5-pound 12.8-ounce World Record Sunfish

5-pound 12.8-ounce World Record 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."


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 luckand 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.

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.

Recommended for You

Balance is the goal when tipping jigs with trailers. Bass

Rigging Soft Bass Baits Correctly

Matt Straw - May 15, 2018

Balance is the goal when tipping jigs with trailers.

Crankin' is almost a necessity for finding bass on the Great Lakes from summer through fall. Bass

Using Crankbaits For Smallmouth Bass

Matt Straw - January 31, 2016

Crankin' is almost a necessity for finding bass on the Great Lakes from summer through fall.

Spring walleye fishing often means large numbers of fish concentrated in small areas. Walleye

Spring Walleye Fishing Tackle Choices

Steve Ryan - October 19, 2017

Spring walleye fishing often means large numbers of fish concentrated in small areas.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Spawntime World Class Crappies

Spawntime World Class Crappies

Doug Stange and Brandon Fulgham illustrate spawntime crappie patterns on one of North America's most famous fisheries.

Lowrance Enters Trolling-Motor Market with Ghost

Lowrance Enters Trolling-Motor Market with Ghost

Lowrance's Lucas Steward shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead what all of the fuss is about in the brand new Ghost trolling motor being brought to market by the Tulsa, Okla.-based fishing equipment manufacturer.

Berkley

Berkley's Surge Shad

Major League Fishing pro Scott Suggs has relied on the Berkley Surge Shad lure concept for years, using similar designs to capture MLF titles and a $1 million dollar FLW Forrest Cup win. With new features in the Surge Shad, Suggs tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead that even he can find success out on the water!

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories


Spring is prime time for pike. The Prespawn and Postspawn periods offer excellent odds at catching Pike & Muskie

How To Catch Pike In Spring

Dan Johnson - April 26, 2016

Spring is prime time for pike. The Prespawn and Postspawn periods offer excellent odds at...

Catfish are among the most popular groups of fish with over 7 million catfish anglers nationwide. Catfish

All About Catfish

Rob Neumann

Catfish are among the most popular groups of fish with over 7 million catfish anglers...

Several methods are available to estimate the weight of a fish. Some use length as well as girth Biology

Walleye Length To Weight Conversion Chart

Dr. Rob Neumann - January 03, 2017

Several methods are available to estimate the weight of a fish. Some use length as well as...

See More Stories

More News

Check out this massive muskie from Michigan! News

New World Record Muskie

In-Fisherman - February 20, 2013

Check out this massive muskie from Michigan!

 Tia Wiese's world record perch measured a whopping 15.5 inches long, with a 12.75-inch girth. News

Idaho Girl Ices World Record Perch

Dan Johnson - January 19, 2015

Tia Wiese's world record perch measured a whopping 15.5 inches long, with a 12.75-inch girth.

Aaron Guthrie of Bemidji may have caught himself a new state-record fish. News

Potential MN State Record Burbot Caught on Lake of the Woods

Jeff Simpson - February 29, 2012

Aaron Guthrie of Bemidji may have caught himself a new state-record fish.

See More News

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

×