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March 22, 2006

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A Really Big Fish: Is the recently caught 25-pound largemouth already certified as both the number four and number nine bass of all time?

When Mac Weakley landed his would-be, could-be new world record bass--the 25-pound, 1-ounce monster--from Lake Dixon on the morning of March 20th, a star was born. For days, Weakley’s name has been bandied about on hundreds of news outlets across the country--major newspapers, Internet chat groups, and ESPN. But let’s not forget who the real star of the show is: the giant fish itself, whose story may be as wacky and wild as any in sport.

Cover507 The giant she-bass landed this week is, according to Weakley and his fishing partner and best friend, Jed Dickerson, the exact same fish that Dickerson landed at Dixon in 2003. When Dickerson landed her, she weighed 21-pounds, 11.2 ounces, not the record-breaker, but good enough for fourth place on the all time list of the biggest largemouth bass ever caught. A replica-mount of that fish was featured on the cover of the March 2004 issue of Field & Stream, and in a feature story in that same issue on Dixon Lake.

What makes the anglers think it’s the same fish? A dime-sized black dot near the fish’s gill plate. “I swear it’s her,” Weakley says.

But the fish’s history apparently doesn’t stop there. When Dickerson landed his fish in 2003, Mike Long, another world record chaser, claimed that Dickerson’s fish was actually the same fish that he had caught two years earlier in Dixon, in 2001. Long’s fish, which weighed 20-pounds, 12-ounces at the time, is the ninth-largest fish of all time. How did Long know? He was at the dock that day in 2003 when Dickerson brought in the fish, and the first thing he noticed was that black dot.

It gets even weirder. A few months after Dickerson landed his fish, Long said that some trout fishermen on Dixon found the fish floating dead and gave it to him. “The thing absolutely reeked,” Long said at the time. He claims that he took it home with him in a black trash bag to have it mounted. But Weakley and Dickerson never believed that the fish died. Instead, they thought Long was putting up a smoke screen to keep the hordes off of Dixon. 

But it didn’t keep Weakley and Dickerson off the lake. And now, depending on whom you believe, the third time for this bass was the charm. This resilient, well-decorated fish with a propensity for weight gain may just be the largest in the world. --Monte Burke

Click here to view snapshots and close-ups of all three bass and decide for yourself if they are the same fish. And don't forget to post your comments below!

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