IGFA Rule ChangesThe International Game Fishing Association (IGFA) is the organization that manages world records for sport-caught fish. It has a long and storied history, and changes rules only after carefully considering a number of factors. In all cases, they strive to preserve the idea of “sport fishing”, as opposed to merely putting fish in the boat.

In early February, 2017, they announced a number of rule changes. Here is a summary and analysis of the changes that affect our readers. All rules take effect April 1, 2017.

Assisting the Angler

Current IGFA rules prohibit any person other than the angler from touching the rod, reel, or line either bodily or with a device once the fish strikes or takes the bait. However, the rules don’t mention any thing about an angler receiving physical assistance. To address this issue, they added the following language to section 3 of Disqualifying Acts:Holding or touching an angler in a manner that assists them in fighting the fish or takes pressure off the angler. Touching or briefly holding the angler to prevent them from falling does not constitute a disqualification”.

Backing & Top-Shots

The current IGFA rule says that if the fishing line is attached to backing, the catch will be classified under the heavier of the lines. This does not apply to fly fishing, however, it creates problems for conventional tackle fishermen using Spectra for backing, with a lighter weight top shot. In this situation, a person using 30lb test mono as a topshot over 80lb test Spectra would have their catch classified under the 80lb class.

To address this issue, the IGFA changed Equipment Regulation A to explicitly allow the use of backing, and to classify the catch under  the breaking strength of the first 5 meters (16.5 ft) of line immediately after any double line or leader. This line must be a single, homogenous type of line – mono, fluorocarbon, braid, etc. of the same test.

Minimum Ratio Requirements

One our pet peeves over the years has been that the IGFA only required that a fish weigh 1 lb to qualify for a record, no matter what line class or specifies of fish. As a result, the record books contained a lot of “records” where the fish was almost embarrassingly light compared to the size of the tackle used to land the fish.

As a result, the IGFA has added the following minimum ratio requirements for all new line class and tippet class world records:

  • For line class categories up to and including 10 kg (20 lb.) and all tippet class (fly rod) categories, the weight of the catch must weigh at least ½ as much as the line class it is eligible for. For example, a fish entered for the 6 kg (12 lb.) line class or tippet class category must weigh a minimum of 3 kg.
  • For line class categories greater than 10 kg (20 lb.), the weight of the catch must be equal to, or greater than the line class it is eligible for. For example, a fish entered in the 24 kg (50 lb) line class category must weigh a minimum of 24 kg.

Minimum ratios will not be retroactive and records that currently do not meet the new minimum weight requirements will not be retired.  Records listed in the 2017 World Record Book and IGFA website will have a new column that instructs anglers what the minimum weight necessary is to establish a record for each line class.

Eligible Game Fish Species

The IGFA maintains All-Tackle world records for thousands of different species, however only certain game fish species are eligible for the additional line class, tippet class (fly rod), and Junior Angler world record categories. The IGFA has decided that it will no longer accept line class, tippet class (fly rod), and Junior Angler world records for the species listed below. The ones that might affect SoCal anglers are listed with bold text:

  • Freshwater: rock bass, shoal bass, white bass, yellow bass, bluegill, black bullhead, brown bullhead, yellow bullhead, burbot, white catfish, black crappie, white crappie, freshwater drum, Florida gar, shortnose gar, spotted gar, oscar, European perch, white perch, yellow perch, chain pickerel, red piranha, shorthead redhorse, silver redhorse, sauger, American shad, hickory shad, splake, green sunfish, redbreast sunfish, redear sunfish, tench, warmouth, lake whitefish, mountain whitefish, round whitefish
  • Saltwater: Pacific barracuda, black seabass, Japanese parrotperch, spotted parrotperch, Florida pompano, doublespotted queenfish, black-blue rockfish, Atlantic spadefish, oxeye tarpon

An updated copy of the English version of IGFA’s International Angling Rules can be found online here; additional languages are currently being translated. For any questions on this, or any rule, please contact IGFA Outreach & Education Manager Jack Vitek at [email protected].