The one-time potential world record largemouth bass that turned Southern California angler Mac Weakley into an overnight international piscatorial celebrity has died.
The legendary Dixon Lake bass, the most famous gilled inhabitant of the Escondido, Calif. municipal impoundment, was found dead Friday. An angler discovered the fish–which apparently died after spawning–floating in the weeds.
At the time of its demise, city rangers say the renowned fish was a mere 19 pounds, a far cry from the hefty 25.1 pounds it was said to have weighed when Weakley caught, photographed and released it two years ago.
The enormous bass sparked interest worldwide as Weakley’s now-famous photograph of companion Mike Winn hoisting the fat-bellied fish burned across Internet fishing forums and outdoor blogs.
Positively identified by the telltale black spot located above its gill-line, the fish had been dead about a day when it was found.
Ironically, for the past week, a National Geographic Channel-contracted camera crew had been taping attempts by Weakley and his fishing companion Jed Dickerson, as they relentlessly fished Dixon Lake in pursuit of the big female bass.
Dickerson caught and released the same fish in 2003, when it officially weighed 21.7 pounds.
On Friday, Dickerson told The San Diego Union-Tribune that he had fished Dixon for the past 70 straight days.
Controversy and debate swirled around Weakley’s March 23, 2006 catch because the fish was foul-hooked and it was not weighed on a certified scale prior to release. The angler decided not to attempt to enter the fish as an IGFA world record, though he and Dickerson vowed to continue pursuing the Holy Grail of Bass Fishing at the Southern California bass-fishing hotspot.
California Fish and Game officials are expected to take tissue samples of the fish today in an effort to determine its age.
When Weakley was shown the remains of the big fish on Friday, he immediately provided a positive ID.
“That’s it, that’s the fish,” Weakley said. “The fish has lived out its life cycle.”
We’ll take his word on it.