Dora’s James Bramlett landed this 70-pound striped bass while fishing on the Black Warrior River on Feb. 28. On Tuesday, the fish was declared a world record. AP photo
DORA AL. — James Bramlett’s phone has been ringing like a tambourine at a hootenanny since he landed Walker County’s version of Moby Dick near the Gorgas Steam Plant on the Black Warrior River on Feb. 28. Bramlett, who lives near Dora, normally fishes several times a week, hadn’t wet a hook in a long time, according to his wife, Jan. She had a medical issue and was awaiting major surgery, so he didn’t feel comfortable leaving her alone. “I kept after him, until he finally decided to go,” she remembered. On that Thursday, Bramlett was on the water before the roosters crowed and had several nice bass on his stringer that morning. He maneuvered his boat up next to some lily pads and used his trolling motor to maintain position instead of dropping his anchor. A while later he saw a nice fish roll on top of the water, so he pulled out the largest shad in his tank, which was about 12 inches long, and baited his hook. Using a 30-pound test line with his Ambassador 7000 reel, he lobbed the line to the spot where he saw the fish. He felt the fish take the bait. “The line coming off that reel sounded like an electric Weed Eater,” he said. The bass headed for deeper water and he pulled Bramlett’s boat along with him. The fight took them toward the middle of the river. “When I looked up, I saw a tugboat headed toward me pushing an empty barge.”Normally that would be a big problem, but fortunately the tugboat operator saw what was happening and cut the motor, bringing the barge to a stop. The crew of the tug knew it was a big fish and they cheered Bramlett as he did battle with the bass. After more than 20 minutes, the fish began to tire and Bramlett managed to get him close enough to see. “I looked at my landing net and I knew it was useless. So I put the butt of the rod against my stomach, and held it with my left hand while I used my right hand to unlatch the keepers on my gaff.” He slid the hook of the gaff underneath the lip of the bass and managed to drag it in the boat. “I knew it was a big fish,” he said. Bramlett felt like he had a record fish even before he weighed it on the ancient scales at Gross Fishing Camp in Parrish. He put the fish on the scale and kept bumping the counterweight down the measurement bar until it rested on 69 pounds. Those scales weren’t certified, but he knew the fish was big enough to snag a state record, set in 1959, by 15 pounds. The fish was weighed on certified scales and officials from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources listed the official weight as 69.98 pounds. The fish is 45.5 inches long and has a 37.75 inch girth. Bramlett learned Tuesday that his trophy striped bass surpassed the world record of 67 pounds, 8 ounces set in 1992. When asked if he would have the fish on his wall, he said ‘no.’ “The fish will be mounted, but I’m not sure where it will end up. I like looking at the pictures much better,” he said. Bramlett will go down in history as holding the world record for the largest striped bass.