We seldom get to see a youngster’s first fish, but thanks to grandpa Paul Adams we have this marvelous picture of grandson Marshall with his first fish (perch) and the traditional “fish kiss” before release out of Coeur D’Alene, Idaho. Marshall’s dad Mike supplied the boat and gear!
There’s one good thing about “cabin fever” this time of year – you have lots of time to think about past fishing highlights as well as less than stellar fishing experiences. This issue I think I’ll focus on the later and how I lost the biggest bass I ever hooked.
Typical of most fishermen, I am sure that “the one that got away” would very likely be my all time record largemouth bass. Had I managed to get it in the net. But then that’s what this story is all about….
The panhandle of Florida is a great freshwater fishery and, in my opinion, holds some very nice, very big bass. On this particular trip Dixie and I were the guests of our daughter, her husband, and their two beautiful children (our grandkids). They were staying in a condo on a golf course and wanted us stay with them for the week. Well, as you would expect, they didn’t need to ask us twice!
My grandson (M.T.) is a fishing fanatic and for a kid less than 10 years old can’t get enough fishing whether here in Southern Indiana or in Florida while on Spring Break. So, knowing this, we made sure we loaded the truck with lots of fishing gear so M.T. would have a nice selection beyond his own rod and reel.
No sooner had we arrived, unloaded our luggage, and tossed it in our room than M.T. came running up asking to go fishing. Now who can say no to his grandson when fishing is involved? Certainly not me. I gave Dixie and our daughter a sheepish wave and explained M.T. needed to get on the water as we both exited the condo, leaving unpacking and provisioning to the rest of the family.
I can’t remember the name of this golf course, but I do recall that anyone who rented a condo had free access to any lake within the course. And in this neck of the woods there were plenty of lakes. Matter of fact, this one golf course alone probably had 10 or more lakes. Some fairly good size but most more of a pond than a lake.
It didn’t take long for M.T. and me to find a small lake close by and in short order we were rigged up, each with a midsize, shallow running crankbait. I figured this would be the best choice given it was mid March and the weather, although unsettled, was fairly warm. That plus the fact that the pond we had selected already had some weeds around the edges.
Sure enough it wasn’t long before M.T. had hooded into a nice bass. No trophy by any means, but a spunky girl who gave him a good battle. As he brought the fish toward shore I grabbed then net, but them saw it wasn’t necessary, the fight in the fish being far greater than her size. Quickly unhooked and released, we again began working the bank right as a loud “boom” was heard in the distance. I looked up and sure enough there were some pretty dark clouds headed our way.
Safe to say that all grandpas have a protective streak when it comes to grandkids, and I’ll admit to fitting that profile perfectly. There just wasn’t any reason for us to be out there close to water when a storm was eminent. I suggest as much to M.T. and he acceded, albeit somewhat grudgingly. “You head for the condo and I’ll pick up the gear and tackle box and follow you in a minute”, I told him.
M.T. took off in a gallop (little kids never seem to just walk) as I picked up our net, tackle box, and M.T.’s rod and reel. I could see the dark clouds were getting closer but still a good distance away. “Hmmm, maybe just one more cast”, I thought.
I flipped my lure at a sunken tree trunk in the corner of the pond. Just as I started to retrieve the lure the water exploded. Bam! My line tightened, the drag started singing, and in just a flash his monster came out of the water, flipping his tail and contorting as he struggled to release himself from my lure.
I knew I had to quickly turn this bad boy away from that trunk and get him into open water, as it was, in this small pond. My reel contained 8 lb test line and was not my usually casting reel, but a 2500 sized spinning reel. I mean, who would have thought that a monster such as this would be in a lake this small! I tightened the drag slightly as I put a bit more pressure on the rod. Just when I thought I was gaining on my adversary he ran off some more line and went airborne again. What a magnificent fish!
Once again it reeled in some line and again convinced myself I had him coming my way. He must have read my mind and suddenly was coming toward me which caught me completely off guard. He broke water again and shook his head just as I drew the line tight. Then I heard an ominous “snap” as my rod straightened out. Completely. My line went limp and fluttered in the approaching storm’s wind. “He broke me off!”
Maybe this was punishment for sending my grandson to the house while I made “one more cast.” Perhaps it was never meant to be that I hook into a fish this magnificent without several days of hard fishing and the necessary frustration. Easy come, easy go. Damn.
I headed back toward the condo, but couldn’t help but worry about what might happen to “my fish” with that lure firmly lodged in his lips. I took one look back as the rain began only to see him break water again, tossing his head to and fro doing all he could to break the lure away from his mouth. And here I was unable to help in any way.
The storm eventually passed but by then darkness had enveloped the lake. Fishing for this day at least was over.
I never had the heart to tell M.T. about “the one that got away” nor how I had selfishly participated in that age old fisherman’s ritual of “one more cast” without him. I did check the lake each day hoping not to see a trophy bass “floater” which, thankfully, I never did.
Now on this cold and gray winter’s day I’m thinking about my lost trophy. Was he a solid 10 or maybe even a 12, 13, 14? Guess I’ll never know unless we get invited back to the condo again and take another crack at that small lake with the big fish. I had better call our daughter and see what her Spring Break plans look like for this year!
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