A new year's story

About the author

Charlie Hartley

Charlie Hartley

After a career as a professional skateboarder, Charlie Hartley began fishing B.A.S.S. events in 1993.

Back in the day when I had to run the business five days a week I’d take advantage of the break between the Christmas and New Year holiday to go someplace warm(er) and fish. It was one of those things I looked forward to all year. I remember one year I went to Lake Murray to do a little prefishing for an upcoming Megabucks tournament.

After four or five days in the campground — in those days a motel was out of my financial reach — it turned really cold. I mean it was the kind of cold that penetrates to the bone. The wind was blowing, the sky was overcast, and no one with a lick of sense was out on the water. It was so bad I actually thought about going home. Thinking was about as far as it went, though.

I just couldn’t do it. I was already at the lake and I knew if I expected to do anything in the upcoming Megabucks I had to spend as much time as possible learning the lake. I looked my map over to see if I could find somewhere to fish out of the wind. There was this place the locals called, The Bass Motel back in a bay. How can a guy pass it up The Bass Motel?

After I launched and ran to the place I thought I’d better go small and light. I tied a No. 5 Shad Rap on my spinning rod and went to work. It didn’t take long. I found a short weed line out of the wind and started casting parallel to it. Almost immediately I caught a 3 1/2 pound largemouth. With my spirits high, I continued fishing The Bass Motel.

It wasn’t too awful long after that until I thought I’d snagged on a stump. My lure stopped and even when I pulled back on the rod with both hands nothing happened. Frustrated, I started to move my boat forward to see if I could get my Shad Rap back. That’s when I realized it was moving sideways.

Now, I’m not the smartest guy on the planet but I do know that stumps don’t move, only fish. In truth, however, I thought it was probably a striper. They’d just been introduced into Murray and I didn’t figure I had hooked a bass big enough I couldn’t move. I was wrong.

When she came alongside the boat she was so big she looked like a monster, a largemouth that had some sort of genetic mutation. Her head was massive and she was about as deep and she was long. I could see that her gills were flared, her mouth was wide open, and my tiny crankbait was way back in her mouth.

Somehow my line held and I managed to get her into the boat. She weighed 9 pounds, 15 ounces on handheld scales. That’s a New Year’s Day I’ll never forget. It’s a good fishing lesson, too. Fish every chance you get no matter the conditions. You never know.

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