Meredith McCord of Houston, Texas, set a pending International Game Fish Association tippet class record with a 36-pound, 12-ounce black drum she caught January 31 in the Louisiana marshlands. Her catch outweighs the standing record by more than 12 pounds and was McCord’s second IGFA women’s record in two days.

McCord is a world-class angler who enjoys more than 200 days on the water each year. She spends some of her time hosting fly fishing trips around the world through Meredith McCord on the Fly, but is also dedicated to chasing IGFA world records. Since 2012 she has already set 231 of them—112 of which still stand.

You don’t rewrite the record book that often without fishing intentionally, and that’s precisely what McCord and Captain Collin Huff were doing when they decided conditions in late January were ideal for chasing a record McCord had long coveted: the women’s 1-kilogram (2.2 pounds) tippet class record for red drum, which is also known as a redfish.

“A cold front had moved through and sent water temps plunging,” McCord tells Field & Stream. “The forecast for the next couple of days was perfect: cold air, sunny skies, and no wind.” It’s very hard casting with 2-pound tippet if there’s a wind, McCord explains, and the cold water slows the fish down, so they don’t fight as hard, increasing her odds of landing them on ultralight tackle. McCord was using a 5-weight rod, which she says helps protect the light tippet and allows her to play the fish with finesse rather than power.

McCord and Huff set out on January 30. Huff poled the skiff as McCord cast a custom fly they call the “Critter Gitter.” She identified several redfish in the 15- to 25-pound range, all of which were heavy enough to top the existing record of 13 pounds. She cast to a giant red, but a “smaller” fish darted out and stole her fly. After playing it for 15 minutes, she got the fish to hand and discovered that it weighed 18-pounds, 1-ounce—still enough for the record. She documented the measurements needed to apply for the record, then released the fish. Convinced that she could do better, she decided to try again the next day.

woman holds big redfish with man holding rod next to her
Though McCord’s redfish wasn’t as big as she hoped, it will still likely set a new IGFA record. Meredith McCord

The Next Day Brought a Bigger Fish—But It Wasn’t a Redfish

On January 31 McCord and Huff again got into a group of big redfish. “Right when we entered the flat I saw this big back sticking out of the water,” McCord recalled. “A black drum. We poled over to it, but Colin was like, ‘No, we’re on a mission, we’re going for red drum, so let’s focus on what we came here to do.’”

They started chasing redfish, and McCord hooked one right away. She knew it wouldn’t top the 18-pounder from the day before, so she played the fish aggressively and broke it off fairly quickly. As they made another loop around the flat to get the sun at their backs, she saw the black drum again. “It was still meandering slowly around, and I was like, ‘How big do you think that is?’” Huff guessed 20 pounds. McCord felt it was definitely bigger than the current record, and she would know: The existing 1-kilogram tippet class record is a 17-pound, 12-oz fish caught in 2019 by none other than McCord herself. “I told Collin, let’s give it a shot.”

She made several casts before dropping the fly “right down over the nose” of the fish. As McCord held her breath, “the fish stopped, actually swam an inch or two in reverse, and sucked it right in. He was on!”

 “I cleared my line and got him on the reel,” McCord recalls. No sooner had she set the drag than the drum began to swim straight toward the boat. With no time for Huff to come down and wield the net, she decided to do it herself—a risky move with such light tippet. Huff advised against it. But there was no time to do anything else. McCord grabbed the net that lay at her feet. “I went down for the scoop, and lo and behold, the old guy swam right in the net.”

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In less than three minutes she had broken her own IGFA mark with a fish twice as big as her previous record. Or so she thought. McCord’s tale, it turns out, had one more twist. McCord submitted her fishing line for strength testing, which is standard procedure for IGFA records. Although she uses a special certified line that’s tested multiple times at the factory, McCord knew there was a chance the line would test out at a higher tensile strength than the 2.2 pounds allowed by the 1-kilogram tippet category. Because of all the variations in temperature this particular spool had gone through due to the big swings in weather, McCord was more worried than usual. Sure enough, the line broke at 2.38 pounds during the IGFA test, just a hair beyond the limit for the 2.2-pound tippet class.

Luckily for McCord, the 36-pound, 12-ounce drum was still heavy enough to beat the standing record for the 2-kilogram tippet record, which was a 24-pound, 8-ounce black drum caught in 2010. This outcome also means that McCord’s 1-kilogram record still stands, giving the Texas angler records in three of the seven tippet classes for the black drum: the 1-, 2- and 6-kilogram classes. Pending approval of her 1-kilogram tippet class redfish, McCord could also hold four of the seven tippet class records for that species in the 1-, 2-, 4-, and 8-kilogram categories. Once confirmed, the redfish would become McCord’s 232rd IGFA World Record and the 36-pound black drum, her 233rd.