy of online opinions and arguments, he is still wondering.

And it looks like Beam will never know for sure if the huge fish he caught off Dana Point is an IGFA World Record or even a kayak record.

For one reason, Beam caught the fish in early May, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. After he towed the beast to shore, local tackle shops and outfitters were closed. Beam couldn’t find a certified scale and he didn’t know whom to call.

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So, Beam ended up weighing the fish using a friend’s bathroom scale. The needle fluctuated between 77 and 83 pounds. Eventually, he and his friend split the difference and settled on 80 pounds.

The IGFA world record, set in 1953, is just short of 84 pounds, leaving Beam to wonder if his catch would have been heavier if he had quickly reached a certified scale.

Kayak fisherman holding a large sea bass on grey water.
Largest ever? We’ll never know. | Photo: Courtesy Brian Beam

Without a certified weight, the International Game Fish Association (IGFA), the group that oversees the designation of world records, would not consider the fish for recognition.

None the less, Beam was fairly certain his sea bass set a kayak record. But, since there is no definitive list of kayak fishing records, he will never be able to say his fish is the biggest.

For years, kayak anglers have argued for a special category of IGFA records. Currently, the IGFA awards records for line class, youth anglers, fly fishing and women anglers, but they have no plans to implement a kayak category. According to Nick Haddad, the IGFA’s angler recognition coordinator, numerous issues exist related to creating a new category for one style of fishing.

“It’s definitely an interesting concept, and I think it’s something people would like to see, but right now we simply don’t have that available,” Haddad says.

Haddad says any talk about a kayak category would require thoughtful discussion about the advantages and disadvantages. It’s not hard to imagine issues arising around mothershipping the kayak, using trolling motors or sophisticated electronics. In the end, there are too many considerations to make kayak fishing an IGFA category.

All is not lost, Haddad says he hopes Beam applies for the IGFA’s special “trophy” designation so that he gets official recognition of a great catch.

What about an unofficial kayak record? For many years, Jim Sammons, host of The Kayak Fishing Show, was the sport’s default record-keeper. His website Kayak4Fish.com featured a discussion forum where anglers submitted potential records. In the end, Sammons says the popularity of social media channels drew users away from his forum and the unofficial record-keeping fell by the wayside.

Sammons points out, “If there were a special IGFA category for kayaks there would also have to be one for fish caught from shore as well as records for other styles of fishing.” He adds, a fish pulling a kayak will put less pressure on the line, “sometimes this enables kayak anglers to catch bigger fish on lighter line.” In fact, Sammons says several IGFA World Records have been set by a kayak angler.

Nonetheless, Brian Beam is happy with the positive conversations his impressive catch has inspired. In addition to wide coverage in local news and online, USA Today ran a story about the fish. Beam concludes it’s better the fish will never be an official record. He laughs, “kind of fun because of the debate the unofficial weight creates.” Dan Wassmann

This article was first published in Kayak Angler Issue 43. Subscribe to Kayak Angler’s print and digital editions here, or browse the archives here.


Largest ever? We’ll never know. | Photo: Courtesy Brian Beam

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Dan Wassmann
Dan Wassmann is a free-lance writer who travels frequently to northern Michigan, where he can be found in his sea kayak on Lake Michigan or in his fishing kayak on inland lakes in pursuit of lunker bass, pike and walleye. Dan is the former managing editor of both City & State, a national newspaper for state and local government officials, and the Deerfield Review, a suburban Chicago community newspaper. He is also a former communications manager at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, part of the central bank of the United States. Dan has published articles in variety of publications, including the Chicago Tribune and Kayak Angler. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Dan is married to Kathy Wassmann. They live in Glenview, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, and are the parents of three grown children, all of whom live in Chicago.

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