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Panfish Arizona

5-pound 12.8-ounce World Record Sunfish

by Dan Johnson   |  February 28th, 2014 28

Hector Brito proudly holds his 5-pound, 12.8-ounce trophy redear sunfish.

Part of fishing’s allure is the fact you never really know for sure what’s lurking beneath the surface. Even when you’re merely angling for a few sunfish for supper, there’s always the possibility that a world-class catch may swim your way.

Such was the case for humble panfish fan Hector Brito.

He was soaking a live nightcrawler a foot above bottom on a drop-shot rig in 10 feet of water on mighty Lake Havasu February 16, hoping to hook a sunfish or perhaps a bass, when something remarkably large inhaled his bait.

“There was a solid jerk and the fish started pulling line,” he recalls. An avid fisherman, the Lake Havasu City, Arizona, angler has landed his share of hefty catches over the years. And, judging by the way this mystery fish tussled and tugged, he guessed it was a good-sized catfish. “It fought really hard for about 10 or 11 minutes,” he said. “Then it finally came to the top.”

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When his prize surfaced, Brito was surprised to discover that it wasn’t a whiskerfish at all, but an enormous redear sunfish. “I couldn’t believe it,” he says. “I’ve caught redears up to 2½ pounds, but nothing close to this.” Indeed, stretching 17 inches long, with an astonishing girth that would later tape out at 19½ inches, Brito’s beast was a true behemoth among the Lepomis microlophus clan.

But it wasn’t out of the water yet.

Continued after gallery…

Fishing from a pontoon on the south end of Havasu’s main basin, near an area called the Chalk Cliffs, Brito was armed with tackle more appropriate for palm-sized sunnies. “I had only a size 8 Aberdeen hook and 6-pound line,” he says. “So I was afraid I would lose the fish.” Fortunately, Brito’s luck—and his line—held up, and soon the massive sunfish swung over the rail.

Brito immediately knew he had a remarkable redear. But he didn’t know the depth of its breadth until he brought it to Bass Tackle Master back in Lake Havasu City, where it tipped the state-certified scale at a whopping 5 pounds, 12.8 ounces. Such heft put it in elite company. The National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame’s current all-tackle redear record, caught by Amos Gay in South Carolina back in November of 1998, stands at 5 pounds, 7 ounces.

For its part, the International Game Fish Association recognizes the South Carolina fish, along with a 5-pound, 8.8-ounce redear plucked from Havasu in May of 2011 by Robert Lawler. Lawler’s fish did not replace Gay’s because IGFA rules require record challengers under 25 pounds to beat the existing benchmark by at least two ounces. Brito’s bruiser, however, is big enough to knock both catches from the books.

Lawler’s fish is also listed as the Arizona state record for the Colorado River Waters division. And California, which also borders the 19,300-acre impoundment, lists a 5-pound, 3-ounce fish taken from the Folsom South Canal in 1994 as its top redear, which means Brito could bag dual state records as well. In fact, record applications are already in the works. John Galbraith, proprietor of Bass Tackle Master, weighed Brito’s catch, and said he completed the necessary paperwork to apply for Arizona and California state records, along with the IGFA world record.

Brito called catching the giant fish—a pending world record  sunfish, no less—a “wonderful” experience that words can’t fully describe. “I am so excited, it’s hard to explain,” he grinned.


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While many world record fish are shrouded in controversy, the only shadow associated with Brito’s catch is the fact that larger redears undeniably lurk in Havasu. Arizona biologists acknowledge that sunfish of epic proportions have been on the upswing ever since exotic quagga mussels appeared in the reservoir in recent years. Galbraith agrees. He personally weighed a 5-pound-plus redear that fell just shy of the all-tackle record, and believes breaking the 6-pound barrier is possible. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see a new record, especially during the spawn in May and June, when the fish are full of roe,” he says.

Whether quaggas are fueling the incredible growth of trophy redears as menu items or in more indirect means is up for debate among fisheries scientists and anglers alike. Regardless, Havasu is the hottest thing happening for giant sunfish at the moment. And you never know when the next record will rise from its depths.


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  • Hector Brito

    Hello Dan, this is Hector Brito. I enjoyed your article very much. It is wonderful. THANK YOU VERY MUCH

    • JeffSimpson InFisherman

      Nice Fish!!!! You have quickly become the hero and envy of many! Nice job!!

    • Dan Johnson

      Thanks for the kind words, Hector!

  • canzfinznut


  • Morley

    Should have released it.

    • Karnage656

      Do you just troll everyone telling them to release fish? The point of fishing in my opinion is to enjoy yourself. Not go around patrolling everyone else. He was well within state and Federal laws to keep that fish. You should really reflect on yourself as an angler to see if this is the correct sport for you. There are enough anti’s out there fighting against us we don’t need to have amongst ourselves.

    • kc

      Impossible to claim the record with just a picture. There are plenty to sustain the population without this one. Save your negative comments.

    • Dave in Buffalo

      I agree. Take photos and vids quickly and let it go to spread it’s DNA. Sunnies and Bluegills that size are not too great on the dinner plate. Crappi9e are better as are panfish in the 10″ size. But, this is a MONSTER fish and one that I have endeavored for decades to catch! I have fished all trout, salmon, stripers, sailfish, marlin, wahoo, shark.,… but ALWAYS go back to my first love of Bluegill and Sunnies. But today I do them on the flyrod. no better fishing and it is such a simple process and enjoyable and stress free. Congrats Hector.

      PS – I used to SLAY panfish at Poinsett St Park in S Carolina, just west of Sumter. I did catch a 2lb 13 inch one back in 87. Have photo. I thought that was huge – but not compared to yours. You go.

    • Jerry Graves

      As a guy who does a good deal of fishing I would have that one mounted for the wall. When fish get this big their reproductive abilities are not as healthy as if they were younger. I don’t claim to know about every fish species but this is what I have heard. IN Lake of the Woods as well as many other lakes in Minnesota and Wisconsin they have slot limits in place. For instance in Lake of the Woods you are allowed to keep 6 Walleyes under 19 inches and only one over 26 inches. You can not keep any between 191/2 and 251/2. They say these are the best for reproduction. So with this catch I say get it mounted and show it off and let the stories begin! Congrats to you my friend on making the record books!

    • Charlie cadstooth

      If you 2 ever get together, I want to buy a ticket to the fight.

  • Bluegill Fishing

    That is one freakishly huge Redear! It looks like an ocean fish!


  • Hector Brito

    Hello Dan, this is Hector Brito. I want to thank you again for your In-Fisherman article. I want also (just in case that you don’t know) that I have earned the State Records of Arizona and California as well two IGFA World Records: the All-Tackle Record and the 3 Kg (6Lb) Line Class Record. As you can guess I am very happy and I wanted to share this with you. Thanks again, Hector

    • TrailsofBlood

      Awesome fish!

      • Sonny Burnett

        Probably smells like your daughters.

        • TrailsofBlood

          I don’t have any daughters, but any one of my sons would turn you into a grease spot on the pavement.

          • Sonny Burnett

            Ewwwww….Shaking in my seat! THe fact that your sons are gay, I figured you just considered them daughters.

          • Patrick Hess

            Wow Sonny you are a grade “a” douchebag. “Smells like your daughter” just out of the blue for no reason?!? I hope your mom gets eye cancer and dies…. How’s that for random. Get a life.

          • Sonny Burnett

            Well, you faggyanuslicker, I’ve been trolling all his comments, so it wasn’t right out of the blue. It’s what trolls like me do. So go wipe a dog’s butt with your tongue and kiss your boyfriend. And eff your grandma too, you mongoloid.

          • Patrick Hess

            You troll a fishing site….. Wow what a life. What do you do for fun, watch paint dry? I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks your an idiot. Your mom should have done us all a favor and swallowed that night.

          • Sonny Burnett

            No, you motard. I was trolling HIS posts. He just happened to post on some fishing website that you and your transgender boyfriends chat on, talking about how you’re going to circle jerk tonight. Had my mom swallowed, then who’d be banging your mother? I only do it out of sympathy since she had a daughter like you.

            I get paid a lot of money to sit here and troll the internet. Don’t be jealous. Go back to taking black guys up the arse for $15 a head. Get it? A HEAD!!!!

          • Patrick Hess

            Internet tough guy….

          • Sonny Burnett

            Mr. Internet Tough Guy to you.

          • Jerry Graves

            Sonny Burnett You’re an idiot! You don’t get padi jack for talk smack! You’re not even good at it either. You are just some little boy who lives in Momma’s basement and this iis the only way you can look for friends! Get a life!

          • Sonny Burnett

            Ok. Sorry Mr. Graves. I’ll stay off your lawn too! Sorry I offended you and your boyfriend Patrick.

          • a black guy

            The only reason you’re texting now is because your mouth is probably full. You’re a total dick. Get it. Pun intended. Probably never had a gift in your life that wasn’t plastic.

          • Sonny Burnett

            Your dirty mamma gives me a gift every night plus cash (no plastic). Too bad she didn’t swallow you that one night.

  • Thomas Nelson

    I have a 3 lb 2 oz bluegill on my wall (not caught in MN.) bigger than the Mn. record. I just can’t imagine the fight that a 5 lb+ fish would give. I only fish sunfish I catch lots of 1 lb fish through the ice and I dream of a new state record through the ice, but a 5 lb 12.8 oz fish is to much to even dream of. Congratulations to Mr. Brito and go out and break that record again!

  • chris s

    i am from a town where you rarely see hand sized bluegill. when i read this article i was astonished that the record was that large

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