By: Lance Baker – Bass Pro Shops Pro Staff
Dedication…that’s what I want to talk about. The dedication of a team of fishermen setting out to fulfill one man’s dream of catching and releasing not one, but threepending IGFA world records!
It all started on March 16, when dad and I set out for our 2012 spring Tennessee guiding trips. The cards were lining up to make it one of our best years ever. The warm weather was having a tremendous impact on all of the top fisheries around the country, and bringing early spawns and huge fish to the ends of lines of outdoorsmen everywhere. Tennessee was no exception!
The morning of March 28 started off with us meeting our client for the next few days, Stan Nabozny from Texas. After a quick handshake, we were off to start the day, when Stan informed us of his goals he had been trying to accomplish. The Texas fisherman has been chasing his dream of catching and releasing a world record class striper to submit to the International Game and Fish Association (IGFA) and he had been searching for the right guide and area to accomplish this dream.
After discussing details, Dad and I new exactly what we had to do…make Stan’s dream a reality. We were going to do everything possible to make it happen and the conditions were perfect on the Tennessee River. After arriving and launching the boat, we were rigged and ready for our first casts. Dad sent us to an area where he had encountered a few true monsters busting shad the morning before, and Stan and I stood shoulder to shoulder making the first casts as directed by dad.
A few turns of the reel handle later, my rod loaded up and I set the hook hard feeling the tension of a good one on. I looked beside me and Stan’s rod did just the same, but the line tore off to the middle of the river with a solid burst. I battled mine to the side of the boat where Dad reached down, lipped a solid 30lb fish, and gave me that prideful father-to-son grin that demonstrates why we do this.
Stan on the other hand was battling what was about to be the fish of a lifetime. We started the boat, after releasing my fish, and began chasing down Stan’s fish in order to gain better control of it. The fish finally wore down a bit and we saw if surface about 20 yards from the boat and the excitement took over then, after those few short minutes that seemed like an eternity.
Dad’s grip on the fish was not going to be pried away. As he lifted the giant into the boat, we all stood in awe of what had just happened. Stan’s first cast resulted in the new pending IGFA catch and release world record striper at 110 cm, blowing out the old record of 85 cm. After certified measurements and a dozen pictures, and probably just as many hoots, hollers and high fives, we released the big female to tighten a line another day!
But, the story doesn’t end yet! Stan went back to the motel and researched Tennessee’s top game fish and decided his quest for another record was possible. The next morning he informed us that he wanted a shot at a hybrid and smallmouth to submit, along with his striper, for possible record breakers and Dad said, “Let’s do this,” with a big grin.
After a long drive down into southeastern Tennessee, we launched the boat and fished hard for about six hours, catching numerous smallmouth that were just short of the mark. As we were about to the throw in the towel, Stan’s true dedication and drive gave us the extra boost to make a few more casts, and it happened.
For the first time of the day, his rod loaded up and he battled a fish to the side of the boat. I heard my dad say, “Oh my Lord, Lance, it’s a huge hybrid!” In a crazy sprint, I ran to the front of the boat and leaned over and watched for the fish to give me that one chance for a perfect landing.
Stan’s second trophy was a giant hybrid that measured 68 cm that would again challenge the IGFA record books. What more could a guy ask for? Well, one more cast hooked into a giant smallie from the same spot that measured 50cm to beat the current world record out of Michigan at 48cm. UNBELIEVABLE!
Both my father and I are truly honored to have shared this adventure with Stan. After 15 days of getting up and grinding it out, this was the highlight of my trip. I was excited to come back home, share these stories, and see my friends, but, most of all, I am thankful for another year of standing side by side and learning from one of the best fishermen I know – my dad and legendary striper fisherman, Steve Baker.
If anyone wants to look into fishing with him and enjoying a chance at world class fish, please look him up at Steve Baker Stripers. Be sure to let him know his little, sawed off, short, and funny-talkin’ son sent ya’!