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You caught a fish- a BIG fish. It is by far the biggest you have ever caught, or maybe the biggest you have ever seen for that particular species. Your family is excited, people nearby are coming over to see what the commotion is all about. Then somebody says the R word - “record”. Is it a record? If it is, what do you do?

The IGFA is the worldwide keeper of world records. There are over 7,100 categories, from fly rod to conventional, freshwater and saltwater. One of the record programs is for junior anglers. There are records for “smallfry” (10 and under) and “junior” anglers (11 to 16). The wonderful thing about being a junior angler is that not only can you compete against those in your own age group, but you can also set records in the “adult” categories as well.

For people who want to try to set records for the first time, the first thing we tell them is to know the IGFA rules and application form backwards and forwards. It is important to know what you can and cannot do, and what you need and do not need when submitting a record application. The only difference between junior rules and “adult” rules is that a junior angler may weigh his or her catch on the boat with a certified scale in order to release it. That angler will qualify for a junior record only, as long as the fish is heavier than the current record for the angler’s category. If the junior angler weighs the fish on land with a certified scale, then he or she could qualify for any record- line class, all-tackle, or fly rod.

To submit a record, you must fill out the record application and submit it, along with photographs and the line or tippet sample, to the IGFA. The application form must be filled out completely. Any information left blank may slow down the application process. Photographs must be clear, and show the fish on the scale, the side of the fish with fins extended (for identification purposes) and measurements (for size verification). Also, a clear picture showing the angler, rod and fish should be included for publication. The line sample must include the leader if one was used. Measurements will be made to verify that leader and tippet length rules were followed. The line or tippet might be tested if the fish may qualify for other records. The application process takes about 6 to 8 weeks, sometimes longer depending on the number of records in the process at any given time.

It is important to follow all rules and regulations. Oftentimes a record is lost because of a rule violation. The most common reasons for losing a record are late applications, hook violations and scales that are not certified or not certifiable.

Sometimes anglers find out too late that they had caught a record. Perhaps they did not know about IGFA, or they did not realize it was a record. Anglers who catch fish in U.S. waters have 60 days to submit a record. Anglers in international waters have 90 days. The only exception is for all-tackle records where there is no time limit. Any application submitted beyond the 60 or 90-day limit is subject to rejection.

Sometimes anglers catch a fish with a treble hook and bait. That is a violation of IGFA rules. Treble hooks are acceptable if they are free-swinging on a lure, but not if they are used with bait. Also, anglers sometimes use a “stinger” hook- a treble hook dangling behind an otherwise properly baited hook. Again, this is a violation. This is why it is important to read the
IGFA rules, so you know which hooks and hook setups you can and cannot use.

It is important to check a >
scale’s certification before it is used to weigh a potential record. Many times the scale owners say their scale is certified, but it isn’t. It may have been certified in the past, but the expiration date has passed. Scales that have been certified by the state or government for commercial purposes are acceptable scales. IGFA can certify hand-held spring scales (up to 100 lb capacity) if you are not near a certified scale or if you wish to release your fish.

It is always best to be prepared whenever you go fishing. Know what you can and cannot do, and know what information you need. The people you fish with, if properly informed, can take great pleasure in assisting you with your record catch and application, almost as much as you did when you caught the fish. That way, whenever anyone looks at your record certificate proudly displayed it will not be just you who will remember fondly the one that didn’t get away.


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