UPDATE: Greg Myerson's striper has since been certified by the IGFA as the all-tackle world record striped bass. In September of 1982, Albert McReynolds weighed a 78.8-pound striped bass at a tackle shop near Atlantic City, New Jersey. He caught the fish the night prior, standing on the wave-pounded Ventnor Avenue jetty casting a Rebel plug. The catch, which claimed the spot of all-tackle world record, immediately turned McReynolds' world upside down, earning him nationwide attention, tackle company endorsements, and lots of money. Of course, with such a catch come accusations. Though everything from lead-stuffing to finding the fish dead on the sand was rumored in an effort to disqualify the catch, it remained in place for nearly 30 years. But it may have fallen today. Though the catch has not yet been certified by the IGFA, angler Greg Myerson brought in a bass that supposedly pinned the needle of a Westbrook, CT, tackle shop scale at 81.8-pounds. Immediately Internet rumors began to fly, some claiming the catch was a hoax, but many claiming to be eye witnesses to striper-fishing history. Pictures began flooding online forums. Arguments over whether the fish was caught on an eel or live porgy buzzed on blogs. So we tracked down Myerson less than 24 hours after he boated his bass to get the real story...one which may trump McReynolds' tale and secure Myerson the most coveted saltwater all-tackle record of all time – Joe Cermele . Click through this gallery for an interview with Myerson and the story of his amazing catch by Steve Hill!
Greg Myerson was following his regular routine when he drifted his boat over a submerged boulder near Outer Southwest Reef off the coast of Westbrook, Connecticut, around 8 p.m. on August 4, 2011, trailing a live eel a few feet off the bottom. “There’s often big fish behind the boulder, and I always hit it on my way out to Six Mile Reef to fish for the night,” Myerson says. The first drift yielded a hard strike, but no fish. On the second drift, he set the hook against another hard strike and watched as a striper started to pull his boat against the tide before settling heavily on the bottom.
“I couldn’t budge him at first,” says Myerson, who uses a heavy duty 6-½ foot St. Croix tuna rod and a Quantum Cabo reel spooled with 50-lb. Berkley Gorilla Braid to handle big stripers. “Then he took off on a real good run, and I had to tighten the drag because he was burning line fast. He stripped about 60 yards of line against the current.”
“I noticed the line rising, and I told my buddy, ‘Watch this, the fish is going to break the surface.’ He porpoised out of the water and I got my first look at him. Oh, man, I knew I had something special then. It’s only the big stripers that will jump like that. I was just hoping the hook was stuck good.”
The fight only lasted 20 minutes, but “seemed like eternity,” Myerson says. “He kinda lost some steam and started coming back toward the boat and I was able to gain a lot of line. Then the net got stuck on the boat’s swimming platform and wouldn’t come off. The fish was ready to be netted and we were in a little bit of a panic mode for a minute. We finally freed the net and got the fish in the boat.” Another look revealed how close someone else had come to setting the new world record: the striper had a hook and about 6 ft. of leader in its mouth, evidence of a recent hookup that had broken off.
Lots of folks would have headed straight for the nearest scale: Myerson headed to Six Mile Reef to fish out the tide. Using his standard night bait of live eels (“I use the giant eels nobody else uses; if something’s gonna grab it, I know it’s big”) for the next 2 ½ hours he pulled a dozen more stripers out of the sea, all the time running back to the fish hold to peer at his prize catch. “I kept saying, ‘Is that fish really that big? Yep, it is.'”
With no certified scale available at that hour, Myerson didn’t officially weigh his catch until 8:30 the next morning, nearly 12 hours after he caught it. The 54-inch striper spent the night packed in ice in a cooler. The crowd gathered at the dock soon morphed into a big party, and Myerson reports, “This morning I was home in bed smelling like fish and with a major headache.” And with a pending world record in his back pocket.
Another big crowd was on hand when Myerson showed up to weigh the fish at Jack’s Shoreline Bait and Tackle in Westbrook. Many–including Myerson himself–were shocked when the scale topped 80 pounds and settled at 81.88. Owner Jack Katzenbach says there’s one thing that’s no surprise: “If anyone was going to catch a world record, it was going to be Myerson,” he says. “He’s a regular in here and in the last year alone he’s had three fish over 60 pounds.” One, a 68.75-lb. striper caught this time last year on the same reef, was until now the biggest striper Katzenbach had ever seen.
The madhouse scene of flashing cameras and shouted questions was all too much for Myerson. “I’m a private person, and I wasn’t exactly feeling my best this morning,” he says. “I told Jack, ‘I’ve had enough. I’m out of here,’ and I left.” Rumors started buzzing around the Internet that Myerson had a panic attack and drove himself to the hospital. “That’s not true at all. I don’t know where the hell that came from. It just proves how asinine some people can be when a big fish is involved. It’s crazy.”
There’s another rumor he can put to rest: Reports that Myerson won’t enter the fish as a world record? Bunk, he says. “I’d be an ass if I didn’t, wouldn’t I?” Yet at the same time, he says, “I don’t care about the world record. I broke my all-time record, and that’s what really matters to me.”
Lots of people say that when they set a world record. But Myerson seems to genuinely mean it. “I just like to fish. I’ve been doing it most of my life,” he says. “I’ve fly-fished all over the world. I have a trout stream in my front yard, and I bought my house for that reason. I have trout that I feed pellets every morning while I’m having my coffee.”
He started at 12, from a wooden Brockway Skiff outfitted with an 8-horsepower motor. “My parents wouldn’t let me go past the town dock, but I’d always sneak out to the reefs to fish for bass. No instruments, no nothing.” The top fish in this photo is a mount of a 55-lb. striper he caught on one of those sneakaways. “Ever since then it’s been a love,” he says.
Last year he won the Angler of the Year in On the Water magazine’s Striper Cup competition and was presented a mount of his 68.75-lb. striper, the lower wall-mounted fish in the photo. But that striper wasn’t the biggest he’d caught. Several years ago he boated a 71-pounder in his favorite spot, and after weighing and measuring it on the boat, he released it. “I held it for a minute and then tossed it overboard,” Myerson says. “My buddy was mad. He said, ‘You’re crazy.’ Maybe I am. I say you can’t keep taking without sometimes giving back.”
It remains to be seen, of course, whether this is just the beginning of the same kind of full-blown frenzy that engulfed McReynolds after his record catch almost 30 years ago. One thing’s for sure–Myerson isn’t waiting around to see what happens. After visiting a doctor to check out an injury sustained while boating the pending-record fish (he slipped and banged his side on a gunwale while lifting the striper in the boat; an X-ray confirmed his ribs were only bruised, not broken), Myerson headed out for another night of chasing giants. He fretted that he might not be able to fish his usual spot, because there’d be people watching, ready to mark his honey-hole.
But that would only last a couple of weeks, he reckoned, before the attention would wane. And then Greg Myerson could get back to doing what he loves best. Could his record last nearly three decades, as McReynold’s had? “Not if I have anything to do with it,” Myerson laughs. “I’m going to try to break the record tonight.” And probably every night after. –Steve Hill
Though the catch has not yet been certified by the IGFA, angler Greg Myerson brought in a bass that supposedly pinned the needle of a Westbrook, CT, tackle shop scale at 81.8-pounds.
UPDATE: Greg Myerson’s striper has since been certified by the IGFA as the all-tackle world record striped bass.