Breaking records with heavy bass

John Locker with his British record sea bass
John Locker with his British record sea bass

AN ANGLER from Whitby has set a new British record by landing a ‘monster’ sea bass, weighing almost 20lb.

A Royal Navy aeronautical engineer, in November John Locker was in Portsmouth preparing for his next tour of duty and he decided to do a spot of fishing one Friday.

The Haggersgate resident was at the naval dockyards in Portsmouth, and was fishing with two rods, using one to catch bait to use on the other larger rod. He hooked a smaller bass on the little rod, and explained what happened next: “I was busy reeling it in when I got a big bite on the other rod. It nearly snapped it in half and I thought ‘wow, this is big this is.

“It took about five minutes before I got it to the surface. As it was coming up there was sea weed round my line and I thought ‘that’s why it was so heavy’, but it just kept getting bigger and bigger.

“It was pretty mental.”

In a flash, the fish made off again and John said it was another 25 minutes before he managed to get the fish alongside the pier, where he was stood.

The sea bass later weighed in at 19lb 13.5oz, so with John using a 20lb rod, he knew that at any point something could go wrong and he could lose the fish.

“It was a miracle to catch it,” said the former Whitby fisheries officer. “Half an hour playing with a fish feels like a week. When you have seen it and you know it’s the biggest fish you have seen in your life, and you know at any time the line can break, you’re thinking you can lose it, there’s a million things going through your mind, and you don’t realise you’re holding your breath or how fast your heart is beating.”

As John was fishing alone on a pier, he was unable to hoist the giant bass out of the water. Instead he needed to walk the catch along the pier to the nearest steps. This meant climbing over fences and other obstructions.

When he finally managed to land the fish he called a nearby tackle shop to ask if he could use their scales. “I didn’t know it was a record fish,” said John. “I didn’t even know how much it weighed because I didn’t have any scales.”

At almost a metre in length, the fish caused a stir when he arrived at the tackle store. He added: “Everyone is running round the shop, saying ‘look at that’. I took it into the shop and he put it one the scales and it just went ‘error’.”

The moster bass even spat out a 1.5lb pout while it was being unhooked, so it would have been even heavier.

With the tackle shop unable to weigh the fish, they took it to Portsmouth’s fish market, where John finally discovered that his fish set a new British record. “When I found out that it was a record fish and 40-years-old I felt a bit bad. If I knew I would have kept it alive and given it to an aquarium.”

John decided, therefore, to sell the fish at the market, with the proceeds being donated to Tedworth House, a sub-section of Help for Heroes. The organisation provides support for injured military personnel and part of the therapy can include fishing trips.

The monthly magazine Sea Angler featured a John and his catch last month, and have also pledged to make a donation to Tedworth House.

The sea bass also won John a fishing trip to Norway with the magazine.