Graham Lewis had two opportunities to miss out on a world-record redfish in September. First, the 10-year-old almost passed on an early morning outing with his father, the founder of a nonprofit foundation that promotes youth fishing and hosts a fall redfish tournament in Georgia. Second, he and his dad, Tom Lewis, were about ready to call it a day after several hours of surf fishing at St. Simons Island had produced little action.
Just as they were about to pack up around 10 a.m., one of their surf rods baited with fresh mullet doubled over and Graham began battling what would prove to be an International Game Fish Association (IGFA) junior world record in the recently instituted length category for red drum.
“The rod went off and my dad told me to reel it in,” Graham told The Brunswick News. “I just was bent backwards trying not to let the line snap. It felt like a normal-sized redfish at first. But when I caught it, I was surprised.”
It took Graham several minutes to work the fish into shallow water, where Tom was waiting with the net. After putting the bull drum on an IGFA-certified measuring board, they recorded a nose-to-tail-fork length of 105 centimeters (41.33 inches).
The IGFA Junior All-Tackle Length category was introduced in March of this year and has been hotly contested ever since, Zack Bellapigna, IGFA’s Angler Recognition Manager, tells Field & Stream. The red drum record was originally set on March 20 by Catherine Davenport in the Stono River in South Carolina with a 72-centimeter fish. Her brother, Miles Davenport, tied the record that same day with a 72-centimeter fish. Miles then landed a 91-centimeter fish on March 21 in the same location, and he held the record until Graham’s 105-centimeter catch, which was certified by IGFA in November.
Tom Lewis founded the Kids Can Fish Foundation, which offers camps, clinics, and other events to get kids hooked on fishing. The nonprofit organization hosts the annual Running of the Bulls Redfish Tournament every October at St. Simons Island, with proceeds benefiting Kids Can Fish.
Tom and Graham planned the Sept. 24 outing to do some scouting for the tournament, but Tom says his son was waffling because of the early hour, before ultimately deciding to come along. Good decision. “If the kid had slept in,” Lewis told the Brunswick News, “there would be no record.”