The One That Got Away!
folks lie awake at night fretting about paying down the mortgage, reducing
their credit card debt, hanging onto their job and other mundane matters.
is keeping me awake these nights is the giant smallmouth I lost in the first
major tournament of the season this past weekend. It was a veritable monster. The likes of which I have not seen in the
past half century of fishing and will unlikely ever see again. It has haunted my every walking moment since.
fishing partner, Dean McDonald and I fished the (Lake of the Woods) Shoal Lake
Spring Classic this past weekend and after weighing in a 16-pound, five
smallmouth limit on Day 1, we were in 15th place, about a pound-and-a-half out
of the lead.
is a significant amount of weight in a smallmouth event, where positions are often
separated by ounces, but it wasn’t insurmountable.
a result, on Sunday, we reckoned if we were going to win the tournament, which
we’ve come close to doing several times in the past, we needed to throw caution
to the wind, go out and do nothing but fish big fish tactics on big fish
greeted with hot, muggy, flat calm conditions we started fishing at a favourite
spot close to take off where there were so many mayflies hatching it looked
like a snowstorm. We were throwing big
Rapala X-Rap Walk topwater lures and within
a few minutes I nailed a 3.25-pounder to start the day, followed by
another bass close to 3-pounds.
(A 4-pound plus smallmouth like this one is a trophy anywhere, but a fish almost twice that size is a once-in-a-lifetime treasure to behold)
our game plan appearing to be working, we took off for some deep main lake
bedding bass we knew most of the other anglers would miss. Indeed, they were so remote and tough to
spot, we intentionally left them alone on Day 1, hoping no one else would find
them, so we’d have some “fast” and “easy” fish to catch on
plan worked to perfection. Not only were
the males on the nest, but some big females were also feeding nearby. In short order Dean and I managed to catch
four nice smallmouth before lighting off for a nearby shoal where last year I
caught a 4.65 pound smallmouth that won us $1000 for big fish of the tournament. As a matter of fact, we call it “Four Pounder
wouldn’t you know it, on my first cast with the X-Rap Walk I nailed a 3.5-pound
smallmouth. We then caught a bunch of 2.5
to 2.75-pound bass that were fun but not the size we needed to win. So we left a school of hungry fish with
nearly 16-pounds in the livewell.
hit a couple of other primary points adjacent to spawning areas and caught
several nice smallmouth, but again, none of the fish were big enough to cull.
we kept moving – looking for bigger bass.
is when we arrived at a rock pile that has been good to us in the past. And it was good once again. On my third cast walking the topwater, I got
blasted by a smallmouth and as I was bringing in the fish, I noticed there are
at least five other like-size bass buzzing around it.
is when, believe it or not, I watched bug-eyed as one of the trailers slammed
into the bass I had already hooked and nailed itself to the lure. So, I now had
two 3.5-pound smallies on the line at the same time. One of each treble hook. Unfortunately, the fish were tugging in
opposite directions, against one other, trying to jump, so the first fish
pulled off before we were able to get the duo under control and into the net.
brings us to the point where the story gets interesting.
45 minutes left before we had to weigh in, we decided to swing for the fence
and hit the one big fish spot that has been so good to us in the past. Pulling onto it with less than 30 minutes
left to fish, I threw out the topwater lure, walked-the-dog with it maybe five
feet and watched as all hell broke loose.
was such an explosion on the surface that I yelled to Dean … “no,
no, no don’t worry with the net. It is
way too big. It has to be a big northern
is when I put pressure on the line to quickly bring in the pike and the fish
exploded into the air like a tarpon.
was a smallmouth bass so huge that Dean and I both looked at each other for at
least two seconds before it finally registered!
know the first word out of my mouth was “Holly” and the second word
was entirely unprintable. The rest of the sentence was … “it’s a
I fight the fish like there is $14,000 on the line, plus another $1000 for big
fish of the tournament until I have it alongside the boat. That is when Dean sticks the net into the
water, getting ready to scoop it up as I bring it to the surface. Only the bass streaks off to the side, snags
the front hook on the only broadleaf cabbage stalk in the vicinity and pulls
trust me, I’ve landed several 5-pound plus smallmouth in Lake Erie and my two
personal best, 6-pound smallmouth in Lake Simcoe.
was bigger. Undoubtedly the
biggest smallmouth I have ever seen.
it cost us $15,000 – $14,000 for first place and $1000 for big fish … but I
would have gladly traded all the money just to have held the fish in my hands,
kissed her and taken a photo.
gets even better: we finished in 13th position … 2/100ths of a pound out of
the Top 12 money positions. But,
hallelujah, the tournament presents a beautiful LUND boat every year to the 13th place team.
for this year, which was the 20th anniversary of the tournament, when they
presented the boat to the 20th place team!
… no win, no big fish prize, no LUND
boat and no smallmouth of a lifetime!
you think you have problems sleeping because you can’t pay the mortgage!
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