“We are proud to have the all-tackle world record smallmouth bass
back in Kentucky,” said Benjy Kinman, director of fisheries for the
KDFWR. “We definitely know the fish was caught in Kentucky waters.”
Hayes, of Leitchfield, Kentucky, caught the legendary smallmouth in the
mouth of Illwill Creek near Phillips Bottom, north of Trooper Island.
He was trolling a pearl Bomber 600 in the trough between two weed
beds on July 9, 1955. He caught the fish between 10 and 10:30 a.m.
while fishing with his family.
Nearly 40 years after the catch, a
controversy erupted stemming from
an affidavit found by a researcher that stated the fish weighed only
8-pounds, 15-ounces. The affidavit stated the other three pounds were
metal and lead weights placed in the belly of the fish by a
“The IGFA’s policy is always to investigate standing records when
proof is brought forward challenging its legitimacy,” said Jason
Schratweiser, conservation director for the International Game Fish
Association (IGFA). The IGFA subsequently disqualified the Hayes
world record smallmouth bass in 1996.
“Mr. Hayes’ integrity was never in question,” Kinman explained. “We
removed the fish from our lists after the IGFA disqualified it. We
followed the IGFA’s lead on the front end and back end of this
Ron Fox, assistant director of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources
Agency, brought evidence to the IGFA that convinced them to reinstate
the record. Some of the most compelling evidence is the length and
girth measurements of the Hayes smallmouth bass.
Hayes all-tackle world record smallmouth bass is 27 inches long with
a girth of 21 and 2/3 inches. After disqualifying the Hayes fish as
the all tackle world record, the IGFA recognized another Dale Hollow
Lake smallmouth as the all tackle world record; a 10-pound, 14-ounce
fish caught by John Gorman in 1969.
The Gorman fish had a length of 26 and 1/4 inches with a girth of 21
and 1/2 inches. It is difficult to say a fish weighed only 8-pounds,
15-ounces, as the affidavit alleged, when it is longer and bigger
around than the Gorman fish that weighed nearly 11 pounds. This
evidence helped convince the IGFA to reinstate the record.
The Hayes record smallmouth bass was between 12 and 13 years old when
caught. “That was probably a pre-impoundment fish,” Kinman said. “The
fish had that excellent growth rate that comes with new reservoirs.
That record will probably never be broken because we will never have
those conditions again. We probably will not have another new major
impoundment built on a smallmouth stream.”
Hayes’ catch will be reflected in the 2007 edition of the Kentucky
Sport Fishing and Boating Guide. The 2006 guide is now available from
license retailers throughout Kentucky, containing next year’s fishing
and boating laws.