World Record Sunfish

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.

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