Today, I’m about dusting off the obscurity shrouding an accomplishment that occurred more than 22 years ago. And in the process, perhaps a Central Coast resident will get his due.
The catalyst for this column was the Jan. 15 announcement by the International Game Fishing Association that the world’s most famous fishing record had been tied.
Of course, that would be the 22-pound, 4-ounce largemouth bass record set in 1932 by George Perry. IGFA approved Japan’s Manabu Kurita as the joint recordholder with his 22-4 catch last July.
The announcement caused me to recall my Tribune column of June 10, 1987.
Featured then was the 17.93-pound catch by Larry Goularte in a West Coast Bass tournament at Lake Castaic on June 6.Although it had been decades since we’d seen each other or talked, I connected with him by phone at his Shell Beach home.
After reliving our days in the Gold Coast Bass Club in the early 1980s, I zeroed in on refreshing and amplifying details of what was then, and still is, the largest bass ever caught in a sanctioned bass tournament.
Goularte’s improbable record catch occurred only because he did not discourage easily. For starters, his 1964 Ford truck overheated in Santa Barbara en route to the lake. Using his own tools, he removed the frozen thermostat. Twice he missed turnoffs to the Ventura County lake. Fishermen he’d met at a 7-Eleven store guided him to the lake’s east launch ramp. It was the wrong one.
In 1986, Goularte and his partner, Arroyo Grande’s Dennis Flores, had earned WCB Anglers-of-the-Year, a feat that gave them coveted first-to-launch honors at all ’87 tourneys.
By the time he launched his boat and crossed the lake he was late. Instead of being first, he was 30th boat out in a field of 44 teams.
The weather forecast for the tournament was for lightning, thunder and rain. Flores had notified his partner that he didn’t fish in lightning. It was the only event Flores missed in the three years the duo fished in West Coast Bass tournaments.
After a fruitless morning of topwater and crankbait fishing, the then-27-year-old switched to using white Limberneck spinnerbaits. His first cast alongside a newly-downed 20-foot oak tree produced an 8- or 9-pound catfish.
“Next I cast on the other side of the tree and I saw a dark shadow coming from under the tree,” Goularte said. “At first I thought it was another catfish. The bass came to the surface and just wallowed before going back down. Next time the big ol’ fish came up it was under my boat. I knew if he ever got back into the trees I’d lose it because I was only spooled with 8-pound test line.
“I told myself if I lose this fish, I might as well drown myself because nobody will believe me. I figured it was a lake record, maybe a world record.
“When the fish headed for deep water, I used my trolling motor to move the bow toward open water. It sounded peeling off line and I thought the battle was over. But, luck was on my side.”
After it surfaced twice more, the bass was guided on a couple of circle tours around the boat.
“I reached for my net but couldn’t get it loose because two rods were entangled in it. I knelt at the back of the boat,” Goularte said. “dropped my rod and lip-landed the fish with both hands.”
He estimated the entire scenario required only five minutes, “but it was 30 minutes before I could talk.”
Tournament fishermen Pete Keefer, in one boat, and Santa Maria’s Frank Fernandes in another came over to see the monster. Both men encouraged Goularte to go to the landing early. Keefer and his partner witnessed the weighing of the fish on the lake’s certified scale. It read 18-4. The reading was the same at a lake store. The WCB’s scale registered 17.93 pounds.
Goularte’s three fish weighed 20.93 pounds. However, that was good for only second place. The championship went to a Granada Hills duo, Rick Largent and Mike Dahn. Their 10 fish weighed 22.67 pounds.
A records check of IGFA, B.A.S.S., W.O.N. Bass, Angler’s Choice and FLW state Goularte’s 17.93-pound bass is still head and shoulders over other tournament marks — all in the 14-pound register. The fish was 30 inches long and its girth was 22 inches. Those records will be listed next week.