Last update: August 31, 2006 – 11:36 PM

No lie -- another whopper

A photo of the world-record 22-pound, 4-ounce largemouth (or so some say) will soon go on display at the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, Wis.

Dennis Anderson, Star Tribune

HAYWARD, WIS. - Here in the land of big muskies -- and arguments over big muskies -- a photograph soon will be displayed of a bass that might or might not be a world-record holder caught in 1932.

Then, perhaps, another controversy might envelop the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward.

Earlier this year, the hall again validated the record muskie -- and the 1949 photo thereof -- of the bootlegger and northern Wisconsin raconteur Louis Spray. In a now-famous snapshot, Spray is shown hoisting what the hall says is the biggest muskie ever caught by an angler, a 69-pound, 11-ounce behemoth.

Emmett Brown, executive director of the hall, said the bass photo the hall soon will exhibit is unlikely to engender a similar outcry.

"It's a different fish, a different situation," he said.

That's because, in part, no one seems to know who is in the photo with the bass. More important, no one knows how tall those people were in 1932.

The big bass is the presumed 22-pound, 4-ounce legendary catch of George Washington Perry in 1932. The bass was landed in Montgomery Lake about 20 miles from Helena, Ga.

A replica of Perry's fish already hangs in the Hayward fishing hall of fame. Soon, a photo of the fish will, too. If it's the right fish.

That photo, showing a man helping a boy hold a big bass, surfaced only last year. Jerry Johnson of Waycross, Ga., came upon it while going through the effects of his late aunt.

Bill Baab, a Georgia outdoor writer, has studied the Perry bass and the controversy surrounding it, and first reported the photo's discovery in Bassmaster magazine.

Subsequent investigations determined Perry was a friend of Johnson's late relatives, increasing the likelihood the fish is the record. Also, some believe the palm trees in the photo were those standing outside the Helena, Ga., post office in 1932.

It was in Helena that Perry weighed his world-record catch, spawning a nationwide chase for a bigger bass that hasn't ended yet.

The absence until now of a photo of Perry's bulbous bass has contributed to generations-old suggestions that tomfoolery was afoot in its weighing -- or even its catching.

Historically, anglers have not been above such transgressions.

Now comes the presumed record bass photo -- but at a time when photo alterations are commonplace and accomplished with relative ease.

"But the hall is not going to examine this photo" the way it studied the photograph of Louie Spray and his fish last year, Brown said.

The National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame was so conflicted over Spray's record that it agreed to reconsider its recognition of "Chin Whiskered Charlie," the muskie caught by Spray in the Chippewa Flowage not far from Hayward.

The fish, or its stuffed version, was destroyed in a fire in 1959. Spray, too, is gone. He committed suicide at age 84 in 1984.

After reviewing what the hall said were conflicting results by mathematicians who examined the photo of Spray and his muskie, the hall stood by Spray's record.

Knowing Spray's height, the math experts had attempted to determine whether Spray's fish was indeed 63 inches long, as claimed.

A Toronto-based company hired by the World Record Muskie Alliance had agreed with Doug Arnold, director of the University of Minnesota's Institute for Mathematics and its Applications, that Spray's muskie couldn't have been the claimed length.

And therefore not the claimed weight.

The Alliance charged Spray had filled his fish with as much as 25 pounds of ice before weighing it -- an allegation hall of fame directors disputed in revalidating Spray's catch.

Perry frequently lamented that he had no photo of his big fish, which he caught on a Fintail Shiner made by the Creek Chub Bait Co. of Garrett, Ind.

Perry, renowned near his home as an ardent and successful angler, died with that regret, perishing in 1974 in a plane crash near Birmingham, Ala.

Perhaps Perry also regretted eating the bass, which he did after weighing it.

Far from Georgia's Montgomery Lake, a photo of Perry's fish -- however belated, real or surreal -- now comes north to be displayed with that of Louis Spray and his fish.

Visitors to the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame might be convinced of the validity of both catches.

Pictures, after all, don't lie.

People do.