I caught three bass this morning in a few minutes wading, digesting the wonderful breakfast Jan made us. The first was small. It nailed my lure as I teased it through the spatterdock pads just to the south of Jan’s beach.
That’s leftward in this pic. The second I hooked in the same set of pads. But this bass was big and strong enough, sixteen inches perhaps, to unhook itself on one of the pad stems. I was happy enough at that to head back toward the beach, rinse my feet, and come home to work. I took a few casts though to the complementary spread of spatterdock to the north. And there I set the hook on the biggest bass I’ve every caught in Lake Charlote: nearly eight pounds, I estimate: probably about twenty-two inches in length. She fought like the devil for many minutes before surfacing, and jumping, where I could see her.
(Understand: big largemouth bass are invariably female. The males may on occasion reach seven or so pounds, but all the lunkers are mothers.)
Several times I tightened the drag, tighter than I’ve ever deliberately fished that reel with this rod before, and still she took line out. Meantime, I’m calling for Jan to come look. I waded back toward the sand bar that regularly forms off her water line: I’ll remove the hook while the fish lies in a half inch of water: a small comfort I hope.
It’s important to me to release the fish as soon as possible. My desire to show Jan reduces the bass’ chances: I want to reduce them only slightly. Jan was very impressed, which pleased me no end: typically she cares little about my fish: seeing them, hearing about them, eating them. But she kept repeating that this was the biggest fish she’d ever seen!
But before I could show her up close I had to actually land the fish. I fought her till she gave up on burrowing among the spatterdock pads to the north, so she heading for the spattrdock pads to the south. Failing there too, she put her shoulder into reaching the dock. Uh oh, I cranked and cranked. But she reached the dock and wrappedherself around the head post: one time, another half time …
(Understand: it’s the end of the dry season now: the lake is withdrawn from the shore. But we’re not in terrible drought as in the above pic! There was still a couple of feet of water for her to maneuver in by the dock.)
Then I thought I was going to lose her after all. The previous bass I might have kept from unhooking herself on the pad stem, but the fight wasn’t that important. Sixteen inch fish, let her get herself off: save me the trouble: I see her, I’ve felt her, met her: it’s OK.
But this lunker I wanted to show Jan. I wanted to hold her up against my arm, as a sort of measure. If Jan would bring a tape fast enough, I’ll actually measure her and still give her a good chance of recovery.
Ideally, I’d like to measure her with a tape, and weigh her on a scale. Audubon painted all those birds by killing them, then he could sketch away, they weren’t moving. No: I want my fish swimming and healthy and happy and mothering another million big bass.
But no: when I let the line slip between my fingers, I felt her still fighting, weakly, now only a half wrap away. Then she came helpless to my hand. I sprinted with her to Jan’s back door. She didn’t hear me till I opened the door and urged her to rush.
A minute later that fish was receiving artificial respiration from me on the far side of the sand bar. In a minute she was able to hold herself upright with only a little list to the port. In another minutes she was slowing moving back toward the dock’s shadow. I released her: she swam more strongly, fully righting herself: then, flash, she was gone: once again a denizen of shadows: invisible: except to the fisherman’s mind.