World Record

The Mystery of the World Record Smallmouth Bass

No one has beaten the world record for smallmouth bass that was set by David Hayes on one sunny July afternoon in 1955. It was on that day that while trolling on Dale Hollow Reservoir, Tennessee, he landed an 11 pound, 15 ounce monster. To this day it still stands, blowing away its closest competition by a pound.

However, it’s a story that includes two lie detector tests and an angry angler!

The International Game Fish Association removed the record from their books, after discovering a written affidavit by John Barlow in which he stated that without Mr. Hayes knowledge, he had salted the weight by inserting weights into the fish at the Cedar Hills Dock, where the official weighing had taken place.

Unfortunately, John Barlow had since died, however, before his death he took a lie detector test that he passed, where he stated he had salted the results. Shortly after the IGFA removed the record, so did National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. 

Through the unwavering investigation of an American reporter named Larry Self, and an agent of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Ron Fox, another story has emerged. One that claims John Barlow was angry with the Cedar Hill Dock management after being told that he was no longer welcome there. Ron Fox arranged for Barlow’s brother, Ira, to take a lie detector test to verify Ira’s claim that his brother was nowhere near the Cedar Hill Dock on the day of the weighing. Ira also passed the test. 

Another key piece of evidence was two identical weights at two different locations, the first of which Barlow was not present. Hayes had taken the smallmouth bass to the closest dock to be weighed before setting off to Cedar Hill, which had a certified scale. A police officer who was there at the time of the first weighing remembered the correct time and weight. There was no difference between the two weights. 

Between Fox and Larry Self, they put together a six-inch thick file of interviews, eyewitness accounts and investigative findings to support their cause and reinstate David Hayes’ smallmouth bass world record. 

The National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame has since reinstated the record. The International Game Fish Association is reviewing the case.