Fishing Saltwater Fishing

Fishing Guide Makes One Cast with a Fly Rod, Catches New World-Record Striper

Capt. Tom Weaver doesn't typically fish with a client onboard, but some opportunities are too good to pass up
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Fly angler with striped bass.

Capt. Tom Weaver with the striped bass that set a new all-tackle length fly world record. Photo courtesy Tom Weaver

It was a cold and blustery day on Chesapeake Bay when Capt. Tom Weaver of Annapolis met his client Rob Cochrane for a charter trip targeting striped bass on Dec. 30. They putted out of the marina in Weaver’s 23-foot Sea Hawk, Miss Jimmy, and then headed for some open water near Poplar Island.

“It was nippy, windy, and rough,” Weaver tells Outdoor Life. “It was so gnarly on the bay that Rob didn’t bring along his daughter. It just looked too frigid and bumpy.”

A New Zealand native who’s been in the U.S. for 34 years, Weaver says there weren’t many other anglers in the area that day. But there were plenty of fish.

“We got into a huge school of giant stripers that were crushing small 3- to 5-inch bunker on the surface, and we stayed with them, catching bass after bass.”

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It didn’t take long for Cochrane to hook and land his first striper on a spinning rod. Weaver stopped the boat as his client fought the fish, then quickly netted and released it so they could stay on the school. (Maryland’s harvest season for stripers had closed, so it was all catch-and-release fishing that day.)

The two anglers repeated this exercise again and again. After a fish was caught and released, Weaver would run back to where the school was busting bait on the surface, and then Cochrane would hook another heavy linesider.

“It was awesome, and the fish were huge,” Weaver says. “By late afternoon Rob had caught a dozen or more stripers, all over 40 to 49 inches [30 to 50 pounds]. The fish were just everywhere.”

Because it was such a banner day for big fish, Weaver even picked up a fly rod, which is not something he typically does with a client in the boat. Cochrane doesn’t fly fish, but Weaver does, and he always keeps a rod on his boat that’s rigged according to IGFA regulations, with a 15-pound test shock tippet on the end of the leader.

“It was a perfect opportunity to catch a big striper on a fly at the surface, but Rob didn’t know how to fly cast,” Weaver says. “Finally, he was at one end of the boat dealing with a fish, and while I never fish with a client aboard, I saw a giant striper nearby, picked up a rigged fly rod and sent a streamer to it.”

He threw out a chartreuse-and-white Beast Fleye, a baitfish imitation designed by saltwater fly-tying guru Bob Popovics. The cast wasn’t his finest, but Weaver started stripping the 6-inch streamer and the fish slammed it. The bass immediately dove deep, and Weaver’s 9-weight rod bent over, line screeching off his fly reel.

A fly for striped bass.
The fly Weaver used to catch the world-record striper. Photo courtesy Tom Weaver

“I knew it was a big one, and I told Rob I was gonna be awhile before I got it to the boat,” Weaver chuckles.

The battle lasted 22 minutes, and Cochrane captured bits of it on video. Eventually, Weaver got the fish on the surface where Cochrane could net it and bring it aboard.

Weaver had an IGFA-certified measuring device on his boat for just such an occasion. The two men carefully measured its length, took some photos of the fish, and then promptly released it unharmed.

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The striper measured 40.16 inches long, and Weaver estimates it weighed between 35 and 40 pounds. He later submitted the photos and a record application to the IGFA for record consideration, and the organization certified the new world record this week. As the new All-Tackle Length Fly Rod World Record, it’s the longest recognized striped bass ever caught and released on the fly.

At the time, however, the two anglers still had a school of stripers to chase. So Weaver got back on the school and Cochrane kept hooking them.

“There were so many big bass, and Rob caught some giants that were much bigger than the fly-rod fish I got,” Weaver says. “His biggest was s 49-incher, and he lost another one even bigger than broke off. If he’d used a fly rod, that fish would have been the new IGFA record.”