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ForbesSnacking high on the aquatic food chain in tens of thousands of U.S. lakes, ponds, reservoirs, golf course water hazards, irrigation ditches and roadside borrow pits lurks Micropterus salmoides, the largemouth bass. Slightly higher up the chain are the 11 million U.S. anglers who regularly seek out the largemouth as their primary fishing pursuit. It's a $5.5 billion-a-year business supporting gear companies, guides, a travel industry, books, magazines, television pro-gramming, video sales, superstores and even popular video games. A tiny fraction of this enormous number of anglers become top predators themselves, singularly obsessed with beating the still-standing and controversial world-record bass caught by George Washington Perry in 1932-a freakish 22-pound, 4-ounce Georgia "bucket mouth." In this new book, Forbes staff reporter Monte Burke chronicles a year traveling around the country profiling trophy bass anglers, fishery biologists, local historians, paranoiacs and other colorful characters to plumb the depths and/or shallows of their souls. He reels up some wonderful tales from his cast: the taciturn ex-cop, the meticulous former athlete turned bass champion, a born-again ex-con master lure-maker, a biologist trying to grow monster bass in a multimillion-dollar state-of-the-art laboratory and other colorful sorts. The stories are fascinating, hilarious, sad and even poignant. Some anglers lose their families, livelihoods, physical health and minds as they spend day after day racing from night jobs out to open lakes to fry their noodles in the sun in the remote hope of besting a 73-year-old record. The standout chapter in the book is Burke's trip to Cuba, where he meets up withgentle soul Samuel Yera, that country's premier bass fisherman and guide. Yera's humility and grace serve as a sharp contrast to so many of the burned-out, self-inflated, hyper-competitive "bassholes" Burke meets in the United States. Yera calls the fish that will eventually shatter the 1932 record "the heart-breaker"-and whether it comes from a forbidden lake in Cuba or from a man-made reservoir stocked by a Franken-fish laboratory in Texas, whoever lands it will become a famous angler indeed.