What is your biggest bass? Do you have a goal, a hoped-for weight to catch? I have always wanted to catch a 12 pounder, but that hope is fading. I landed a 9-pound, 7-ounce bass in a February club tournament in 1991 at Jackson Lake, but have never broken it.
Part of the problem is where I fish. Big lakes where we have club tournaments seldom produce big bass anymore. A trip shiner fishing in Florida or to a lake full of big bass, like Lake Fork in Texas, does not appeal to me. And catching one out of a farm pond does not really challenge me to try to do it.
Back in 1972, a year after Linda and I got married, we spent the month of August at Clarks Hill. We had a month to do that after I was discharged from the Air Force in June and spending most of July in Maryland with her parents. We left Clarks hill in late August to move to Griffin and start teaching here.
One night at dinner with my parents, I said I was going to catch a 12 pounder before we left. After all, I was fishing all day, every day. Daddy said that if I did, he would have it mounted for me. Linda asked how big a bass she had to catch to have it mounted, and he said eight pounds.
Some mornings Linda got up with me and went out fishing. We trolled from my parents big outdrive ski boat, the only boat we had. I would bring her in mid-morning before it got miserably hot but go back out and troll until late afternoon when she went back out with me.
As fishing luck would have it, late one afternoon we trolled across a shallow point that dropped into the Heart Creek Channel. Suddenly her Mitchell rod bowed and the drag on her Mitchell 300 screamed. I stopped the boat as a huge bass came up trying to throw her Hellbender, one of the few plugs available back then.
That bass jumped three more times, scaring us, just knowing it would throw the bait like so many did. When she fought it to the boat I though my trembling hands and shaking legs would keep me from netting it, but somehow, we landed it.
At Raysville Marina that bass weighed eight pounds, ten ounces. Unlike most bass I caught, it did not get smaller after landing it. True to his word, we took it to a taxidermist in Augusta, the same one that mounted my first deer, and daddy paid. I’m not sure which of the three of us was most proud of that fish.
Although I continued to fish every day until time ran out, I never caught a twelve-pound bass, or even came close.
I have lost a couple of bass that would have weighed twelve pounds or more. One fall afternoon in the 1970s at Jackson Lake I hooked a huge bass on a Wiggle Wart crankbait.
It never jumped like Linda’s eight pounder, but when it rolled on top my heart almost stopped. It was the second biggest bass I had ever seen, much bigger than Linda’s. I could tell it was very old by the way its body looked.
The bass did not fight hard. There were no strong runs, just a heavy, steady pull. I fought it several minutes and got it within 10 feet of the boat when it came to the top and turned on its side, giving up.
The fight was over, and I just knew I would land it, but when I pulled on it to get it to the net, the plug just popped out of the fish’s mouth. It lay there for several seconds before rolling over and disappearing into the depths, never to be seen by me again.
The biggest bass I ever hooked was on a private lake near Madison. In college my fraternity had a party there for the weekend. Linda and I were married, and while most of my brothers partied, we went fishing in one of the canoes.
The lake was well managed, and the bluegill were bedding. We caught dozens of big bream casting Mepps #2 spinners for them. But on one cast, my little spinner just stopped. In the clear water I saw it not moving, just sitting by a dark object in the water, and thought I was hung on a stump.
Then it started moving. It was in the lip of a monster bass. My little Mitchell 300 outfit was no match, but I carefully fought it. We could see the bass moving to our left in the water, acting like it did not even know it was hooked.
Then it turned back to the right. The spinner was on that side and a little pressure pulled the small hooks out. It slowly swam off, seeming to laugh at me.
When I told my tale back at the party the pond owners son told me they had caught an released a 17-pound bass in that pond the year before, and they regularly caught and released bass weighing more than ten pounds. I will always wonder just how big the one I lost really was.
Its nice to have goals, even if you never achieve them. I will continue to hope for a 12 pounder and fish every chance I get. Even if it never joins Linda’s eight pounder, my nine pounder and a pair of bass I caught at Oconee in the 1980s that weighted eight pounds, eleven ounces and nine pounds, five ounces on the wall, I will keep trying to land a twelve pounder!