April 08, 2020
By Lynn Burkhead
In recent days, the thoughts of many outdoors enthusiasts have turned towards family and the things that matter most in life.
For 43-year old fly fishing adventurer Meredith McCord of Houston, Texas, that process actually started several years ago when she lost her father, Rick McCord, after a battle with kidney cancer.
As McCord and her loved ones ride out the COVID-19 outbreak at the family’s farm near Navasota, Texas, thoughts of her late father and a mild spring evening recently collided in a pandemic storm that proves once again how family and fishing can often be so deeply intertwined in an angler’s life.
Before the March 29, 2020 outing was complete, McCord was able to add yet another chapter to her ongoing angling career, landing a 10-lb., 4-oz. largemouth bass from a 10-acre water body known as Lake Ezekiel.
If everything checks out satisfactorily with the International Game Fish Association, McCord’s recent catch stands poised to break the women’s 6-lb. tippet class IGFA world record she already owns at 4-lbs., 3-oz.
More on the new potential record bass and McCord’s most recent accomplishment in just a moment. But to truly appreciate what such a fish means to the Texas angler, you probably need to understand the backstory that fuels her fishing career.
Taught to fish at an early age by her father, McCord shared many moments with her dad, from childhood fishing trips in Canada to visits to the family farm north of Houston to saltwater adventures in the Caribbean.
Along the way, McCord was influenced, as so many others were, by the Robert Redford directed movie, A River Runs Through It, a film based on the short novel by author Norman Maclean. After getting her degree from Vanderbilt University, fly fishing and all its aquatic haunts became a significant part of her journey through life.
After time in other parts of the country, McCord settled in Houston to run a series of pottery craft stores called The Mad Potter, a business she eventually sold to more fully pursue a career marked by individual fly fishing adventures, hosted trips, and producing a variety of fly fishing related content.
Her skills became polished enough to the point where one day in December 2012 near Venice, La., McCord caught a 32-lb., 9-oz. redfish, the first of many times that her name would find itself etched into the IGFA’s record book.
That fish started McCord on a journey to see how many records she could break, something that seemed to produce an extraordinary amount of paternal joy in her late father, who was actually with his daughter when her second and third world record catches took place.
“When he got sick, I told him, ‘Hey dad, I’m not going to catch just a couple of records, I’m going to aim for 100,” said McCord. “In those final months, I would curl up next to him with my iPad and show him my pictures from my latest trips.”
When her dad lost his battle to cancer in October 2015, McCord’s mission to fly fish the world and accumulate records seemed to kick into overdrive as she sought to deal with her grief and honor the legacy of her late father.
“When he got sick, he kind of challenged me,” she said. “He loved a person who was on a mission with a goal to achieve, and he told me that he wanted me to keep up that pursuit.”
She has, now holding dozens of IGFA world records for various species ranging from northern pike to snook to arawana to muskie to Dolly Varden to peacock bass.
Few of those records have been cherished by McCord more than the one she secured on the first Father’s Day weekend she experienced after the loss of the man who taught her how to fish.
“When he passed away, I was on #78,” said McCord, who stretched that number of records to 99 over the next several months. “On Father’s Day (weekend) eight months after his passing, I wanted nothing more than to catch my 100th world record on a lake that he had built on the very property he had taught me how to fish on.”
During what was already an emotional time for McCord, it became even more so when she landed a largemouth that became World Record No. 100 in her ongoing quest.
“It was only a small bass, about 1 ½ pounds, on 16-lb. tippet,” said McCord. “And to be truthful, it was only able to be a world record because the IGFA had only recently separated out the records between men and women. But the record was vacant, and I had it, nonetheless.”
Little did McCord know that the small lake she was so fond of would give her another world record chance several years later.
“As my dad was (nearing) the end, he gave each of his children some directives from his bed,” McCord recalled. “To me, his fishing partner, he told me ‘I want you to get hold of those lakes (on the family farm), get to managing them, and make something out of them.’”
McCord did just that, enlisting the aid of fishery management experts from Texas A&M University. Over time, the management efforts have paid off, leading to the hope of catching an enormous sowbelly bass deep in the heart of Texas.
In late March, as the coronavirus crisis deepened and forced McCord, her boyfriend Capt. Collin Huff, and family members to retreat to the family farm for isolation and social distancing, she got a glimpse of what the management work on the farm’s various water bodies had produced.
“(Collin) tied up a deer hair popper one day and he later caught a 10-pounder on it,” said McCord. “The biggest thing we had ever caught there before was in the 8-pound range.”
A couple of days later, it was McCord’s turn as she and Huff went fishing on Lake Ezekiel during the prime time of late evening.
As the couple quietly prowled the lake in a small johnboat equipped with a trolling motor, McCord used a 7-weight Hardy Zephrus AWS fly rod, an Abel 7/8 Super Series reel, a Scientific Anglers Jungle Series fly line, and a collection of deer hair poppers to see what the evening might bring.
Already hooking and losing a good bass earlier in the evening, McCord cast the multi-colored popper parallel to a weed bed. On the second cast, a massive take occurred.
“I threw it out, gave it a quick jerk, paused, and this thing erupts out of the depths, takes it down, and leaves a huge hole in the water,” said McCord. “She jumped once, and I knew immediately it was a big fish.”
Trying to protect the tippet’s breaking strength, Huff maneuvered the boat away from the weeds so that McCord could get over the fish and successfully fight it.
“She made a run for the weeds, but I was able to keep her out,” said McCord. “She ran under the boat and towards the bow, so I had to swing the rod around to try and stay with her. She made another short run, but never quite made it to the reel.”
After a seesaw battle of approximately 6 ½ minutes, McCord had the fish boat side where Huff netted it.
“Anytime you’re fishing with light tackle and light tippet, what happens quickly feels like an eternity,” said McCord. “I knew the moment she hit the fly, that she was a good one. Her whole face came out of the water to hit that fly and it was a big sound that she made.”
Keeping the giant bass in the net, Huff maneuvered the boat to the shoreline where a weight was quickly obtained on an electronic scale. When the digital numbers settled, they read 10-lbs., 4-oz., figures that are likely to give the Texas angler another IGFA record as she sits at #181 and counting in the organization’s record book database.
“We kept her in the net the whole time, got to shore, and got her weighed on a Rapala electronic scale,” said McCord. “I noticed that the scale’s certification just went out of date a couple of months ago, but that should be ok as long as you send it in (to IGFA) and it tests out accurately after the fact.”
If the record is eventually secured by McCord, it will mean the world to her in more ways than one.
“It’s something I’ve tried to do for years,” said McCord. “Lefty (Kreh) always pushed me to do 1-for-1, meaning that if you were fishing with 6-lb. tippet, you want to have at least a 6-lb. record fish.”
And then there’s the deep meaning that this will have for McCord as she hears the whisper of her late father at a familiar place where they both loved to fish for largemouth bass.
“It’s the (records) close to home, that for me, mean the most,” said McCord. “I love the ones I’ve been able to catch in (exotic places like) the Brazilian jungle, but there’s nothing like the (places) you grew up on. I’m not always a fly fishing purist when it comes to catching bass because this is what I cut my teeth on and I just love to catch them, no matter what gear I’m using.”
A species that often gets overlooked by many fly anglers, the largemouth bass is an iconic fish in the Lone Star State, one that means everything to McCord because of her late father’s influence on her life and angling career.
“I just know he’s up there in heaven going ‘Atta’ girl,’” she said with a daughter’s knowing smile.