Reader's Choice

Quick reference:
1. World Record Trout
2. Ammo Boom
3. Colt McCoy: Life Lessons wtih Alton Jones
4. 900-Pound Bluefin Tuna Solo Catch
5. Blair Holt Gun Control Bill Rehashed
6. Dottie Dies on Dixon
7. 50 states in 50 days
8. Record Rainbow
9. Bridge Day
10. Stephen Browning's Catfish

The list, from 10 to 1:

10. Stephen Browning's catfish
Summary: Practicing for the Evan Williams Dixie Duel on Lake Wheeler in northwest Alabama, bass pro Stephen Browning caught a whopper flathead catfish on 12-pound test line, throwing a crankbait in a creek.

After fighting the beast for 40 minutes, and getting input from other giddy pro anglers on the river — and needing help from one of them, Jeremy Starks, just to boat the beast — Browning's best guesstimate on the fish's weight was 80 pounds.

If the catfish did go 80, Browning would be flirting with a state record, and be in the suburbs of world record territory.

The Alabama state record flathead is 80 pounds, caught from the Alabama River at Selma in 1986. The International Game Fish Association 12-pound test line class world record for flathead catfish is 91 pounds, 4 ounces caught from Texas' Lake Lewisville in 1982 by Mike Rogers.

After waiting until day's end for the biologist to show, Browning decided to pack up for the night, and with no good way to weigh the beast, he released the big fish back into the river. Full story

9. Bridge Day
Summary:It's the most extreme of the extreme sports: BASE jumping.


Launch Gallery

One day each year -- always on the third Saturday of October -- West Virginia invites parachutists to take the leap from the state's New River Gorge Bridge, the longest single-arch bridge in the Western Hemisphere.

BASE jumpers respond by the hundreds, coming not only from almost every state in the nation, but as many as a dozen foreign countries.

"We usually have 450 jumpers and some 150,000 spectators attend," said Cindy Dragan of the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce. "It's the largest one-day event in West Virginia, and the largest extreme sports event in the world. And this year, Oct. 17 was the 30th anniversary of Bridge Day."

Not to sell out the story on this one, but the photo gallery is pretty unbelievable. Full story

8. Record Rainbow

Note: Wait a minute. This is one of two stories that aren't even from this year. And this one is from 2007. Both are no doubt motivated by the fact a new record was either set, or almost set this year, but seriously? Oh well, who are we to argue with our readers?

Summary: Identical twins in Canada who target behemoth trout and call themselves "The Fishing Geeks" were destined for a more complimentary moniker after their most recent milestone — a world-record rainbow. Full story

7. 50 states in 50 days

Summary: On June 13, Jeff Turner and his son Taylor, 17, started on a nationwide quest -- a quest to fish 50 trophy waters, in 50 states, in 50 days. Their journey will spanned 15,000 miles by land, 6,000 miles by air (Alaska and Hawaii), and 500 miles by water -- with no shortcuts.

"Our hope is that our adventure will inspire others across the nation to realize their dreams for adventure and connect once again," Jeff Turner said. "To find and live out that adventure in their lives -- to build a lasting memory -- to rekindle that long lost relationship -- to leave a legacy."

On July 30th, 2009, it was finished.

The elder Turner kept a blog through each of the 50 days. Here was his final paragraph:

The end is bitter-sweet as we put the finishing capstone on our journey but also say goodbye to the hundreds of people across America who have supported and followed our journey since we left home on June 12. Final fish count total: Taylor (484 fish); Dad (472 fish) with a Grand Total of 956 fish through all 50 states. Full blog

6. Dottie Dies on Dixon

Note: As promised, here is the other world-record related story not from this year, but in our top-10. There was a possible record caught by Manabu Kurita in Japan this year, but since it ran on Bassmaster.com, it won't be on this list. This story actually made last year's top 10. All because one big bass died … that's quite a legacy for a fish.

Summary: Jed Dickerson had just left Dixon Lake exhausted and was about to sit down for lunch when he got the call from Jim Dayberry, one of the Ranger supervisors with the park's lake division.

"You might want to come back down here," Dayberry told Dickerson at around 11:45 a.m. PT on Friday. "We just found Dottie floating on the north side of the lake."

There was a group of Rangers, including Dayberry, waiting for Dickerson on the dock, shaking their heads. Dickerson picked up the 19-pound dead bass and looked for the spot on her gills that had famously earned her the nickname "Dottie."

"Yup, that's her," Dickerson said. "It's over."

What Dickerson held represented almost a decade of commitment, putting him on a journey that labeled him, in certain people's eyes, as both a record holder and a fraud. It began with old friends Mac Weakley and Mike "Buddha" Winn and ended with new friend and former Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green. Full story

5. Blair Holt Gun Control Bill Rehashed

Summary: To many gun owners, it's the tsunami of gun control legislation, the mother of all efforts to restrict private gun ownership and the guarantees of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

To others, it's just the latest anti-gun agitation, a formerly defeated proposal dredged back up for another try in this time of shifting political winds.

"It" is H.R. 45: Blair Holt's Firearm Licensing and Record of Sale Act of 2009. This bill was introduced in the 111th Congress by U. S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) on Jan. 6, 2009. Failing to attract any co-sponsors, it was referred for consideration to the House Committee on the Judiciary, where it now rests awaiting further action.

This bill is sweeping in its gun control proposals. Its summary description reads, "To provide for the implementation of a system for licensing for purchasers of certain firearms and for a record of sale system for those firearms, and for other purposes."

If enacted, this bill would prohibit anyone from owning any type of handgun without obtaining a license for such ownership. The same would be true for any semiautomatic firearm that can accept any detachable ammunition-feeding device. Full story

4. 900-Pound Bluefin Tuna Solo Catch

Summary: Ralph Wilkins headed out in late November alone. Two days spent waiting on the docks in Chatham, Mass., had honed the 50-year-old New Yorker's urge to get back out on the water. It was the end of the bluefin season and he knew it would be his last shot at a fish before winter.

He had two lines in the water, trolling swimming baits. At 8 in the morning, he got a hit. The 70-incher he reeled in would have weighed in the neighborhood of 200 pounds -- but it didn't meet the size requirements specified on his permit. He let it go.

the rod went off again at 9:30 a.m. He assumed he'd hooked another schoolie, or immature bluefin, but the fish took more and more line. For two hours the fish ran. Wilkins reeled in his second line and then began to try to work the fish back to the boat to see what he had.

Wilkins fought the fish into the afternoon, paying out line and reeling it back countless times, not letting pressure off for fear the fish would spin back toward the boat and dislodge the hook or slash the line.

"Sometimes you're not sure if you want to continue," he says. "You're three or four hours into it, where you're physically exhausted. It got to the point where I says, 'I've got to get him pretty soon, or I'm going to be shot, you know, I'm not going to be able to finish the job.'" Full story

3. Colt McCoy: Life Lessons wtih Alton Jones

Summary: It's no secret that University of Texas quarterback Colt McCoy is an accurate passer, but just how accurate was the question as he stood on the shore of Lake Whitney, grinning.


On the water

"I'm just trying to determine how fast they're going to be coming at me," McCoy said. "I mean, this would be like Randy Moss running a 3.2 40-yard dash. We'll see how this works out."

Sitting on the deck of a boat a quarter-mile down the bank was McCoy's best friend, roommate and No. 1 receiver, Jordan Shipley. Behind the wheel of the Skeeter bass boat with a 250-horsepower Yamaha engine was 2008 Bassmaster Classic champion Alton Jones.

The premise is pretty simple: Jones puts the bass boat on plane, meaning he'll be going at least 40 mph. He runs the boat 20 yards offshore, and McCoy, who set the NCAA record for accuracy in 2008, tries to hit Shipley in the numbers. Full story

2. Ammo Boom

Summary: As a growing number of gun shoppers are discovering these days, it's becoming easier to buy a gun than it is to purchase the ammunition for it. Shortages of popular handgun calibers in particular have dealers and customers fuming, and ammo makers have shifted their production lines into overdrive to keep up with the demand. How long will the "bullet bubble" last? That depends in large part on politics in Washington and in statehouses across the land, and the messages that various legislative efforts convey.

Concerns over what the election of Barack Obama portends for gun owners is the main cause for the inflated demand for ammunition. In fact, since last November's election ammunition has been flying off store shelves faster than you can say "microstamping," with sales increases topping 100 percent in many areas. Gun sales ramped up by 42 percent last November, but have cooled off slightly since. From Election Day to now, the monthly sales average for firearms has been about 29 percent higher than normal. February sales tailed off a bit, to slightly more than 23 percent over average, according to sales figures compiled by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF).

Ted Novin, the NSSF's director of public affairs, says that the next report on ammunition sales won't be in until May, but there's enough anecdotal evidence to suggest more boom times for the gun crowd -- literally and figuratively. Full story

1. World Record Trout

Summary: The 36th week of 2009 will forever be known as "Trout Week" in North America.

On Sept. 5, Canadian angler Sean Konrad obliterated the IGFA all-tackle world rainbow record with a 48-pound rainbow out of Saskatchewan's Lake Diefenbaker, eclipsing a 2-year-old record held by his twin brother.

Four days later, retired construction manager Tom Healy eclipsed the world German brown mark with a 41-pound, 7-ounce monster on Michigan's Manistee River.

Two trout, 89 pounds, less than a week apart. Here are their stories: Full story