California Delta yields a record bucketmouth

After a short fight, Galen Jensen pulled an 18.62-pound bass from California's Delta in February 2002. 

Galen Jensen caught a California Delta record bass that tilted the scales at a remarkable 18.62 pounds, eclipsing the old standard by more than a pound.

"The hit was just a soft take and I had no idea how big the fish was until I set the hook. It didn't budge. Then in about two seconds all hell broke lose," the Brentwood, Calif., angler said of his Feb. 10 conquest.

"The first thing I saw was its enormous eyes the size of golf balls and knew this was a very large bass."

Jensen, who was pitching a black six-inch long Gary Yamato Senko lure with large blue flake, took only about a minute to land the fish. While the bucketmouth was in good shape, it was nearing the maximum age for bass and its heaviest weight.

"It is the 10-pound bass that are in top condition that give you the toughest fight, not the near record fish," Jensen said.

"I knew this fish might be a new record, so I quit fishing, loaded my boat onto my trailer and drove to the Hook, Line and Sinker Tackle Shop in Oakley to weigh it on a certified scale."

With a half-dozen envious bass anglers gathered around the fish, the official weight was registered. Measuring 29.5 inches, it was only eight one hundredths of a pound shy of the largest bass ever caught in the Northern California and wasn't quite able to make Bassmaster magazine's all-time top-25 list.

Jensen caught the hawg in the south Delta, southwest of Stockton.

"What's significant is that this fish isn't from one of the small lakes where bass gorge on stocked rainbow trout," said Dave Precht, editor of BASSMASTER magazine. "It's certainly the heaviest fish ever from a tidal fishery."

After holding this fish for two days in an enclosure in the Discovery Bay, and soon after I had taken photos, Jensen released the fish.

So, maybe another angler will get a chance to catch this fish after it has grown more and set a new Delta bass record.

But he or she will have a mission finding it. After all, the California Delta, at the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin river systems, is made up of more than 1,000 miles in a maze of waterways, most of which is excellent black bass habitat.

ESPN Outdoors senior editor Brett Pauly contributed to this article.

Ray Rychnovsky is the author of three books: "California Guide: Great Saltwater Fishing," "The Troller's Handbook" and "The San Francisco Bay Area Fishing Guide." The titles can be purchased at your local bookstore or through the publisher, Amato Publishing, at (800) 541-9498 or by visiting its website.