Original Caption: Trophy hunt. Raymond Easley fishes Castaic Lake in a bid to reclaim his state record for largemouth bass. The Fresno Bee, May 1991. no photo credit.

While many anglers in southern California knew of the big bass coming from area lakes in the 1970s, for much of the rest of the country, it was a story in a 1980 issue of Bassmaster magazine that opened our eyes.  That story, featuring Raymond Easley and his 21-pound, 3-ounce bass gave us our first taste of the world record chase that was about to begin in earnest.

Today’s Throwback Thursday historical photo features Easley some 11 years after he caught that giant bass.  Now 1991, Easley was a 49 year old trying to reclaim his state record, as well as catch the next world record bass.

“In March 1980, Easley landed a 21-pound, 3-ounce largemouth at Lake Casitas.  At the time it was the state record and the second largest ever recorded,” falling shy to only George Perry’s 22-04 world record.  Easley noticed changes in fishing pressure almost immediately after catching the bass.

Fishing pressure at Casitas “is up at least 300 percent.  Fishermen from the south are flying in almost every day hoping to catch a world record.  Within three days after I caught that fish, one guide I know booked 25 day-trips on Casitas,” said Raymond in a March 1980 article in The Wichita Eagle.

Some 11 years later, Easley’s state record was eclipsed when Mike Arujo fooled a 21.84-pound bass at Castaic.  “I had the record for 11 years and enjoyed every minute – every minute,” said Raymond.  “Oh sure, I’d like to get it back, but I’m not greedy. If I do [get it back] it probably will be here [Castaic] in the next two to three years.

“Prior to his record, Easley had never caught a bass of more than 10 pounds.  But by 1991, he had caught 50 of 10 pounds or more, several at Castaic.”

Crawdads (hooked through the tail) were his favorite bait with waterdogs a close second.  He later started using longjaw mudsuckers at Castaic.  Though some of his other bass over 10 pounds came on artificial lures, fishing with live bait, especially in January, February and March, was his favorite technique and time of year.

He had switched to Castaic by the late 1980s, feeling it was his best shot at a giant bass, but pressure had started to increase there, too.  “The lake is receiving a lot more pressure, that’s why I feel it will probably max out [for record fish] in the next three years.  I think catching the big ones is 25 percent skill, 25 percent dedication and 50 percent luck.”

Also of interest was his account of promotions he had received over the years resulting from that one big bass.  In endorsements, tackle, travel and other goodies, Easley said he probably realized $50,000 from his big fish.  While far from the often mentioned $1 million that awaited the next world record holder, that was more than I expected considering he used live bait to make the catch, and it only being a state record.