Are We Too Enamored With World Records?

Unless you’ve been hiding out with the Taliban during the past several days…by now you most certainly have heard the buzz of a potential new world record bass caught in California.   But what good would a new world record be if it didn’t have at least some controversy attached to it?   Let’s face it…the scrutiny that every potential world record fish goes through leads one to wonder if it’s really all worth it?

BigBassIndeed, there’s a novelty factor that goes along with any world record achievement whether it be a fish, a deer rack, a bear skull…you name it.   And I suppose there will always be those sportsmen among us who are so fascinated with the oddity that the event will make big news…and do so like wildfire.   Yet, as sportsmen do we put too much emphasis on the potential freaks of nature?   Moreover, what does this quest for the ultimate trophy tell the non-sporting public about our true sporting intentions when most of us hunt and fish merely for relaxation purposes?

I’ve often heard it said that a sportsman who shoots a world record deer or catches a world record fish (of certain popular species) is an instant millionaire.   Most of this money comes by way of endorsements, appearances, etc.   Yet how many of us are really prepared to hit this fish or fauna jackpot?   Honestly, if you were faced with bagging a world record buck or boating a record-breaking fish…would your actions that follow pass scrutiny for justifying fame beyond the typical 15 minutes we’re all supposedly given, so to speak?

Maybe we should strike a big distinction here between game records and fish records.   That’s not to say big game records are completely immune from controversy.   In fact, it’s not unusual for a trophy deer, for instance, to come under question whether it was shot legally.   But in hunting, unlike fishing, the trophy itself is always in-hand and available for careful inspection.   Even decades later…in most cases, the measurements can be checked and re-checked to add credence to the record claim.   That isn’t always available for a fishing record.   Sometimes we need to take a person’s word…and we all know how fishermen have a legendary propensity to stretch the truth when it’s convenient to do so.

Don’t get me wrong…I’m not questioning whether or not we should honor and recognize great achievements like John MacArthur Weakley’s catching the trophy bass this past Monday.   Instead, I’m suggesting that perhaps we put too much importance on the whole record-breaking novelty.   Oh sure, it’s fun to see just how big a fish or a deer can get.   It’s also fun to wonder where the next trophy might be shot or caught.   My concern, however, stems mostly from the public’s perception of our behavior when each potential new record that hits the news is met with such rampant skepticism by fellow sportsmen.

Let’s give these fishermen their due.   The photo clearly shows they have one exceptional fish to certainly be proud of no matter where they take things from here.   Let’s not distract from their excitement just because they may have “foul-hooked” the fish or didn’t follow the rules precisely enough to be recognized by the International Game Fish Association in their record books.   Instead, the picture certainly serves as photographic evidence to me that they had a rewarding day as anglers this past week…and I applaud that extraordinary effort.

A name printed on a record book is quite an honor…but it only punctuates the critical measurements of the event and not the lasting memories of the accomplishment.   As sportsmen, let’s try harder to keep things in their proper perspective and not grow overly concerned about record books.   I’d sure hate to see the achievement of catching this bass on Monday diminished in any way thanks to a bunch of fellow sportsmen nit-picking solely with the intent to disqualify it from some record book.

© 2006 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.   No Reproduction without Prior Permission.