“But this is almost main lake. Fish spawn in the coves.”
“Big bass always relate to open and deep water, especially after a spawn,” I explained.
Lauren had on a spinner bait, and I had on a jig with a plastic craw trailer. She cast along the weed line first as she was in the front of the research boat. She hooked a solid fish. “Two and a half pounds,” she said, after weighing it carefully, as if we were in the last minutes of a tournament and had to cull within an ounce or so.
Three or four casts into my fishing, I let my jig sink down to the bottom in 15 feet of water. A light thud, pause, and I set the hook. “Aw darn,” I said. “I think I hooked a stump. I’ll have to break it off.”
“Ha, ha, you stupid know-it-all,” Lauren said. Right then, I felt my “stump” give way. Obviously, I had dislodged a hooked hawg from behind a stump.
“Ha, ha,” I said. “I change my mind. This stump has become a fish!”
“Don’t ‘what?’ me. Get the net.”
I would have steered the boat to deeper water if I had been at the trolling motor, but Lauren was now digging out the net, and I had to steer the fish out with my rod, away from the standing timber in front of the weed line. I steered her to the other side of the boat, with a couple hard runs underneath, where I was sticking my rod.
“Wow,” Lauren said. “That is a big fish.”
Right then, we saw it surface 10 feet from the boat. Its head was huge, and its gut bulged too much, not allowing it to jump.
Lauren kneeled and stuck the net out as far as she could. I dragged the fish right along the surface as the fish relaxed for a second right into the net. She lifted it out at the right time.
“Nice netting, Lauren. She was still green and ready to go again. I could have lost her.” I lipped the huge fish and saw the hook of the jig was attached to the inside wall of the fish’s mouth to a torn flap of skin—no bone or cartilage at all. In a few seconds more of fighting, the fish would have been lost.
Lauren had the scale in hand, and I put it on. “And the tournament director says, ‘Eleven pounds, four ounces!’”
Lauren looked at the numbers and the fish with a stunned look, her mouth open. She was still staring when I released the fish.
“What?” She asked. “What about a picture? What about measurements?”
“Shoot! I did not even think about that. I was still in my dream, where this was one of the smaller fish. I had a kid take some pictures of me earlier today,” I told her.
“You dummy. That was a big fish. You should have taken a picture.”
“Sorry, I was thinking about the fish. This is a research vessel. Have to let her go right away.”
“The fish can be out of the water for quite a while without any problems. We have to weigh and measure all those fish that we shock. That takes some time, but they are all fine when we release them.”
“You’re right. I guess I was anxious.”
Lauren had her spinner bait back in the water, and I was still enjoying the moment, shaking a bit from the excitement, and fishing too fast now to catch a post-spawn bass on my jig. The sun started going down, and we motored back to the resort and trailered the boat.
Copyright 2012 Jason Covington
U.S. Library of Congress