Angler, fishing guide recount epic battle with pending world record alligator gar, expert says fish may be 80-100 years old.

Story by Matt Williams

Art Weston of Union, Kentucky has tangled with plenty of trophy class alligator gar over the years, but none to compare with the piscatorial titan that came calling about mid-morning on September 2 as he and Kirk Kirkland waited patiently for some action at the upper reaches of Sam Rayburn Reservoir.

Weston, 52, is an adrenaline junkie and record chaser who lives for the big bite. He is particularly fond of going after heavyweights of any kind using specialized tackle, often in combination with the lightest line he thinks he can’t away with. He enjoys the challenge of fishing on the edge.

Kirkland is a former commercial fisherman turned fishing guide who has found a niché in steering customers to super-sized gar. He has helped popularize the catch and release of the pre-historic looking fish using rod and reel and pioneered a wealth of effective tactics for landing them along the way.

Kirkland claims his clients have amassed more than 100 International Game Fish Association records, many while aboard an 18 foot aluminum boat he fittingly calls the “Garship Enterprise.” IGFA is the most widely recognized keeper of fresh and saltwater angling records worldwide.

Weston currently has 23 IGFA records under his name and numerous others pending. The current list is comprised of 14 species from six different countries, including eight alligator and longnose gar that have been caught with Kirkland.

Among them is a 251 pounder he caught and released last April on the Trinity River. It’s a pending IGFA 80-pound line class record.

A Date with Garzilla

The beast Weston caught and released over the long, Labor Day weekend at Sam Rayburn was even bigger. So large, in fact, that it is destined to crack one of IGFA’s oldest marks.

Weston’s alligator gar — an enormous 283 pounder measuring 8 feet, 4 inches long with a 48 inch girth — is four pounds heavier than the current IGFA All-Tackle world record that dates back nearly 72 years. Experts believe Weston’s fish could be 80-100 years old.

The late Bill Valverde of Mission caught current record while fishing from shore along a remote stretch of the Rio Grande River in December 1951. A 2019 story in the Houston Chronicle indicates Valverde’s record was caught on a homemade fishing pole fashioned from bamboo using mullet for bait.

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