McReynolds - His Story
the record straight
By Al McReynolds
night he caught
the devil. The true story
78.8 Part 1
here for more: The Brigantine Mount
More on a rebuttal to some bad press
Reprinted with permission from Al McReynolds
First a little
Al McReynolds is 63 years old. He will be 64 on October
12th 2009. AL and his wife Karen have 3 children. Albert
Jr., Thomas and Katey. The family are
all multiple striped bass fishing tournaments winners and Albert
Jr. was an American fishermen sportsmen of the year. They have
all been and still are tournament fishermen and Al is most proud
of their accomplishments. They currently reside in Florida.
He is a kind and sensitive man with little more than an eighth
grade education. Albert is kind to a fault and he often gives away
momentos to total strangers whom he meets. His lack of education,
inability to read and write and gentle demeanor enabled
the exploitation of his record fish.
was Born and raised in Atlantic City New Jersey, 3 blocks from
where he caught the fish of a lifetime. He had to quit
school to support his family after his grandfather died from
a ruptured brain aneurism. Alberts eyes well up as he speaks
about it. " right
there in front
of me", he said. "I could read and write up to that
point, but then I shut down. My grandfather was everything to
me, I watched him bleed out right there.
I know the alphabet but I cant put letters together,
so now I try to remember everything".
Before this time
little Albert had worked with his grandfather who was a sea captain. "I
did whatever I could do to help".
He manned the
swabbie bucket, caught and cut bait, wrapped rods, relined
reels, mended nets, rebaited traps, painted boats, help build
docks and "anything
I could that would keep me near the water" he
worked my way on from helper to deck hand, first mate and eventually
to captain. I have traveled the earth on fishing boats and still
love the sea".
He shined shoes in
an Atlantic city
by Skinny D'Amato who was partners with Frank Sinatra.
"It was located on the
same street that the Atlantic City expressway runs into between Atlantic
and Pacific Avenues called the 500 club and it had a walk of fame outside.
I met Skinny one day when I walked by him with my shoe shine box.
After we talked a little bit, Skinny asked me to come by later
because he could use someone to shine shoes. I worked my way up from
bar boy to bus boy and eventually after 2 A.M. worked the card games.
I worked there from ages was 8 to about 15 or 16 years old" Al
"I got to know Frank Sinatra
and Sammy Davis Jr.
was not allowed to talk to them while I worked there. They took
a liking to me and were very generous. I even
got as much as $100 tips for fetching matches. I was the richest
kid in school.
When I took the job working for the Atlantic city lifeguard beach patrol,
they tried to talk me out of it. But I was always drawn to the water".
He was still working for the beach patrol the day he caught the record.
He took the next day off and was docked the days pay.
He has been fishing
or working in and around the water since he was old enough to remember.
Al was 36 years old when he caught the world record striped bass on
September 21st 1982. Fishing in a Nor'Eastern in Atlantic City New
Jersey from the Vermont Avenue Jetty the fish took almost 4 hours
to land and weighed 78 pounds 8 oz. measured 53 inches in length
and 34 1/2 inches in girth.
Albert was born to
fish. His years of bad knots, weak hooks, improper drag sets, wrong tides,
water temperatures, baits and lures prepared him for the record.
All the mistakes
and preparation beforehand had made him uniquely qualified for
this remarkable battle with the biggest striped bass recorded and
documented to date. He
now feels he was born to catch that particular fish. "Everything
was right for it" he said.
nothing could have prepared him for what followed.
Al feels strongly
that he was cursed with this fish. The accusations of lying and cheating,
hate mail and even death threats were just part of the reasons. Both
family members and friends turned on him and demanded money from him.
He was called a cheat and a liar. The years following the catch were
so bad for him that he says without hesitation that had he to do it
over again he would have cut the line.
"Would you believe a guy pulled a gun on me? Over a Fish. Over a #[email protected]# fish
had to do with fish skin mounts and reproductions. A tackle manufacturer agreed
to make him a mount of the fish as long as they could keep one for
their own. They also offered to give him 2 free tackle boxes filled with
lures. None of which he ever received. "I
want people to know the truth, people to
get their facts right"
The bait and tackle shop weigh master
also received $25,000 for having certified the fish as a world record.
I will soon publish more in greater detail to explain why he never
received the mount. He was told the fish was freezer burnt and
thrown away. Al does not believe this happened, because there were
at least two inquiries that he was aware of from the west coast
and Minnesota to purchase the fish.
The rumor that was perpetuated in his hometown from these same individuals
who swindled him out of the fish is that he sold the mount to pay off a
(Read the Brigantine mount)
Al says that three corporate tackle manufactures used him and took advantage. The line, rod and reel manufacturers. After he posed for
them with their tackle in pictures they no longer had
any use for him. None kept their promises. Penn reels offered him
a life time tackle and job on the advisory staff if he put their
reel in the pictures. When He went to the manufacturer to collect
on his promise he was told that the representative had no authorization
to offer any of this. They stated that they were just a "Ma
and Pa outfit". He was eventually kicked off the
premises and told the cops would be called if he didnt leave.
Beach line company promised him a life time contract and when they
reneged they stated they couldnt afford to give him
any line. They do now though. The rod manufacturer
offered $1500 and then told him some guy took off with the money. Only
one tackle manufacturer eventually had to pay him $250,000 and only
reluctantly after being exposed by an article written in the New York
Times by Nelson Bryant 5 months after the fish was caught. Lloyds of
London had denied the tackle companies claim and they in turn tried
to deny AL. Nelson Bryant stuck by him and threatened to expose the
company if they reneged on the 250,000 world record offer. The owner
paid Al personally, fired everybody involved then sold the company.
These groups made
millions. They gave him a shirt and a hat. He feels he was
treated inferior because he was a fishermen. A tennis player
or skateboarder received much more respect. He didnt know how
to go about getting endorsements or sponsorships .
was so miserable. I have yet to sell a hat, beer or a even a frisbee"
Outright lies about the fish were being told in all fishing circles. Ridiculous theories from the jealous fishing community. Speculation was that
it couldnt possibly be caught from the surf, that it must have gotten it
from a passing trawler because Al had a relative who worked on a trawler.
Al says thats just ridiculous. " If it was caught aboard
a trawler why wouldnt they have claimed the fish as a record
for someone aboard ship." He still wants to know why Corky Cambell pulled a gun on him?
(more about this later).
A picture of Al in Cambells bait shop.
*Al says He was once married only briefly
at age 17 to a Benson & Hedges
cigarette heiress. She was now suing him for part of the money.
A cousin was spreading outright
lies around his hometown about him. Even assumed Als identity for
a time telling everyone that he was a sea captain who had been
to Alaska on a crabbing boat in the Aelution Islands, and that he had captained in Hawaii, Florida and Gloucester.
I had written previously
that this cousin had managed to sour his once loving grandmother
against him. But Al said that was not true. "My grandmother raised
me and loved me till the day she died. It was my cousin she
couldnt stand she thought he was whacko".
Al says his childhood friend Pat Erdman whom he had given $10,000 to, and
was with him when he caught the fish, disrespected his wife with a
crude sexual comment at an Atlantic City Club that began the dissolution of their long friendship.
A bright spot for Al was a letter written
to him by Bob Rochetta the former world record holder congratulating
Al on his record catch. He also
warned him about the difficulties that would lie ahead. Al said "it
got my attention"
fish still had to get sanctioned by the IGFA. You only
get one shot at it and there is no procedure for appeal.
Al was broke and destitute living with his wife and children
in a the Blue Marlin motel. Too proud to ask anyone for help.
He had just sold a TV set to pay the rent bill. It was christmas
eve 1982 when the president of the International Game
and Fish association Edward K. Herry called him and said "
You are the new world champ".
says these days he doesnt have the stamina and endurance
that it takes to catch that fish, He no longer "runs like a mullet, I got to walk" The
good for him turned into a living hell. Nothing prepared
him for what came after.
The experience deflated him and the hate mail broke his heart. When
I think about it all sometimes. Was it worth it? I just dont know.
didnt catch the devil that night
the devil caught me."
Als son Thomas with a nice Trophy from the Chesapeake Bay
Hannan - stripers 247.com
Artricle may be reprinted with acknowledgement.
recent fishing report. Fishing near the Merrimack river in a
place called Magnolia rocks with chunks herring. The take was
47 and 57 pounders with a 33 pounder the smallest for the trip.
* (A woman claiming to be his daughter from that marraige says that her grandparents owned a tobacco shop and in no way was she any kind of cigarette heir.)
That Trophy Striper