cover image SOWBELLY: The Obsessive Quest for the World-Record Largemouth Bass

SOWBELLY: The Obsessive Quest for the World-Record Largemouth Bass

Monte Burke, . . Dutton, $23.95 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-525-94863-6

Burke, "a devoted angler" and a Forbes staff writer, chases down the most famous characters in the years-long quest to top the world record for biggest largemouth bass, at 22 pounds, four ounces, set in 1932 by a 20-year-old Georgia farmer under now-questionable conditions. Burke admirably brings to life the people who enter into such a chase, and he finds good drama in the techniques and sacrifices necessary to pursue such a goal. Readers meet Bob Crupi, a Los Angeles cop whose single-minded pursuit of the record provides an escape from his stressful job, but also threatens his marriage and makes him a stranger to his kids. There's also Mike Long, whom Burke calls "the best big-bass fisherman alive, period" because of the number of largemouth Long has yanked out of the waters of Southern California. Long's fame and reputation have allowed him to cast with the likes of Robin Williams and Nick Lachey, but that fame comes at a price, as would-be record-breakers clog the lakes and ponds Long frequents, threatening to steal his big haul. Throughout, Burke sprinkles ruminations on the science and details of bass fishing, nicely sewing together a well-paced tale about "what we humans will do, what we will gain and what we are willing to sacrifice, in attempting to reach a goal." (Mar.)