August 26, 2004

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

Leave it to a seven-pound bass to remind a guy how much he enjoys fishing. Here recently I have sort of drifted away from my favorite pastime. Work, kids and other interests had me missing the water. But after my father-in-law reported seeing several big fish swarming in his pond while he was mowing around the structure, I was enticed back to the sport.

The trip was actually disguised as work. We had a couple of deer stands that needed attention so the two of us loaded up the heavy machinery and all the tools and headed to our task. Of course we just happened to hook the boat trailer on to our convoy in case the work was completed before dark.

Right around 3:30 we were trolling across the water. Of course it was a bit early in the afternoon for the prime-time bite, but we had nothing better to do. Our work was finished (well at least until we plan another fishing trip.) The master hunters had created a perfect alibi for a return trip as we broke one of the deer stands just minutes after we started the installation process. That cut our job short but necessitated another day of ďworkĒ.

The fishing didnít start out as we had hoped. The lawn mowing hot spot turned out to need some mowing of its own. The waterway was a virtual jungle as more than half the pond was covered by moss. What appeared to be open water was not, as the weeds were growing up so thick from the bottom that 10-feet of water was reduced to just inches of swimming room for our lures. Granted the fish were there, we just had trouble getting the bait presented to them.

After a couple of hours of picking the leaves and scum off our lures after every cast, we headed for shore, loaded the boat and went to pond number two.

We found fishing there much easier and quickly had several more small bass in the livewell ready for transfer to a new pond. Our stocking plan cut short our time at pond number three. We fished from the shore and quickly picked up a number of nice fish, too big to transfer. A smaller fish was landed, and that probably saved the lives of all those transplant fish, as I discovered that the boatís livewell had drained. The two of us jumped in the truck and sped to the next pond where we launched the boat and quickly refilled the livewell.

I believed the fish-finder might ultimately strand us out at sea. The alarm was sounding so much I was worried it would drain the boatís battery and leave us without power to the motor. Beep, beep, beep was the serenade the finder made to tell the two fishermen there were fish, and lots of them, all over this pond. We quickly filled the hold with more transplants. The bass were biting on plastic worms, crank baits and pretty much whatever we tossed at them.

I switched to my trusty old Mannís Baby-1 crankbait. This lure is definitely one of my favorites, as it runs shallow, just feet under the water. The shallow-diver creates an attractive action, wiggling back and forth and emits a rattle sound to further entice the bites.

Thatís what that big fish must have been thinking when he swamped my bait as it sat on the pond surface. He missed the bait the first time, as it laid there waiting for me to begin the retrieve. The lunker took two more swipes at the bait but he must have been thrown off by his own wake, and he missed both times.

I was lost in all the confusion. I believed the fish had taken the bait, so I began to reel it in. Thatís when he finally engulfed the hooks and the fight was on.

At first I was unsure what I had on the other end of the line. The initial tug felt big, but then the line went limp, as if the fish had escaped. I was staring my rant about losing so many fish that day, when I realized he was still on. The bass had started swimming toward the boat faster than I could reel the line in. I finally caught up to him and the slack disappeared. At this point there was no doubt that I had a nice fish on. A few minutes later we got our first look at the lunker. It was a few more minutes before we saw him again, and this was the defining moment as he broke the surface and I realized I could probably park my pick-up inside those wide-open jaws. Thatís when my partner started scrambling for the net. Oops, we forgot it. So he dropped to his knees ready to pounce on that fish if he were to wriggle free or break the line. My father-in-law clamped a steel grip down on the bottom lip of that bigmouth and I was relieved, knowing a shark couldnít break free from that powerful handshake.

It was an exciting battle for both of us. The only disappointment was when the huge specimen tipped the scales. I despise those old spring-load balances. Maybe Iím biased, but I donít think they give an accurate weight for big fish. There was no doubt in my mind that this fish should have been approaching nine or 10 pounds. My partner pronounced it as eight pounds, but when we took the official measurement before releasing him in his new home, the fish weighed just seven pounds.

Oh well, at least I held him out as far as possible away from my body for the photos, making the imposing bass look even bigger. Shoot the pictures weigh more than seven pounds.

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