Like a lot of other teenagers in rural Oklahoma, 16-year-old Cord Smith just wants to spend his time outside. So after Smith and his friend Jacob Suarez wrapped up their Monday classes at Cheyenne High School on April 10, they decided to hit a farm pond near Smith’s home in Roger Mills County. While fishing from a small paddleboat, they caught a giant redear sunfish that broke a 50-year-old Oklahoma fishing record. The shellcracker weighed 2 pounds, 5.6 ounces, according to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, who made the record official on April 25. It replaces a 2-pound, 1.25-ounce redear sunfish caught from a different farm pond back in 1973.
The two young anglers worked along the banks of the small farm pond (less than an acre in size), casting curly-tail grubs rigged on lightweight jig heads. They each had a classic panfish setup: a Zebco Slingshot spooled with 6-pound test. Smith was reeling in the small soft plastic lure when the giant redear sunfish inhaled it within five feet of the boat.
After landing the fish, Smith and Suarez were surprised to see it was a shellcracker. Generally speaking, the fish aren’t as willing to eat artificial lures as other panfish species, and they’re typically caught on natural baits like worms, crickets, and small crayfish.
Smith was about to release the sunfish when Suarez stopped him, thinking they might have a potential record on their hands. They decided to call Smith’s dad, Brian Smith, who’s also the local sheriff.
“I told them I’d check with the local game warden, Tucker Blackburn, to see what they should do next,” Brian tells Outdoor Life. “I checked with Tucker. Then I called [the boys] back and told them to keep it alive, and that we’d meet them in Cheyenne to have it weighed.”
The two anglers filled a large bucket with water, loaded it in the bed of the pickup, and took the sunfish for a short ride into town. They went to Market Square supermarket in Cheyenne and met Blackburn, who brought along a portable aerator to help keep the fish alive.
Using a certified scale at the supermarket, they recorded an official weight of 2 pounds, 5.6 ounces. The fish was almost as round (12.75 inches) as it was long (13.5 inches).