The Catch Heard ‘Round The World: An Interview With Art Weston

If you follow fishing news or social media pages, you might be one of 924 million people who saw the viral photo of a 283-pound alligator gar caught on 6-pound test line. There’s more to this extraordinary catch than meets the eye, and today we’re sitting down with the angler behind the catch, analytics expert Art Weston.

Art Weston’s love of fishing was ignited during his childhood days in Illinois, where he grew up fishing with his father and brothers. Professionally, he’s been deeply involved in analytics, primarily within the financial services sector, and currently focuses on Artificial Intelligence. With an impressive count of more than 50 current and pending IGFA World Records, it should come as no surprise that Art brings the same analytical approach from his career into his hobbies, relying on strategic planning and analytics data to reach his goals.

During a recent eight-day fishing expedition on Sam Rayburn Lake in Texas, Weston accomplished something extraordinary. Onboard IGFA Captain Kirk Kirkland’s boat Garship Enterprise, he managed to reel in a massive 283-pound alligator gar, measuring over 8 feet in length and 4 feet in girth, using a mere 6-pound test line.

To put this achievement in context, the current All-Tackle world record for this fish stands at 279 pounds, a record that has remained unbroken since December 2, 1951, when Bill Valverde set it in Rio Grande, Texas. Weston’s catch has the potential to break multiple IGFA World Records, a testament to his unwavering dedication to the sport of fishing. We recently sat down with Art for a technical deep-dive on all things analytics, fishing, and IGFA World Records.

How did you first learn about or become involved with the IGFA and the pursuit of world records?

Wes and Patrick Sept 2023

I discovered the IGFA when I met Patrick Brown, the IGFA Representative in Uruguay, while fishing for golden dorado. Patrick hosted our trip and introduced me to the IGFA. He even assisted me in achieving one of my initial records, specifically the dorado length record.

My first Line Class record was one of the most extraordinary and challenging experiences in my fishing career. In November 2017, I hooked into a formidable fish in the Jatapu River, a pool with depths of up to 75 feet. I was using 2-pound Ande Tournament line, hoping to catch a payara, as we knew they inhabited that pool. We also targeted 100+ pound piraiba and other catfish in the same area. My fishing partner, Andrew Hopkins, endured a grueling 4.5-hour battle until dusk, when I finally brought the 9 lb 8 oz payara to the surface. This marked my initial Line Class record.

Since then, I’ve decided not to involve other anglers in my record hunts, as it wouldn’t be fair to subject them to such demanding challenges. Currently, I hold 29 current and approved Line Class records, 9 pending Line Class records, and have two more to submit from my recent trip to Texas.

 

Looking at your list of records on the IGFA World Record Database, all your records are for freshwater species. Can you talk about why that is?

Art Weston Records Sept 2023 b copy

I used to exclusively fish in saltwater with my father and siblings for years, exploring places like Key West and Cabo San Lucas. However, my perspective shifted when I joined a trip to the Amazon with my father and friends. Freshwater river fishing immediately captivated me. I do plan to return to saltwater fishing at some point, and I feel that there are numerous record opportunities in both environments.

It’s no secret that you are an analytical person, from your career to your fishing. Could you elaborate on how your analytical background aids you in pursuing world records?

Throughout my career, I’ve been deeply involved in analytics, primarily within the financial services sector, with a current focus on Artificial Intelligence at Fifth Third Bank. I tend to approach my hobbies with the same analytical mindset I apply to my work. This involves striving for exceptional outcomes and utilizing strategic planning and analytics to achieve them.

I’ve been told that I possess an exceptional determination to fine-tune and optimize tactics, and fishing is no exception. When I became serious about fishing, especially in the context of record hunting, I realized that success depended more on meticulous planning and preparedness than mere luck. I relish the challenge of setting records, and even when I encounter failures (which have been numerous), I find satisfaction in analyzing what went wrong and devising solutions to address those shortcomings.

Could you describe the level of planning and analysis that you apply to pursuing an IGFA World Record?

Weston has allocated a section of his basement, affectionately dubbed  his “angling laboratory,” for the storage of all his fishing gear and testing equipment, which includes digital force gauges.

It’s not uncommon for me to plan extensively for three to six months before a specific fishing trip, and I typically embark on three to four major fishing trips each year. I’ve dedicated space in my basement, which I fondly call my “fishing lab,” to store all my fishing equipment and testing machinery, including digital force gauges. In some cases, I’ve had to personally design and collaborate with manufacturers to produce specialized equipment tailored to a specific fishery and tactic. For example, I’ve developed innovative ultra-heavy spinnerbaits for golden dorado and worked with skilled woodworkers to create peacock bass wood choppers. Additionally, I’ve designed my own heavy travel rods to confidently tackle remote locations.

Art Weston Lures Sept 2023 copy b
Art Weston has taken the initiative to design and engage in collaborations with manufacturers to craft specialized equipment tailored for particular fisheries and tactics. One notable example is his development of cutting-edge ultra-heavy spinnerbaits designed specifically for golden dorado. Additionally, Weston has collaborated with skilled woodworkers to bring to life custom peacock bass wood choppers.

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