Cracking the Code

Myerson was born to fish. At age 8, he plucked the feathers from his grandmother’s dead parrot to fashion his first lure.

    On Feb. 8, the Atlantic City Boat Show will present a series of seminars on striped bass fishing. Greg Myerson will be there with the plastic mount of the striper he caught in August 2011 off the coast of Connecticut. At 81.88 pounds, and angled according to the rules of the International Game Fish Association, Myerson’s lunker bass was, and remains, the world-record catch.

    There is a photo of the angler holding the fish horizontally in his arms, the broad tail draped over his arms down to his thigh. So big was the fish, that if the photo had been backlit so that man and fish appeared in silhouette it would look as though he were carrying a mermaid that was sleeping or had died a tragic death.

    Luck had nothing to do with it. Myerson was born to fish. At age 8, he plucked the feathers from his grandmother’s dead parrot to fashion his first lure. As time went on, he became addicted to striped bass, and in this he is not alone. He studied their habitats and hunting habits. He learned that lobsters are among their favorite foods, and this is where it gets a little weird.

    Myerson suspected that bass were drawn to lobsters by the sound they make as they move along the ocean floor. If he could mimic the sound, he might be able fool big bass. Instead of matching the hatch, he would match the rattle of lobster armor. In order to capture it, he placed a stethoscope to the side of an aquarium to listen to the scuttling of crayfish. Here’s where it gets weirder.

    How to replicate the sound? There must have been a great number of attempts, but by deduction, the angling Sherlock found that crack vials, with the right number of BBs placed inside, produced the same click and rattle as a lobster striding along the bottom in full battle dress. I know what you’re thinking. No, Myerson claimed he found the small vials at his job site. In any case, he succeeded in creating and marketing a sinker/lobster-rattle combination.

    I find the back story to Mr. Myerson’s record catch somewhat troubling. For instance, how exactly did his grandmother’s parrot perish? And, of course, the ease with which discarded crack vials came to hand is a serendipity that speaks volumes about society at large.

    According to Myerson, the big bass was caught using a live eel as bait. As East End fishermen know well, eels are also high on the striped bass menu.

    It’s not clear whether the crack-vial sinker was part of the fishing line’s terminal gear on that moonlit night in August of 2011, but if it was, if the wise old fish was tricked into believing it had come upon the ultimate prey, a freakish, Frankensteinian lobster-eel, a Gorgon, I fear it’s proof that what goes around comes around — a bad omen.

    You see, the Gorgons of Greek mythology were monsters covered with impenetrable scales, hair of living snakes, sharp fangs, and a beard. They were said to live in the far west, near the sea. They guarded the underworld, and those who beheld them turned to stone, or these days — and in the case of the world-record striped bass — plastic. Can you hear the clink and rattle of crack vials?