Sowbelly: The Obsessive Quest for the World-Record Largemouth Bass

Overview

In 1932, a farmer named George Washington Perry decided it was too rainy to plow and went fishing. That day, George landed the largest largemouth ever recorded—twenty-two pounds four ounces. The fish has inspired and frustrated hundreds of anglers for decades. They’ve dedicated their lives to the pursuit of “Sowbelly”—a nearly mythical fish, whose swinelike girth holds the key to their dreams.

From an L.A. cop who came within ounces of besting the record to an Alabaman who has ...

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Overview

In 1932, a farmer named George Washington Perry decided it was too rainy to plow and went fishing. That day, George landed the largest largemouth ever recorded—twenty-two pounds four ounces. The fish has inspired and frustrated hundreds of anglers for decades. They’ve dedicated their lives to the pursuit of “Sowbelly”—a nearly mythical fish, whose swinelike girth holds the key to their dreams.

From an L.A. cop who came within ounces of besting the record to an Alabaman who has lost his marriage and his daughter to this pursuit, Burke takes readers along for the ride in this legendary race.

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Editorial Reviews

Forbes
Snacking 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.
—George Scott
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452287150
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/28/2006
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.22 (w) x 11.04 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Monte Burke

A devoted angler and outdoorsman, Monte Burke has written many articles for Field & Stream and other periodicals.

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 22, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Easy quick-read...

    I thought this book was above average. I came upon this book one day and decided to read it (I'm not a fisherman or have fished since I've read this). It keeps your attention, is quick/easy to read, and shows you some insight into some strange obsessions people have. I would recommend this book. It is both uplifting and depressing to view a world that I would never otherwise have known about.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2005

    Wow

    My favorite book so far of this summer. America is full of weird subcultures, and this one--about people who are trying to break this longstanding record--is really interesting. Where the heck did the author find these guys?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2005

    A Fascinating Look At Fishing Fanaticism

    I was entranced by the colorful characters and stories that Mr. Burke portrayed in 'Sowbelly.' Burke looks at fisherman who have dedicated their lives, in some cases ruining them, to trying to catch the world record largemouth bass. These are some very strange and intense individuals, a satellite fringe of the truly hard core angler. Yet, Burke does not stop at just profiling a bunch of die hard bass freaks, he details the progression of bass fishing in America from occassional leisure activity to a multibillion dollar industry. As well, he lays out the shadowy circumstances of the world record, an event that is shrouded in hearsay and speculation, and how it helped give birth to a movement with as much fervor and fever as any major religion of the civilized world. Burke is at his best when he begins to parallell the pursuit of big bass other aspects of life. He writes that big bass fishing has developed into 'a subculture that has, at times, the languid feel of baseball...the spontaneity of jazz, the ruthlessness of the high halls of capitalism, and even a dash of the corruption that seems to seep into anything that really matters to anyone.' You do not need to love bass fishing to love this book. It's as much about hopes and dreams as it is about hauling in a big fish. And if you love bass fishing then this is absolutely required reading.

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