The Loophole

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Mark Fiorentino, Potential World Record Holder.

All fisherman, whether they will admit it or not, have a thing for records. We’re obsessed with researching, talking about, and pursuing them. Setting one is the ultimate achievement. But doing so is easier said than done. Unless you find a loophole.

I believe I have found mine.

When I was a kid, I loved the Guinness Book of World Records. I couldn’t wait for the new book to come out every year. The variety of fascinating and bizarre things that people recorded from around the world never failed to amaze and inspire me.

Take, for example, the case of Kathy Wafler. In 1976, Ms. Wafler set the record for the longest unbroken apple peel. It measured over 172 feet. For months, I peeled every apple I ate, trying to break the record. Although my personal best was not much longer than a foot, I don’t feel too bad. Unlike other records that are regularly broken, Wafler’s achievement still stands today. In fact, for some reason, the powers to be at Guinness are no longer accepting applications in the apple peel category, providing only this cryptic notice: “This record has been sourced from expert consultants and institutions and we do not invite proactive applications.”

Memories of my apple peeling days, and the discovery that certain Guinness records could be forever sealed in notoriety, got me to thinking. How does one go about establishing a record? Are there any related to fishing that I might break, or better yet, create? Is it possible that I already hold a record and just need to inform Guinness? Perhaps one involving bluegills? I mention bluegills because: I catch a lot of them; I’ve caught a couple of nice-sized ones recently; and none of my buddies would think to submit a record involving a bluegill.

To find answers to these questions, I started with a hardcopy of the 2020 version of the record book, which is now known by the shortened name of Guinness World Records. The book was different than the ones I had as a kid: thinner, glitzier and with fewer records listed. According to the index, there are only 12 records relating to fish. These ranged from stickiest —the northern clingfish—produces an adhesive force of 80-230 times its own weight, to shortest lifespan —the pygmy goby—59 days, to fastest-eating —a tie between the bay pipefish, the blue-striped pipefish and the longspine snipefish—all can detect and gulp down prey in two milliseconds. Hmm. So far, so good. No printed records relating to bluegills. But I knew from the fine print that I needed to check the Guinness website. The book only contained selected records that Guinness found to be the “most astonishing, mind-blowing and inspiring achievements.” An obvious, but understandable, slight to bluegills.

So off to the website I went. After creating the required account, I searched for records using terms like “bluegill”, “bluegill fish” and “fish caught, bluegill”. Remarkably, these produced no results that involved catching bluegills.

This was starting to look more promising than even I imagined. I might actually hold the record for “largest bluegill caught from a kayak”. The next step was to be sure I met the criteria for submitting a new record application. They are:

• Measurable: check.

• Breakable: check.

• Standardizable: check.

• Verifiable: check.

• Based on one variable: check

• The best in the world: as far as I know.

OK. Next, I had to ensure that my proposed record didn’t qualify as one of their “reasons applications are rejected”. There are a lot of these, including: “inappropriate/offensive”, “involves the rapid consumption of alcohol”, and “involves improvisation/jamming.” The only one that gave me any pause was “Discontinued titles: retired record titles will not appear in the list of records we monitor and will not be accepted if suggested as new titles.”

After reading this several times, I thought: “Very clever, Guinness. The ultimate tool to take my money and then reject my application.” You can see what I was worried about. “Largest bluegill caught from a kayak” might be a retired title, and hence didn’t show up in my searches. Because it didn’t show up, I had to submit an application for a new record. Which they are free to reject based on this rule.

Figuring that, having gotten this far, I ought to give Guinness the benefit of the doubt, I moved on to choosing the type of application I wanted to file. I had two choices: Priority Services, which promised a determination within five days, but cost $800, and Standard Applications, which can take up to 16 weeks, but cost $5. Not willing to invest $800, and happy with the idea that I could, at least for a while, call myself a potential record holder, I chose the Standard Application.

After answering some surprisingly easy questions, signing an agreement allowing, among other things, Guinness to email me all sorts of advertisements, and paying my five bucks, I got a notice saying my application was accepted and pending. Let’s keep our fingers crossed. If this works, I might end up holding dozens of records.