Hunting Fishing

California pro catches whopper spotted bass that may break world record

Cody Meyer holds his potential world record spotted bass he caught Friday at New Bullards Bar Reservoir in Yuba County. The fish weighed in at 10.80 pounds.
Cody Meyer holds his potential world record spotted bass he caught Friday at New Bullards Bar Reservoir in Yuba County. The fish weighed in at 10.80 pounds. Courtesy of Tim Little

Cody Meyer turned a life’s passion for fishing into a lucrative career, but the 33-year-old Auburn man never came close to hooking a world-record fish – until Friday.

Meyer grew up watching bass-fishing shows on television in his parents’ Grass Valley home. Before he could drive, his mother used to drop off the Bear River High School student at local lakes with a little aluminum boat. He’d stay out on the water and fish until she picked him up at dark.

He won his first fishing tournament at 15.

“I was hooked,” he said. “I won 500 bucks. I felt like I was a millionaire.”

It’s a feeling that never went away. About six years ago, he quit his profitable full-time job in the wholesale car industry to fish full time. Meyer has been remarkably successful, pulling in nearly $900,000 in earnings at professional fishing tournaments across the county. He’s got a small army of gear and tackle sponsors. When he’s on tour in the South, where professional bass fishing almost rivals NASCAR in popularity, he’s something of a celebrity. People stop him to pose for pictures.

But even with that kind of success, he never caught that one fish that could immortalize him in the fishing world.

That may have changed Friday with one lurch of his fishing rod.

Meyer knew massive spotted bass lurk in the emerald waters of Yuba County’s New Bullards Bar reservoir, an hour or so from Meyer’s home in Auburn. Meyer said he’s caught a veritable “truckload” of spotted bass at the lake over the years topping more than 8 pounds. In January 2015, his friend Tim Little caught the current International Game Fish Association world record, a 10 pound, 6 ounce behemoth.

Other anglers have reportedly caught fish from New Bullards Bar that weighed even more. One of them is even listed as a state record, but those fish weren’t officially certified for the world record books.

For Meyer, Friday was supposed to be a lazy fishing trip with his buddy. Maybe they’d shoot some pictures for a sponsor if they caught a few of the big spotted bass that lurk in the lake, gorging on the landlocked sockeye salmon local fishermen call kokanee. Spotted bass, native to America’s South, were introduced in California in 1974. The hard-fighting fish thrive along the rocky, muddy banks of Northern California’s major reservoirs.

As they fished, Meyer said he spotted what appeared to be a fat bass on the high-tech depth and fish finder he’s got on his boat. The fish was hovering around 20 feet below the surface, some 80 feet above the lake’s bottom. He tossed an Ocho, a soft, plastic lure made by Strike King Lure Co., over where he he thought the fish might be hoping to ambush a kokanee.

“The fish bit, and I set the hook. It took off for, like, 5 feet and then stopped,” Meyer said Sunday in a phone interview. “I said, ‘Big one!’ but literally for about a second and a half, I thought it was snagged, even though it was in the middle of nowhere. … Then it just slowly swam past the boat like it didn’t even know it was hooked out in the deep water. Then it realized it was hooked, and it went crazy.”

He said the battle to reel the fish to the boat lasted only five minutes or so, but “it seemed like I fought it for six hours.”

When he got it to the boat, Meyer’s eyes widened.

“To be honest, I thought it was a 12- or 13-pounder,” he said. “I’ve never seen a spot that big. … It was a freak. It was a freak.”

Upon weighing the fish and seeing that at 10.8 pounds, it appeared larger than Little’s record, Meyer said he wasn’t sure what to do, so he called Little. When Little’s not fishing in his free time, he’s a game warden with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Little informed him about the special procedures and certified scales that must be used before the fish can be listed in the International Game Fish Association record books, Meyer said. Off duty that day, Little actually drove with a certified scale almost three hours over to New Bullard’s Bar from Lake County so he could weigh it. Little couldn’t be reached for comment, but Andrew Hughan, a spokesman for the Department of Fish and Wildlife, confirmed Meyer’s version of events.

The whole weigh-in process was documented on video. It could take several months before it becomes a certified world record.

In all, Meyer said, it was one of the coolest experiences of his life. As an added bonus, he said catching a likely world record could help his sponsorship opportunities in the professional fishing world.

“It was the fish of a lifetime,” he said.

The Missouri Department of Conservation wants to use your old Christmas trees to help fishermen and the fish population. This video will show you how to pick the best lures to use in those lakes near St. Clair and Madison County, Illinois.

Ryan Sabalow: 916-321-1264, @ryansabalow