Discover The Largest Giant Sea Bass Ever Caught in California

Types of rare fish - Giant Sea Bass
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Written by Thomas Godwin

Updated: June 14, 2023

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The largest giant sea bass ever caught in California is also a world record. The weight of this underwater giant was a staggering 563 lbs and 8 ounces. At that point, the ounces on the end almost seem unnecessary and minuscule.

It’s one thing to catch the state record and another to discover that your state record is also a world record. This is a case where we don’t have to differentiate between the world and California state records. They’re the same.

There are some unique aspects to catching such a massive haul. We’ll cover not only the size of this particular giant sea bass but also the methods anglers employ to catch fish of this size and the history of California’s, and indeed the world’s, largest giant sea bass catch.

Giant Sea Bass

Also known as the king of the kelp forest, giant sea bass earn their name because they are, well, giants. The largest reported sea bass weighed approximately 570 lbs and was 7 and a half feet long. They are primarily in the Pacific Ocean, and the Eastern Pacific primarily.

Female giant sea bass is capable of laying over 60 million eggs, though a male giant sea bass won’t fertilize anywhere near as many. Giant sea bass lives for a long time, lasting anywhere between 50 and 70 years.

They’re also surprisingly quick (short-distance sprinters so to speak). They certainly won’t put a marlin to shame but can move quickly when necessary—surprisingly quick for a fish that looks like a lumbering giant.

Their traditional habitats are the kelp forests throughout the Pacific Ocean. Giant sea bass spends most of their lives in underwater kelp forests, except during spawning season. During the spawn, giant sea bass has specific, generational locations they go to, much like how African elephants migrate to the elephant graveyard.

There isn’t much in the ocean that will hunt a giant sea bass and their primary predators are great white sharks and, as the record giant sea bass above is proof, human beings.

When Was the Largest Giant Sea Bass Caught?

When Was the Largest Giant Sea Bass Caught?

The largest giant sea bass that set the record in California and the world was 563.8 lbs, just a shade over a quarter of a ton. James Donald McAdam Jr was the angler bringing California’s and the world’s largest giant sea bass on August 20, 1968, in Santa Barbara.

Fifty-five years later, the record remains. He wasn’t just some no-name angler with a lot of luck. As it turns out, Donald was an interesting historical figure. He was responsible for the rescue of a ship close to Vietnam and was himself the survivor of a shipwreck off the coast of Panama.

The 563-lb bass was one of many adventures that James Donald McAdam underwent, as some of the above examples show. In August of 1968, James caught what is thought of as a “record unlikely to be broken,” at least not anytime soon. The giant sea bass he caught that day is not only the record but also the record for all bass—period.

McAdam caught the bass by using a Penn 114H reel with an 80-lb line. That’s the totality of the information at hand. No one knows the specifics beyond that point, except McAdam’s bait—a bonito. Bonito are bloody fish and are useful as chum for sharks or as shark bait when fishing off the shoreline.

How Are Such Large Fish Caught by Traditional Means?

It’s easy to forget that just because a fish weighs 563 lbs doesn’t mean it weighs that much in the water. Buoyancy has something to say about that. When an angler hooks a fish, they are fighting the strength and speed of the fish, rather than its weight.

Granted, a 563 lb fish is likely to have immense strength. However, the 80-lb line is quite a lot of weight-durability and the drag (how much force it takes to unspool the line from the reel) is lower than the weight the line is capable of holding.

Think of it this way: If an angler sets the drag to a higher weight than the line is capable of holding, the line will snap before the drag allows it to unspool. Of course, when setting the drag, there is no weight indicator to let an angler know what the weight is. It’s more of a feel than anything else.

This allows the fish to run, pulling against the restriction of the drag, and allowing the line to unspool. After a time, the fish tires, and the angler begins reeling it in until the fish catches its second wind and runs again. This can happen many, many times.

Where is California Located on a Map?

California, located in the western United States, spans almost 900 miles along the Pacific coastline, sharing a border with Mexico. This diverse state boasts a variety of landscapes, including picturesque cliff-lined beaches, majestic redwood forests, the magnificent Sierra Nevada Mountains, fertile farmland in the Central Valley, and the expansive Mojave Desert.

Here is California on a map:

Final Thoughts

When McAdams broke the California record and the world record in the same catch, it certainly wasn’t (and isn’t) the biggest fish ever caught. However, it’s certainly the biggest bass. Of course, giant sea bass is related to wreckfish, not the bass most people are used to in freshwater environments.

Regardless, catching a fish of this size is an incredible feat. James Donald McAdam Jr passed away at the age of 44, far too soon for someone of his age and adventurous spirit. However, capturing the California and world record giant sea bass is an accomplishment that will live on for ages to come.

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About the Author

Thomas is a freelance writer with an affinity for the great outdoors and Doberman Pinschers. When he's not sitting behind the computer, pounding out stories on black bears and reindeer, he's spending time with his family, two Dobermans (Ares and Athena), and a Ragdoll cat named Heimdal. He also tends his Appleyard Ducks and a variety of overly curious and occasionally vexatious chickens.

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