Published in Validity Magazine, June 2014
The moon was completely full, looking like a huge glowing ball on the warm summer night. A calm night nearly 30 years ago and I remember it like it was yesterday. The reputation of the large reservoir for quantity and quality of bass was unlike any I had ever experienced. In my infancy of the sport, I had just caught 25 bass in a hour but longed to catch a lunker bass.
Moving silently up the bank in chest waders, I spotted a large log out in the bay. The wooden minnow lure landed within inches of the target and sat motionless for a full minute. As I twitched the minnow imitation, a large swirl formed. I set the hook and instantly realized this was no ordinary fish. She turned and headed for deep water with every ounce of power she had. The fight was on.
I leaned back to counter and the rod bent double. The magnificent fish was pulling so hard she was churning up a 3-foot circle of mud in the 3-foot bay. My wrists felt the tremendous straining when, I thought, this line cannot possibly take this abuse.
Suddenly, the huge bass came completely out of the water shaking her head violently. In the moonlight, with her gills flared, this beauty looked even bigger. After several anxious minutes, she had used all her strength and the fight was over. Elated to have had this chance to see and fight a bass this large, I released her back into the silvery surface of the lake.
I have caught many large bass since this six-pound beauty but I never will forget that night. I was hooked on fishing.
Forty years ago, bass tournaments were just becoming popular thanks to Ray Scott who started the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.) in 1967. No one could foresee what drastic changes would transpire. Bass fishing is now producing $125 billion annually. It supports more than one million jobs in the fishing industry including the many shows dedicated to fishing and those who write about it for the fishing magazines.
Due to the increased market, there have been major advancements in all types of tackle from boats, motors, line, lures, rods and — most of all — electronics. I wonder how much this sport will change in the next 20 years, now that it has extensive coverage on cable TV and the $100,000 purses for the winners of big tournaments.
There have also been many advances in what is known about the habits of the bass itself. Along with this increased knowledge, conservation of the species is a major concern — not only advocating catch and release, but also size and possession limits in virtually every state. Cleaning up the water and the environment, one the major impacts of B.A.S.S., has put continuous pressure on state and federal governments to introduce the Clean Water Act and — going back in time — the 1984 Wallop-Breaux Act, which has had a tremendous impact on strengthening state and federal fish and game departments. Additionally, bass fisherman are now a political force in the country due to the number of fishermen who want to improve the sport. Money raised by fishing licenses, fishing clubs and organizations is used for fisheries research, hatchery work, access development, aquatic education and boating safety programs.
As I fish from my high-powered bass boat, I look back at my many powerful memories. I have experienced everything from the excitement and frantic pace of numerous tournament victories to calm and peaceful moments on the lake. There is something about being on the water that is like nothing else.
I watch my line intently as the rubber worm drops from the 8-foot shelf into the deeper creek channel. I see a slight jump in mline and instantly set the hook. I’ve hung another linker and the fight is on. It pulls like a bulldog in its attempts to escape. Several exciting minutes later, I have the fish next to the boat. It jumps, spcaing water in all directions.
As the bass is played out, I gently lift her and raise her up to admire her strong, healthy body. I release the 7-lb-2oz bass to swim another day. I could not bear to kill such a phenomenal creature. This is one of my favorites parts of bass fishing. I have won the battle and have had the joy of the accomplishment but the bass is unharmed.