Let's face it. You'll never own a world record in swimming or track and field. Nope. Won't happen. However, every time you wet a line, you have a shot at landing a lunker that will go down in the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) record books. That slender thread of possibility is what makes angling the most egalitarian of sports. On any given day, you just never know.
To celebrate the possibilities, celebrated angling author Mike Rivkin has teamed up with renowned watercolorist Flick Ford to create BIG: The 50 Greatest World Record Catches (Greenwich Workshop Press, 216 pages, $50). This coffee-table collaboration combines Rivkin's considerable narrative skills with Ford's uncanny ability to reproduce game fish in their entire lifelike splendor. Never mind how he does it: the fact is that these fish appear poised to swim off the very paper they're printed on.
The first thing you'll notice is that the book lives up to its title. BIG's 14"x11" dimensions deliver the goods in glorious detail on 50 of the all-time great catches. Each painting pops with taxonomic detail, and the stories are every bit as rich. How did a high-school girl on her first fishing trip catch the world's largest wahoo? What would prompt a guy fishing for Northern pike to stick his hands in amongst all those teeth? Why would an angler for Atlantic salmon bombard his catch with rocks? If you don't know the answer to these and other burning questions, reading BIG on a cold winter's night is a terrific way to find out.
Frankly, part of the charm of this book includes the fact that BIG's top 50 are so subjective. Just like the all-time greatest outfield or defensive line, the arguments for including this fish and excluding that one are never-ending. In the end, Rivkin (a big-game guy) and Ford (a fresh-water dilettante) split the list almost down the middle. Bass, salmon, and trout are well represented, but so are tuna and marlin. It's a fair mix of large and small, fresh and salt, northern and southern. Hey - it could always happen to you!
This book belongs on your holiday gift list? for you, if for nobody else. Rivkin's got some other killer angling books out, too. Take a look at www.silverfishpress.com for his latest works.