Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains:
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1998 has sure been my year for bass. My all time best fishing day came a month or two back when a friend and I lugged a boat down a jetty to reach water not normally accessible to boats, cars, or hikers not invited by the grove owners or the state. It was difficult but legal to be on that water; touching the land was trespassing.
My first bass was a four pounder. By dark my buddy and I had caught and released thirty to forty bass apiece: a lot of meat between us. Three of mine were near nineteen inches. One was a genuine lunker: twenty-three and a half inches. We carried no scale that day, but she had to have been six pounds or more. A brief session with the fly rod had produced a half a dozen bluegills and a few small bass.
At dark we switched for catfish. One monster took hold of a jerk bait and dragged us and the boat around for a long time before finally spitting it out. It was never hooked, but man did that fish want that bait! One of the two
strongest fish I’ve ever felt in freshwater. A minute later the biggest gar of my career took the same lure. With his tail on the deck his mouth came up to my ribs.
A week later I landed my first Florida carp. It was easily twenty pounds. ‘Could have been thirty. On six pound test line!
Came November I had another adventure curtailed by light line. I was casting eight pound test from the top of a spillway. I felt a probe. Back-reeled. Watched the line. When the line moved just so, I set the hook. As often happens with a big fish, long seconds can pass before you know. I’d been catching thirteen inchers that I could easily lift over the reef of vegetation that lay between the white water and open water. I’d also caught three and five pounders there, but was releasing everything. What did it matter what strength line I was using?
Before the fish realized it was hooked, I had it up against the vegetation and started to lift its head. I saw the longest, broadest back — broadest by far — I’d ever seen on a bass. The mouth was unbelievable. The fish had to be seventeen pounds! note
She was hooked good, but what could I do with her? I tried to thread my way down off the spillway where I was at least twenty feet above the rushing water. If I could get to the rocks, climb down to the water, even enter it, I’d be able to land her and measure before releasing her. She took the occasion to wrap my line around another obstacle or two. Finally I left the line slack till she found her own way off. (I even got my “worm” back.)
I had no scale, no tape. But if I hold them against my arm and memorize the freckle they come to, I can get an accurate enough reading later.
What made me say that number? Years after writing it I have an idea: I described the fish and someone else said that number. OK: what made him say that number? I think 17 Lb was the Florida record for a largemouth bass for years and years.
Am I saying that had I brought the fish to hand and rushed it to the taxidermist I would have “tied” an old state record? No: I’m just saying how such a number could have come into the text. My only point is: that fish was big! Bigger than I can say.