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August 25, 2005

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

I have to admit Iím a believer in the ďonce-in-a-lifetimeĒ adage as far as many of my sporting efforts are concerned.

How else can I explain shelling out a few hundred bucks to have a nine-pound bass mounted for permanent display on my wall?

Sure, itís a great looking fish, but I think bluegill are pretty cool to look at too, and Iíve never wrote a check to the taxidermist for any of the six billion of these little suckers that Iíve caught and released.

Then again, if I ever caught a three-pound bluegill I suspect guests at my house would be viewing it next to Mr. Bass. Like I said, the mount does add to the home dťcor (poorly if one asks my wife) but ultimately the trophy is more of a testimonial to that huge moment of success than a home interior product.

As a matter of fact, I often admire the lunker and am thankful I had the opportunity to land such a big fish. Shoot, there are lots of anglers out there whoíve never had the chance at such a fine catch.

Until last summer, I sort of just assumed my trophy fishing was done. Not that I didnít go fishing anymore, I just figured that I had hit the jackpot already and now it was someone elseís turn. But then I caught a rather enormous eight-pound largemouth who easily could have filled up some wall space.

Still, I couldnít help but feel it was just a fluke. He was the lone big fish I caught that evening, well that summer as a matter of fact.

After last weekend, Iíve begun to wonder if maybe Iím not just destined to be the taxidermistís best friend.

My wife and I made time one afternoon for a little fishing. We even washed the dust off my old boat when we dumped it in for only its second or third voyage of the season.

I wasnít expecting much, as the weather had changed fairly dramatically, and we were jumping the gun a bit by hitting the water a few hours sooner than I would have liked.

The fish washed away all doubts as I quickly had a number of bites. I landed a dozen or so one to two-pound bass in the first 30 minutes.

My wife wasnít having as much luck, so I was contemplating retiring early when it happened. I barely felt the strike as it was truly more of an engulfing motion. There was no tug, just a slight bump before the line went limp as the fish swam with his supper toward the boat. Even after I had taken in all the slack and put my back into the hook set, Iím still not sure the fish even knew it was hooked.

I knew I was in a bad way when the bass stayed down in the water and continued to advance toward the ship. Too bad I didnít have a harpoon, or at least a net, because the big guy decided to put an end to this folly. He made a quick surfacing run and erupted out of the water just short of the boat.

For a moment I thought I was going to be nicknamed Jonah. That bass had such a huge mouth, and he was jumping right towards me. But instead of swallowing an angler, he just spit out my crankbait and went back 10,000 leagues beneath the sea.

My wife witnessed the whole thing. Her first few comments went unanswered. She finally snapped me out of my shock, but probably wished she had not as I began to weep and sob uncontrollably for the loss of such a monster.

When I put my pole down she even called me a baby and told me to quit pouting. I wasnít really sulking as much as I was just giving up. What are the odds of catching another big fish like that?

Well if Iíd been in Vegas instead of the backyard, I probably would be retired right now instead of writing this editorial.

We fished for another hour and landed at least two dozen more fish. But it was the one, or the ones that got away that made it so crazy.

Iíll preface this by stating I never came close to landing the three fish Iím about to describe. So, my mind may have played some tricks on me, or I simply may have overestimated their power for girth. Still, I personally believe that I most definitely did have at least one more possible wall hanger on my line. Iím not so sure I didnít hook up with two or three fish that escaped becoming decorations thanks to a submerged log, a heavy moss bed, and just simply some poor fishing.

Lunker number two was all my fault. I said I wasnít sulking, but when the first sequel occurred, I gave the fish little respect. I tried to make quick work of him, as if he was just a pound or two. He showed me.

I was more prepared for the three-peat. We locked horns for a decent little battle before he ran me through some dense vegetation and was able to leave the hooks behind.

My pole nearly went into the water after the fourth great escape. At first I thought I was stuck on a tree as I was swimming the lure through a few submerged trees. The big guy did feel like an oak, but I knew when the drag started screeching out that I was in for another battle.

This was the most prolonged dual. Yet, I was still left unfulfilled, as the largemouth never once came to the surface for a jump and ultimately won the fight, throwing the hooks and leaving me ready to jump in after him.

If my boat had a mast, I would have hoisted the white flag of surrender. We hadnít even got to the prime time evening hours but I brought the boat in and decided enough was enough Ė until next time.


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