A Kentucky angler and a Texas fishing guide have teamed up to catch a 283-pound alligator gar at Sam Rayburn Lake that could break an International Game Fish Association (IGFA) world record for the species that has stood for 72 years. Remarkably, they did it on six-pound line.
Angler Art Weston is a record-chaser with dozens of IGFA entries to his name, including six line-class records for alligator gar that are either approved or pending. Among the most recent is the 251-pounder he caught April 16 on the Trinity River, which is currently undergoing review in the 80-pound line class category.
On Sept. 2, Weston was on day one of a weeklong trip he’d booked with Captain Kirk Kirkland aboard The Garfish Enterprise to target some additional line-class records. According to Foxweather.com, the accomplished gar guide had identified a spot on the East Texas lake north of Beaumont that offered a sandy bottom with minimal snags. Weston hooked two fish, including a 169-pounder, before the big one hit. He fought the fish for more than two hours, careful not to put too much pressure on the light line, before he was able to glimpse the leader tip below the water’s surface. It took him another 20 minutes to inch the fish closer to the boat.
“I said, ‘Kirk, she is coming up!’ ” Weston told Fox. “I remember yelling, ‘Oh my God! That’s a monster!’ and this is after landing a 251-pound gar this last April. I had never seen a gar that big before.”
In a Facebook post Kirkland reported that Weston’s gar measured 100 inches long with a 48-inch girth. He called the record “the holy grail of the fishing world.”
“What an accomplishment, lots of blood, sweat, and tears (and broken line) went into this achievement. Angler and world-record chaser Art Weston and I did what no other alligator gar angler has been able to accomplish in 72 years … catch a fish bigger than the all-tackle world record set so many years ago on the banks of the Rio Grande River.”
Indeed, the record set in 1951 by Bill Valverde has achieved an almost mythic status in Texas fishing lore. The World War II veteran was said to have caught the gar with a homemade bamboo rod baited with mullet while targeting catfish.
Not only has Valverde’s catch topped IGFA’s list for nearly three-quarters of a century, it’s also the heaviest documented freshwater fish ever taken on a rod-and-reel in Texas and the state’s longest-standing freshwater rod-and-reel record. The fish was reported to measure 93 inches long and weighed 279 pounds when weighed at a local meat market—after Valverde drove home with the massive fish tied to his spare tire, its tail dragging the whole way.