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Having issues with your Deps Bullshooter diving too deep and fouling the grass? Want to fish the bait slower or higher up in the water column? Here's a tutorial on how to remove the lead weight from the stock bait to modify it to be an ultra slow sink. Thanks to Big Bass DREAM Team'r Don Nguyen for the tip . . .
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“My man, you are an inspiration! Because of you I get all kinds of crazy looks throwing big ass baits on relatively small lakes and ponds here in Ohio! I love it! And you brought some swag to fishing! Keep doing your thing man! “
I find myself taking a step back from where I am today on occasion and reflect on how far this passion for fishing has taken me. It’s been a big part of my life, 2/3’s as a matter of fact. This is a look back at how it all started for me as a 10 year old boy.
I was at a local park/lake on a big family outing one May afternoon. I was the leader of the family rat pack, eldest of the grandchildren. Out of sheer boredom we looked for ways to keep entertained. I explored the lake shore, catching little frogs and stuff, messed with the birds like a 10 year old would do. I stumbled across a tangled mess of fishing line and picked it up. There were some snelled baitholder hooks in the mess so I untangled as much as I could, found myself a suitable looking wooden fishing pole (a stick) and tied my line to the end with about 4 feet of salvageable line. I knew I could find some worms by flipping over some rocks so I went over to a creek inlet and did just that. Kicked a couple over and found a half dozen or so to put in my red party cup with some dirt.
Now that I was all geared up, my little entourage and I marched over to the fishing pier as that seemed like the first logical place to try. We walked by a dozen or so anglers on the pier, a few had some buckets with some bluegill and trout in them. I didn’t know what kind of fish they were at the time of course, as I had never really been fishing before. I walked to the end of the pier, found an open section and sat down with my feet dangling off the edge. Pinned an earthworm on the rusted hooks and dropped it in the water. After about 5 mins, my entourage made up of my younger cousins were over it and walked off since I apparently sucked at fishing haha. I stuck it out, and sat there drowning that earthworm for another 10 mins or so with my mind drifting off about playing some Street Fighter II when I got home (I was a child prodigy at that game, like touch of death and all that).
Then all of a sudden…I couldn’t believe it! I felt something bite the worm, that first “Tap-Tap” I ever experienced and my heart jumps out of my chest. Then as fast as it happened, it was over as the old rotten line I had found broke! I’m freaking out as all the people on the dock look over at me like I’m an idiot haha. After all this punk kid walked up with a stick for a fishing pole and a party cup for a tackle box Instantly thoughts of what was on the other end of the line rush through my young impressionable mind. I’m sure now as I look back 21 years that it was probably a bluegill or redear sunfish, but at that moment I really didn’t know what it was and that was what truly fascinated me.
I ran back to the area were my family was setup for the picnic and tell my cousins I just lost a fish, and of course they blow me off with typical youthful doubt and disbelief. “Sure you did”, they said LOL. I find my mom and tell her the story and she did much of the same, but I asked her if we could come back the following week and try actually fishing. She tells me, “Sure”. Instantly I’m STOKED. That day, this DREAM that I’m living now officially began. Thoughts of what was swimming in that local lake filled my brain for the next week straight. I was DREAM’n of giant fish in a 240 acre lake hahaha.
At that time, I was a bit of a nerd. Still am. I legitimately loved learning. So what did that mean? Well it meant I spent 2-4 days a week at the local library with my mom just researching random things that interested me. First line of business in making my new goal of catching a fish a reality? Reconnaissance and research of course! I spent hours reading literally everything I could about fishing for the next school week. The encyclopedia actually had a ton of info although much of it was dated and it being 1992 at the time, there wasn’t that much info available at the public library. Lots of old man stories and fly fishing books.
I soaked up what I could and talked my mom into buying me my first rod and reel across the street at Kmart. I left there with a $14.99 Shakespeare Spincast Combo with a starter tackle kit. I dug up some more earthworms and secured my bait for the next day. My mom drove me the 11 miles to the lake mid morning or so. I spent that entire day casting my bait and reeling it in impatiently as most kids would do. I had a sick rig, a makeshift dropper loop rig with a bell sinker on the bottom, and a snelled leader I tied the main line to with triple overhand knots! I’d gob a couple worms on the hook and let her fly. I’m spent a good amount of time dealing with tangles and such. Hours went by and that beast from the week before was nowhere to be found, nobody was catching anything on the pier at all.
The day rolls by and the sun is setting, I’m sitting on the top of the wood piling with my feet dangling and then it happens… I get that “Tap-Tap” again! I wind like a frantic madman as this fish I’d been imagining all week was battling me on the other end of the line. I pull up a bullhead catfish and lift it up over the rail and plop his ass on the pier. That feeling I had at that moment is probably why I continue to this day to chase DREAM’s of all kinds of fish. The joy, rush of adrenaline, feeling of accomplishment, the FUN that I had for this new found passion was incredible. I was ruined for life. I found a new fascination, set a goal, did some basic work researching my quarry and frankly got super lucky that day, but I made it happen. Sure it was dumb luck that that catfish happened to come across that 10 year old’s overhand knot rig, but in my young mind it was something I was able to do on my own.
I grew up fishing this small urban reservoir from the bank mostly. My best option for accessing fish off the banks were the fishing piers. Fishing wise, I didn’t have much growing up and that’s ok. We fished out of whatever we could, if we could afford a rental boat it was a special day. The freedom of having my first hand me down float tube was truly special, thank you Josh Allen for the float tube and for being one of my early fishing mentors. The really special days when I got to jump in a bass boat were incredible. Thank you to the many locals who taught me how to use a trolling motor, and gave me the freedom to take the front of the boat. I dreamt of the day when I would be fishing out of a rig of my own.
I appreciate the fact that my friends and I had to make due with what we had at the time, it makes everything else a luxury and keeps things in perspective. It’s not the fancy boat, it’s not the expensive equipment, it’s really what you make of any given situation. Some of my fondest moments came out of a leaky 14 foot aluminum rental boat with coffee can concrete anchors. Make the most out of whatever your situation is, that’s what I learned as a youthful angler.
Little did I know at the time what I’d be getting into and how deep I would find myself in the fishing realm. I’m sure many of us have a similar story, where we came into this passion of ours with no concept of hate, jealousy, ego or the downright negativity that has somehow been allowed to envelope the fishing community. Guys that do well are automatically “suspect”, they must be cheating, lying, something. Instead of congratulating your fellow angler, I see guys burning them down when a picture is posted. “Oh that’s not a 10 pounder, that’s like a 4!”. You really want to be THAT dude that just killed what was a proud and joyous moment for someone? Just doesn’t make sense. Might as well tell him his girlfriend is ugly too. Bums me out to see that kind of stuff pop up all over the internet forums, social media, even the launch ramp or tackle shop. Let’s take a step back and look at what we do from an outside perspective, perhaps we can realize as a community how utterly ridiculous we look when we take part in the fishing squabbles. Then perhaps we can all embrace that humility we had as children and be able to enjoy fishing for the sheer joy I know I once experienced…
The Slump – (originally posted February, 2013)
I hate slumps. Seriously, I hate them. Nothing will shake your confidence more than an extended slump. As I write this, I am smack dab in the middle of one. Ten trips it’s been since I’ve caught a fish. Ten trips of fishing my butt off, trying to land a giant bass. The only thing I have to show for it is a sock tan and wallet draining receipts from the gas station.
I’ve fished 4 different bodies of water in the span of this slump, and haven’t figured out a bite on any of them. I figured that perhaps seeing new water would freshen my approach, tackling different conditions would stimulate my mind into gear. Nope. I suck. I have all the tools at my disposal, high end tackle, the hottest swimbaits, prototypes that nobody has, custom colors, etc. etc. etc. Hasn’t mattered, I have caught as many giants as I would have if I had stayed home.
I talk to friends of mine about it, and they try to reassure me and boost my confidence. “You’ll get ’em this time”, they say. “You’re due”, says another. I think to myself, “I’m bound to just get LUCKY at this point right?” I appreciate the pep talks, they type of people are who I surround myself with for a reason. We want to see each other succeed at the same thing we’re all passionate about, catching giants. So I shake it off and prep gear, I spool fresh line, I change out dull hooks, I customize some baits and I plan my attack strategy for the day ahead. 8 hours later, still nothing. 130 miles driven, $65 spent in gas, $20 in entry fees later, and I have nothing to post to Instagram. Wow.
The smallest lure I have fished in this stretch has been a 7″ Mattlures True Trout, which is the last bait I got a solid bite on. Of course I missed that bite. To me, a 7 inch lure is a “tiny” bait, as all of my rods and reels have 9″-13″ baits on them at any given moment. The old adage of big bait-big fish has generally held true for me. I did a lot of damage on 11″ lures in 2012 alone. Still, fishing a 7″ highly detailed and great swimming True Trout was a sign of my desperation to just get bit by a descent 7lb fish again.
I used to complain about “pesky” 7lbers to my friends. In 2007 alone, about 70% of the swimbait fish I caught were 7lbs and some change. It drove me crazy, every swimbait fish is supposed to be over 10lbs right?! So anything less, and I felt cheated. It’s a lot of work to catch a swimbait fish most of the time, and a 7lber caught on any other technique would be an AWESOME fish. Not on a swimbait, not for me.
Last year I had an incredible run. 7 weeks of fishing hard, and I had 17 largemouth 10lbs or better. Throw on top of that all the 6-9.99 pound fish and the numbers are mind boggling. I did it on multiple bodies of water, it seemed I could do no wrong. 10 and 11 pounders became the new 7’s after a while. My confidence at this point was at an all time high. I’d go out knowing I’d catch a good one on a swimbait.
What would it take to catch a true giant?! In southern California that’s pretty much a fish 14 pounds or bigger, and it seemed like that class of fish has been rather rare for the last decade. I missed the gold rush of the 90’s at world class fisheries like Castaic, Casitas, Perris, etc. I’ve become so fixated at hooking and landing a true giant that I’ve become unappreciative of so many quality fish I’ve been fortunate to land. I’ve lost perspective, I was jaded.
Catching 7lbers meant I was doing something right, which would lead to catching more double digits, and finally last year to my first teener landed, a 13 pound 5oz largemouth. I need to start catching pesky 7’s again, and enjoy each and every one of them. I didn’t know it at the time, but those fish gave me my confidence in my attack. I desperately need that back right now if I am every going to reach my recent goal of a 15+. My girl tells me I’m stubborn, hard headed. She’s right, because after I’m done writing this piece I’m gearing back up and heading back out. If I skunk for the 11th trip in a row, doesn’t matter. You know why? Because for a solid month before I went on that tear, I was in a “slump” and all it took was a 7 pounder that ate a Jerry Rago 9″ SKT Swimmer to start an incredible experience. An experience that culminated in this-
A 5 fish limit that weighed 56lbs, anchored by two new personal bests. First fish of the day was a personal best 12lb 8oz bass, 25 or so minutes later I broke it again with a 13lb 5oz PB.
I’m on a mission, to do bigger and better things with my fishing. Skunks and slumps be damned. I’m due.
Do What You Love (originally posted February 2014)
I fish because I love it. Plain and simple. Very few things invoke the type of intense passion like the passion I have for fishing. There’s just something about the whole experience that draws me back to the water, rod in hand. I’ve fallen in and out of it a few times in my 30 something years for various reasons, yet I come back to it every time. It’ll always be a big facet of my life, there’s no doubt in my mind. Some of the best friends I have, I have because of our mutual love for this very dynamic “sport”.
Now that I’ve built a brand around something I have an incredible amount of love for, at times I find myself honestly questioning why I continue the chase. As much fun as I have prepping for trips, going through gear, and planning my attack, there are moments when I sit back and think to myself, “man, this is A LOT OF WORK”. The sleepless nights, long tow to the launch ramp, caffeine, and those dreaded fish less days… it can suck the life right out of me. Add on top the filming I’ve been trying to do the last few years, and there are times I feel like Les Stroud futilely attempting to catch a fish for survival Hahaha. That poor dude couldn’t catch a cold.
Then there’s the pressure I put on myself to come through with the goods. I know I’m a victim of my own goals, expectations, and (get ready for the shameless self promotion)…DREAMS. Now there’s added pressure from some people that have an agenda against what I’m trying to do, which is to share with you my story and journey. The unique experiences I’ve been fortunate to have. My passion for this game. My absolute LOVE for fishing. Many of these negative Nancy’s and Debbie downers are people whom have never once spoken to me, reached out, or engaged me in any way whatsoever. Yet they talk about me and the project in such a way that the Kardashians Housewives Of Atlanta would envy. Sad really. It is what it is.
Thankfully these people whom I usually have to hear about via third party compromise a low percentage of the people whom voluntarily follow this project. After all I’m not forcing anybody to follow me on Instagram, “like” the Facebook page read this blog or log onto this website. I’ve learned that I can’t make everybody happy no matter how true my intentions may be. I’m going to be myself, do things in the manner I do, continue to show you my personality in a transparent form and straight up bring the mother loving ruckus!
I’m a different type of angler than what most people would perceive when they conjure an image of a “fisherman”. Frankly, I know that there are a lot more of “us” than people realize and it’s time people saw that there are other ways to be engaged in something we all tremendously love doing. If I have to be the guy that catches some heat in order to break some of the ridiculous stereotypes out there, than so be it. Nothing I’ve ever done that was worth doing in my life has come easy anyway.
This project for example. You might not realize the long hours spent working on content, managing a new brand, even engaging those of you whom have supported us in so many different ways. Thank you for that by the way. Chasing big bass obviously doesn’t come easy either, and as cheesy as it may be, I often find myself seeing parallels in fishing and other aspects of my life. It’s important for me to keep it all in perspective. There is so much going on in the world that fishing should be our escape from the seriousness of life. It can be a straight bitch sometimes.
Lately when I’ve been fortunate to get out, I’ve given a real effort to remind myself of how I started this crazy journey in the first place. It all started with one bite that changed me forever. Fishing became a real love in my life that can’t be duplicated. It’s difficult to explain to friends whom don’t fish, they haven’t experienced the experiences I have, they haven’t soaked in those moments of peace and clarity that I often find on my many journies. Each time I’m out on the boat is really that – a journey. I go from zoning out one moment and finding myself immersed in nature to diving deep into thought on different aspects of my life.
I think about my youth and some of the negative traits I’m guilty of exhibiting as I was learning life lessons on the fly. Yes it’s true, I haven’t always been an enlightened angler. Unfortunately there were times where I was “that dude”, feeling shades of jealousy of others successes and accomplishments and even doubting people I didn’t know and their achievements. I didn’t realize it at the time but I was being a hater. Instead of feeling envy, which is perfectly ok, I was jealous. Jealousy is an ugly emotion. It’s negative and negativity breeds faster than zebra/quagga mussels. Upon realizing the difference I was able to channel my energy into fulfilling my own goals instead of shooting down others. It was an important step that I had to take as I continue my growth as a person.
It’s kind of like the guy at the bar whom sees another dude walk in with a beautiful woman. He makes comments like, “that guy is such a D-bag” or calls the girl a _____. That poor bastard doesn’t realize he could better serve himself by just giving the dude props on courting a gorgeous woman and go find one for himself. It’s a cop out to just start dishing dirt in a sad, sad attempt to make up for his own shortcomings. Don’t be mad at others just because they see some success, believe it or not but some people actually put in a lot of work to get where they are.
The tournament bass fishing scene is something I’ve been a part of on and off most of my adult life. Talk about a demographic of people whom live, eat and breathe their passion. Wow, I don’t think there is another group that will jump with both feet and without hesitation for what they love doing than a tournament bass fisherman. These dudes are serious, I know I was when putting up the money to compete against my brethren. There are few things I’ve experienced that are more rewarding than putting together and executing a plan like winning a tournament.
There’s a real ugly side to the game that I started to see with my own eyes that I believe has taken away from the culture. The fun at times has been taken out of the equation as the focus of why we even go fishing. It’s easy to get caught up in the competitive aspect of the tournament scene. Egos swell, arrogance and chest pounding overtake having fun, humility and comraderie. Money and the “win at all costs” mentality create tension, stress and anxiety. I don’t know about you guys but I go fishing to get away from all that madness. Finding/keeping a job, family, my health, bills, and women provide plenty of that for my life already. I’ll ditch the #FISHBEEF.
I’ve cut back on the tournament fishing so that I can just focus on enjoying what I love doing. I still participate from time to time because it still can be real enjoyable and there are still a ton of good people that I like to engage and test myself against. They’re not all bad, in fact to be real with you I think people that fish tend to be some of the most grounded people I know. There are just a few guys that frankly try too hard right off the bat. There is no formal requirement to be considered a “pro”. You can go out and buy a $70,000 boat, $600 rod & reel combos, throw on a jersey covered in patches, custom paint your lures and cut a check to enter tournaments as a “pro”. There’s a lot of money involved in this scene and as they say, “money is the root of much evil”. When you invest that much into something you love and fail to accomplish goals, it can be real easy to exude negativity in an attempt to justify the failure that we all feel at times.
I just want to remind MYSELF that I need to continue this journey for the right reasons and move past the pettiness. I see guys all over the country that push themselves on others so hard as the greatest thing to happen to fishing in attempts to gain sponsors, fans and who knows what else at these trade shows. It’s not genuine anymore, they have just become another sales pitch for something nobody wants to buy – lol. I enjoy engaging the younger guys and non tournament fishermen the most. It’s because they just fish because they love to fish. They don’t have sponsorship obligations, weird motives, and agendas to fulfill and don’t blow up my social media with”sponser” requests with promises to market my brand to new Hawaii vacation funding heights. Please pay attention in school youngsters, it’s kind of a bigger deal than how many likes and followers you’re getting on your bathroom selfie posts. It’s spelled s-p-o-n-s-o-r. Say it with me now…hahaha. Don’t make me sit here and shake my head in amazement as I often find myself doing.
You really want to pursue your dreams of a future in this industry? Put in the time and work to find your niche, be 100% real with others and most importantly be “100” with YOURSELF. Unfortunately “REAL $h!t ain’t for everybody”. I’ve found that staying as grounded as possible, while reaching for the clouds pays off. Here’s another term I’m a fan of, it goes like this – “real recognize real”. What that means is people can spot the B.S. You’re not going to fool people if you are living a lie. Personally I think it’s way too much work to keep up a lie than just telling the truth. I don’t have the energy to maintain lies.
In conclusion fishing is dope. Fishermen are dope. Usually anyway. Go fishing, say hello, wave back when I pass by on the lake you jerks lol. Few things are as awkward as my married friends at the bar like when the courtesy wave goes unreturned hahaha. Don’t be a hypocrite, it’s lame. Most of all friends and even the guys that I just pissed off, JUST HAVE FUN no matter what your motivations. Otherwise do the rest of us a favor and pick up something else, like some Vagisil at the drug store 😛
I love to fish. If you share that with me, I’m down to be a friend. I’m not that bad, the world just wasn’t ready for my brand of CRAZY. #Hashtag
“…much success to ya, even if you wish me the opposite…” -Nas
Big Bass Dreams Turn Big Bass Reality – (Originally Posted April, 2013)
Not too long ago, I put down my thoughts and my frustrations down on paper in my last blog post titled, “The Slump”. It was a huge outlet for me. I was able to really break down what was going on in my head as I had become my worst enemy. I had no confidence. No faith in my game plan on any given day. I couldn’t catch a descent fish on a swimbait to save my life at that point.
A day or two after that blog post went up, I was invited to go fishing on some new water with a couple friends. I needed to try something different. These guys had been on a bite for a solid month and a half. I had a good shot at busting the slump so I went. They had been catching them steadily fishing a certain style, so I wanted to do something different and see how the fish would react. I threw a 12 inch hard bait and a 9” line through soft bait throughout the day and ended up going 2 for 3 bites. I had 2 solid fish, including one that literally came out of the water to eat my swimbait at the boat (and yes it was captured on video to share with you guys soon). Just like that, the slump was busted and my confidence was back.
Later that week, I ran into my friends Scott Whitmer of 22nd Century Swimbaits and Whitney Curry on one of the local lakes. We had all been struggling to find a bite here locally so Scott invited me to caravan with them up north a bit to fish some new water, change things up a bit. They told me that somebody had just landed a really big fish, in the 16-18lb range and that I really needed to go check it out. I had originally planned to fly to to Arkansas to fish with a couple friends and chase big stripers from 30-55lbs during that time frame. My gut told me that I needed to keep chasing my goal of a 15+ pound largemouth NOW. Those stripers aren’t going anywhere. It’s March, it was coming into a good moon phase and big fish were on the move all over California. I made the decision to pack up for the 8 hour road trip and head out on another quest.
Keep in mind that California is highly pressured. I mean highly pressured. There are times when it gets downright ridiculous having to contend with 10+ boats trying to fish a small area. Word gets out quickly about big fish especially and people tend to flock to chase that bite. Out of respect of some friends of mine and the locals that fish that area, I am not going to name the public body of water that we targeted.
We left the Los Angeles area around 4:30am on a Sunday morning. It took about 9 hours to tow the boat to this new lake. We launched the boats at about 2pm. Whitney was fishing with Scott in his boat, and I was on a solo mission. We picked an area on the map that looked “good” and made the 10-15 minute boat run. Once we got to the general area, we signaled to each other. Scott headed right, I headed left. I drove another ½ mile or so and spotted a real good looking point. It was a long, tapering point that appeared to run out to deep water. So I slid into the next point over, as I hate running over my spots with the big motor. I’m big on being as stealthy as possible. If those big fish know you’re there, or something is out of the ordinary, they will usually not respond in a positive fashion.
So I put down the trolling motor as quietly as possible and start working towards the point I eyeballed. I’m throwing a new glide bait made by Andrew Hinkle of San Diego. It’s 11 inches in length and has already got me some solid bites in the short time that I’ve had it. It’s big and bad, and draws some attention, making it an excellent bait to cover water with. Five minutes in and I get a small 5-6lb fish come up and take a look. I think to myself, “Ok at least I know there’s some fish in this area”. I slide up to the point I spied and fire the Hinkle Glide bait up over the top of the point at a 45 degree angle. As I work the bait in, I spot a BIG black shadow under the bait. It’s easily a double digit. However from her body language and previous experiences, I knew that this fish would probably not eat an active bait like the Hinkle glide.
So I decide not to pound the point with the hard bait, and I think to myself that this fish would probably want a slow moving bait on the bottom. I reach down and grabbed my rod with a bottom bouncing soft bait tied on. I like using scent on my soft baits, so I apply a new scent to both sides of the bait and smear it all over. I make a long 45 degree cast out to deeper water and let it sink to the bottom. I begin my retrieve and I can feel the swimbait bumping the rocks, coming throw some brush, bump, bump, bump.
Then it happens, 22 mins after I drop the trolling motor in I get a THUMP. Instinct kicks in and I swing for the hook set. The rod is full bendo and I know I got a good fish on the other end. I’m fishing 25lb line with a locked drag and I’m winching this thing to the boat. She comes up and boils on the surface and I instantly realize at that moment that it’s a GIANT. I wind on her two more times and I get an even better view of her and I see that she’s bigger than any largemouth I’ve ever hooked.
A little panic sets in at this point as I’m fishing alone. I have a big net on the boat but it’s sitting over the pedestal seat on the back deck. I have my left arm with the rod and a MONSTER on the other end and reach for the net handle with my right. The netting gets caught for a split second on the seat and I make myself regain my composure and focus on the task at hand. In the past I’ve lost good fish because I was fumbling with the net fishing solo. That’s the reason I will bounce fish when I feel it’s the right call. There was no way I was bouncing this thing ha ha.
I slide the net into the water and try to lift the fish into it, FAIL! I missed her the first time, as I’m high sticking the rod trying to get that right angle to slide her up and into the hoop. Once again I have to focus and not lose myself in the heat of the moment. I lift the rod with a smooth motion and lead her into the net. Got her. I let out a laugh in disbelief and look at the camera I have mounted on the console. I pull down my Buff and it’s all smiles. I say to the camera, “You guys will not believe how big this fish is!” I take a moment to soak in what just happened. I still have the fish in the water in the net. Only the head and line tie portion of the swimbait is visible.
Instantly I’m overwhelmed by pure emotions. Joy, happiness, excitement, a sense of real accomplishment. The most powerful feeling though, believe it or not was RELIEF. I’ve been chasing a fish of this class since I started fishing. 20 years of trying to figure this out. 20 years of pressure I’ve put on myself to make it happen, to catch a giant bass of this magnitude. I’ve been reaching for what seemed like an unattainable goal for a long time. There were many times, such as the recent slump that I was going through, where I felt like it just wasn’t in my cards.
I’ve grown up reading about and seeing giants in our local Western Outdoor News caught by the likes of Doc Holiday, Bob Crupi, Jerry Rago, Mike Long, etc. I’ve always looked up to those guys that were consistently bagging trophy caliber fish. They motivated me to start this chase, to pursue my DREAM of fooling a giant bass to eat an artificial lure. I’ve continued to learn as a fisherman, continued to grow. I figured out how to consistently catch double digit bass in the last few years. I set a goal of catching a “teener”, a bass 13lbs or heavier. I accomplished that goal in 2012. The next progression was to catch a 15+, but I knew that 15+ bass were a rare commodity and that I was reaching.
In the past year I’ve watched friends of mine with some amazing catches. Mike Gilbert bagged a 17lb 7oz behemoth in February of 2013. John Curry broke his personal best a few weeks ago with a 14lber out of one of my home lakes. Each time I was stoked for them. Genuinely happy and excited for their accomplishments. I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a part of me that was envious. Not jealous, envious and almost angry with myself. I put in a lot of time, money and effort into the hunt. I would kick myself for not making it happen. Obviously these fish are there and they’re being caught. What am I doing wrong??? Why can’t I put myself in position to catch a giant bass?
This is the kind of pressure I’ve put on myself. It’s been weighing me down. As I stared at this fish in the net, all that anxiety, pressure, every worry I had was gone in that moment. I reached down and grabbed her by her fat lip and hold her up for the video camera. She’s absolutely massive. I honestly had no idea what she was going to weigh. I had never handled a bass like this before. I knew she was 15+. I pulled out the Salter/Brecknell hand held digital scale and hung her on it…17.40 is where it settled and I couldn’t believe it. I caught my 17 pound bass, a new personal best. I fill the livewell and gently slide her in.
I try to force myself to continue fishing, as I knew that initial follower was not the same fish. It was big but not 17lbs big. So I continued casting to try and get another good one. I tend to catch big fish in flurries, this was no different. On my second cast, I blew it. I snagged the bait up on top of the point in a bush or a tree. I couldn’t break it off to save the spot, I just caught a 17lber on it. Screw it, I’m going in to get it. As I motor up to my bait on the trolling motor, I can’t believe what I see. I spook off another GIANT, an easy teener. She was slightly smaller than the fish I caught but still, I had a shot at her until I blew the spot up. I was kicking myself for that.
At that point I decide I need to go find Scott and Whitney, as I have no phone reception in that area. I stow the gear away and motor up to where they were fishing about a ½ mile away. Whitney motions asking me if I have a big one, and all I can do is nod and motion back that it’s HUGE. I kill the motor and slide up next to them. Scott asks me, “Well did you get one?”. I didn’t say a word, I just opened the livewell. I believe some expletives were uttered at that point. I mean come on, we had just split up 35 minutes prior and launched 20 minutes before that.
Whitney jumps on the boat and we go look for some calm water for a quick photo session. At this point the fish has been in the well for about 10 minutes and looking very fresh. I put the bow of the boat on the bank in the back of a cove and we do 3 rounds of photos. I only held her out of the water for about 30 seconds at a time and made sure she got a rest in between so she could breathe. It’s crazy, you chase this fish all your life and when you finally catch her, all you can think about is her well being. I setup the GoPro Hero 3 for a 3 shot per second burst mode and it quickly captures about 200 twelve megapixel photos. Another round with the Nikon D60 and my Galaxy S3 and I know I have some winners in these batches. At this point she’s been in captivity for about 40 minutes and I really want to get her back in the lake so she can do her thing.
Whitney shoots a quick video of me weighing her one more time, and this time the scale bounced around a bit from me still shaking as I try to hold her. It settles at 17.38 which is 0.02 of a pound of weight loss in 40 minutes. We get her on video as she swims away quickly and in a strong fashion and she’s gone. I ask Scott and Whitney if they had a tape measure as I wanted to get her length and girth, but we blew it and didn’t get the measurements. I do know she was 28 inches long with a girth of 25-1/4 inches though, but that’s another story for me to tell.
Immediately I had to let my close circle of friends know about what I just did. I got the fish I’ve been chasing for 20 years. The fish that has until this day eluded me. The countless days on the water, the tens of thousands of dollars I’ve spent on gear, swimbaits, fuel. The self doubt that kicked in when I would go through slumps. The stubbornness to just keep trying, to keep learning from every experience. It all paid off in the fish of my lifetime. I sent a photo and a short message to about 15 of my friends whom I felt had to know about this moment. Everybody was shocked and congratulated me for the feat.
A fish like this doesn’t come often, I couldn’t believe I finally did it. This game we play isn’t easy. Hundreds of factors come into play and we as fishermen have to adapt, learn, and adjust our tactics to be successful. I’m lucky to have caught this fish, and in this case I’d rather be lucky than good any day. Hard work, dedication, and the dream of big bass motivate me to continue the chase. Let’s hope I can share with you more incredible experiences soon. Look forward to seeing this leviathan on video in an upcoming volume of Big Bass Dreams!