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"World Record Smallmouth"
By: Jim Dicken

David Hayes, on a sunny afternoon in July of 1955, caught the biggest smallmouth bass to ever be brought in for weighing in the history of fishing records. While trolling a Model 300 Bomber along a stretch of Dale Hollow Lake he caught a smallmouth bass for the history books. His catch obliterated a record that was in the high 8 pound range and even today outweighs its nearest competitor by over a pound.

The International Game Fish Association has an 11 pound 15 ounce problem it wishes would go away. Approximately 3 years ago the Association, which keeps all of the records on fishing, discovered that there existed an affidavit indicating that the world record smallmouth bass had been salted (weight added). The affidavit drawn up by one John Barlow indicated that Mr. Barlow had inserted weights in the fish without the knowledge of David Hayes. The IGFA removed the record from the books. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Fishing Hall of Fame followed suit in short order removing the fish from their records also.

Thanks to hard work and the determination to get the truth about the biggest smallmouth ever caught, Larry Self, a journalist from Tennessee, and Ron Fox of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, are on the verge of getting the record restored. So far the Freshwater Hall of Fame has reinstated the record and Kentucky is considering. The State of Tennessee never waivered on the record. Upon finally getting a look at the affidavit that Mr. Barlow had taken out, they discovered it was not signed by Mr. Barlow, and it was not signed or notarized by the clerk of the court. Further investigation also brought up problems with the affidavit. Ira Barlow, the brother of John Barlow (who since died), took a lie detector test and passed, stating that his brother, John, was nowhere near the Cedar Hill Dock when the fish was weighed and certified by Tennessee authorities. He went on to say that the reason for the deposition was that Mr. Barlow had argued with the Cedar Hill Dock management and was no longer welcome there.

Other problems with the salting have come up also. Granville "Lightnin" Madison was at Wisdom Dock on that fateful day. Turns out David Hayes took the fish to Wisdom first as it was closest to the spot where he caught the fish. The fish was weighed in front of Lightnin and Oral Burtram, a Kentucky Water Police Officer. In a statement made in front of witnesses, Mr. Madison not only recalled the weight of the fish, but the correct approximate time of the weigh in at Wisdom Dock. I have a copy of the signed statement Mr. Madison made. Officer Burtram has died, but notes he left, according to sources, indicate that he witnessed the weigh in of an 11 pound 15 ounce smallmouth bass.

Thus the fish was weighed on an uncertified scale at Wisdom Dock before the official weigh in at Cedar Hill (which had a certified scale). It weighed the same as the official weight from the scale at Cedar Hill Dock. Sort of hard to happen if 3 pounds of weight was added. Not to mention that the weights were identical WITH added weight!

So far the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame has reinstated the David Hayes smallmouth to its rightful place. The IGFA has failed so far to do so, but they are still being informed of all of the evidence.

The IGFA notified Ron Fox in November that it is reopening the investigation into the Smallmouth Bass Record. Watch these pages for a further update of the David Hayes smallmouth controversy.

A funny thing happened on the way to the trash bin with this record. Forty years ago Field and Stream, which originally kept the All Tackle World Records information, heard about the Barlow affidavit in the 50ís and sent a reporter to investigate. He determined from interviews that the information included in the affidavit was false and that no weight had been added to the fish. In the transfer of records and information to the IGFA, the report was apparently lost....OOPS!

Jim Dicken

Look for other articles written by Jim in our Article Archives


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