It happened 21 years ago this month, at a small reservoir among the popular San Diego City Lakes. Not surprising at the time, yet another big Florida strain bass was reported. But this tale was special; a woman had broken the existing California state record.

But within days, the story started to unravel. I wrote the following back then. Maybe you remember:

“For the record”

Bass fishing records have never been the highlight of my interest in the sport. When I got word years ago that Dave Zimmerlee had set a new (California) state record at Lake Miramar, I called another outdoor writer to cover the story. Heck, when Ray Easley broke the record at Lake Casitas, it was my birthday—so I missed the party.

However, I have to admit, it kind of warmed my heart when I first heard a lady, Sandy DeFresco, had established the new mark, once again at Lake Miramar. Bass fishing was due for a little storybook lore. In the interim, though, that warm glow has kind of turned to a knot in my stomach. One weighing about 2 1/2 pounds, as a matter of fact.

If for some reason you are unfamiliar with the story, on Monday, March 14 (1988) DeFresco, a novice bass angler and an employee of the concession stand at Miramar, checked in a bass weighing 21 pounds, 10 ounces. However, as she and the fish were being touted for the apparent record catch, a taxidermist and another witness discovered a lead weight in the fish’s stomach weighing an incredible 2 pounds, 8 3/4 ounces.

On the one hand, Mrs. DeFresco contends the weight must have been in there when she caught it, while observers across the country viewed the episode with what shall we say, suspicion.

The issue of the presence of the lead (a shiny new SCUBA diver’s belt weight) has even pitted the experience and reputations of DFG biologists against each other. Could the fish survive, function, go out and eat a plastic worm and then battle an angler for a reported “20 minutes?”

The promotional potential of he fish brought in the attorneys. Bless their hearts. But even they (DeFresco’s original counsel and now her present one) have seen the whole issue is not nearly so clear as the water in Miramar Lake.

In fact, the original advice given to DeFresco by her attorney, Kevin Mineo, was “Enjoy your 19-pound fish, (sans lead) but don’t apply for record status.” I believe he figured there might be some kind of controversy!

On the other hand, I recently interviewed the DeFrescos’ newest attorney (name withheld from this article by request) and I am disappointed. Speaking of the 21-10 bass in question, he told me, “It is going to be submitted as a possible state record.”

Yes, I know they screamed when Roger Maris hit 61 home runs in a longer season than Babe Ruth, but talk about putting an asterisk next to a record! George Perry is going to kick his coffin lid open if we don’t give him another 2 1/2 pounds to keep things in perspective. Heck, what does Ray Easley get with another 2-8?

Yes, the whole episode is unique. Indeed, based on the events as they have unfolded, San DeFresco and her fish are a part of American fishing history.

But when it comes to my state record bass, that’s another matter. That 2 1/2 pounds of lead—I just can’t swallow it.


One Response to “Was this the strangest record tale of them all?”


Let us not forget the plastic replica divers weight that was soon marketed as a gag soon after all this happened…

I am not positive but I believe Al Kalin might have had something to do with that.