69 1/2-Pound Striper For the Ages!

Certified 69-lb., 9.8-oz. striped bass from Alabama's Black Warrior River tops world-record weight.

Mike Bolton | March 27, 2013

James Bramlett’s 69-lb., 9.8-oz. stripe was 45 1/2 inches long and had a 37 3/4-inch girth.

The humble, retired Alabama ironworker who stunned the fishing world with a 69.98-lb. striped bass he caught on Alabama’s Black Warrior River is now awaiting confirmation that his monstrous fish will be a world record.

James R. Bramlett, 65, of Dora, Ala., caught a striper that first weighed exactly 70.00 pounds on certified scales. Alabama Fisheries biologists investigated and found the certified scales at a scrap yard that were used automatically rounded to the nearest pound. Fearing this could cost Bramlett a chance at the world record, biologists urged him to re-weigh the fish on certified scales that measured in hundredths of a pound. The fish, frozen at a taxidermist’s shop, was thawed and taken to a U.S. Post Office in Centreville, Ala. and re-weighed on March 13. The fish now has an official, certified and verified weight of 69-lb.s, 9.8-ozs.

Fisheries biologists say they have been working in close conjunction with the IGFA concerning Bramlett’s fish. Biologist Jay Haffner says since the fish was re-weighed correctly a world record is now a “slam dunk.”

It not only surpassed the 54-year-old Alabama state record by a whopping 15 pounds, it was also 2 1/2 pounds larger than the current International Game Fish Association (IGFA) world record for land-locked striped bass.

The fish measured 45 1/2 inches long and had a 37 3/4-inch girth.

James was fishing near the warm-water discharge of the Gorgas Steam Plant on the Black Warrior River on Feb. 28 when he caught the huge fish. The 65-year-old said he was tied up to the bank and was fishing for catfish when he saw the big striper chasing shad on the surface less than 50 feet away. He said he quickly grabbed a larger fishing rod and a live, 10-inch shad from his bait tank. He cast near where he saw the fish.

James said the big striped bass inhaled his bait, and he battled the fish for 20 to 25 minutes. He said his net has handled 30-lb. striped bass and catfish before, but it wasn’t large enough for the almost 70-lb. striper. James said he grabbed his catfish gaff and hooked the fish to get it aboard.

James credits two people—a tugboat operator and his wife—with him catching the fish of a lifetime.

“A tugboat was pushing two barges up the river, and when the captain saw I had a big fish on, he was nice enough to stop,” he said. “If he hadn’t stopped, I doubt if I could have gotten the fish in because of the waves he would have made. The captain and his crew came out to the rail and watched.”

James also says his wife, Janice, deserves a lot of the credit. Janice said, “I’ve been sick, and he’d been staying home from fishing to take care of me. I told him that I was about to go into the hospital, and when I got home he wasn’t going to be able to go fishing because he was going to have to stay home with me. I told him to go ahead and go fishing while he had the chance.”

The current IGFA world record land-locked striped bass is a 67-lb., 8-oz. fish caught on May 7, 1992 by Hank Ferguson on the O’Neill Forebay in Los Banos, Calif.

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