Arkansas angler still fighting for world-record striped bass
BY KELLY BOSTIAN Outdoors
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
8/21/12 at 5:32 AM
Go to Kelly Bostian's blog Original Print Headline: Angler fighting for record
FIGHTING AND LANDING a 68-pound striped bass was the easy part for Bull Shoals Lake angler Rodney Ply. Now he's fighting to make some changes, and that's hard.
The unbelievable hit and 10-minute battle back on Feb. 18 was nothing compared to his ongoing tussle with Arkansas Game and Fish and working with the International Game Fish Association to have his potential new state- and world-record landlocked striped bass approved so he can, potentially, collect up to $1,100,000 in prize money.
Ply said the former commissioner of Arkansas Game and Fish held that he failed to follow protocol in getting a department employee to witness the weighing on certified scales, even though he met with a game warden who failed to find adequate scales. On the other hand, the meticulous IGFA has accepted the 68-pound weight reading, but that organization denied the record because of the configuration of Ply's homemade lure.
Over six months he has met with department directors and spoken before the Arkansas Game Commission. He's traveled to Florida to meet personally with IGFA officials and let them use his lure - a 1.4-ounce bait that he says is a cross between an Alabama rig and a spinner bait.
Other fishermen got into the act last week and started a petition at change.org that asks anglers everywhere to speak up on Ply's behalf. About 850 have signed it so far. The petition can be viewed at tulsaworld.com/plysbass
Winning his fight could mean a $1,100,000 payday for Ply, who registered for the Mustad Hook A Million contest. The contest awards $100,000 to any angler who catches a state record on one of its hooks and $1 million for a new world record. His lure uses two 4-aught Mustad hooks. Mustad has extended its deadline to allow Ply a chance to certify his record.
Pride also figures into it for the angler who has fished the famous Bull Shoals since he was a child. "It's embarrassing for Arkansas," he said. "A lot of this is I just wouldn't ever want someone else to have to go through all this. That's why I keep fighting it."
How the IGFA will rule is anyone's guess. Jack Vitek, world record coordinator for IGFA, said Ply's appeal of the rules committee's decision now lies with the IGFA Executive Committee.
Vitek said he met with Ply and spoke to him many times on the phone. "He seems like a down-to-earth and genuine guy, and we just want to get it fair and accurate as possible and get it all finalized," he said. "It's not a one-day or one-week decision ... it may take some time."
Vitek said the association is collecting the petitions, emails and comments it receives. He said he has no way of knowing if they would or would not sway the committee. "There are a lot of different issues they're going to go over," he said.
While Ply's bait resembles an Alabama rig, it will be ruled upon individually, he said. "The umbrella rig has for years been categorized with spreader-bar type setups," he said. That would be any rig with multiple arms and baits. Such rigs are legal for records only if once a fish hits the bait the individual hook separates from the group for a one-line-one-hook fight.
Ply said he thinks the ruling was unfair and his bait should be in a different category. It may mean a change to the IGFA definitions. "It's not a trolling bait," he said.
The irony of the ruling for Ply is he developed his patent-pending Bass Tricker bait to make something that would be legal because the now wildly popular umbrella rigs - which typically have five baits and hooks - are not legal in some states.
"Mine is just a little bigger than a standard spinner bait. It's only 1.4 ounces," he said. "It has two baits with hooks, a dummy, and spinners, that's it."
His battle continues with his home Game and Fish Department as well, which has a new commissioner since the first ruling was made.
When Ply caught his fish he weighed it at a local marina, but the scales weren't certified at the time. That's when the trouble began. He immediately contacted game wardens to have the record witnessed by a Game and Fish employee for state recognition but was told to drive 30 miles to meet a game warden at a grocery store.
He did, but the store's scale was too small. "We drove around half the night looking for scales," Ply said.
The fish died during that process. The marina scales were later certified accurate, and witnesses gave statements to state officials supporting the weight. However, the commissioner denied the record, saying Ply failed to follow the protocol of having a Game and Fish employee witness the weighing.
"There's a change of leadership there now I'm hoping might make a difference," Ply said.
It's like they say, change is hard; in this case it's $1 million and change.
Rodney Ply of Diamond City, Ark., caught a potential state- and world-record landlocked striped bass on Bull Shoals Lake early this year. It weighed 68 pounds, was 51.5 inches long and had a girth of 39.5 inches. RODNEY PLY / Courtesy