HIXSON, Tenn. — Dave Anderson was in the middle of a prayer when a 13-pound, 11-ounce behemoth struck his swimbait.
“I was camping with my family at Chester Frost Park, and we were leaving the next day because I had to go have neck surgery,” said Anderson, 37. “I went to cast a line at 10:30 that night, and I was praying that everything would be OK with my operation.”
The next thing he knew, he felt a hard pull and, “Boom,” he said, “that fish was on!”
It was only his second cast.
“I took it as a sign that I was going to have another day to go fishing,” he said with a laugh.
Anderson, who lives in Chattanooga, caught his bass on June 16, 2013, on Tennessee’s Chickamauga Lake. In mid-June 2014, the Bassmaster Elite Series and Opens pros will be on that same water for BASSfest. Will they catch one that size?
“Oh, yeah,” said Anderson. “They could, if they are good at fishing shallows and flats and around riprap.”
Anderson was fishing 25 miles downstream of where the Elite Series pros will launch. Another 13-11 — or maybe the same one — was caught by another angler only two weeks prior in the same area at Harrison Bay.
Anderson doesn’t have a bass boat or fancy equipment, and when he gets out on the water, he’s fishing from his kayak.
But on that night last June, he was just beating the bank, right behind his camper.
“I couldn’t even see the fish because it was so dark,” said Anderson. “I tapped on the window to my camper, trying to get my wife to bring a flashlight.
“My son shined his Lightning McQueen flashlight out the window,” said Anderson, chuckling at his 3-year-old’s resourcefulness. “No, I need a real flashlight!”
His wife, Karen, came out and shined a light into the water on the rocks so he could see what was putting up such a huge fight. Dave gave it one last pull and got the lunker out of the water. Karen said something along the lines of, “It’s a fish.”
“Honey, that’s not just a fish,” Dave told her. “This is nothing but a hawg!”
“What are you going to do with that?” said Karen as he lifted up the bass.
“You’re going to take my picture!” said Dave.
After the initial jaw drops and photo poses, Dave worked on getting a weight for the fish.
“I measured her total length and girth four times to be sure I had it right,” said Anderson. “She was 31 3/16 inches long and 27 5/8 inches around. I wear 30x30 pants, and the tip of her tail was almost touching the ground when I held her at my waist. My pants were about all I had to really compare her to!”
He also measured the bass on his father-in-law’s spring-loaded scale. “I weighed her three different times. I even checked the scale later to see how accurate it was, and it was dead on.”
Anderson got the fish back in the water as quickly as possible. Has he gone back looking for her since last June?
“Only all the time,” he quipped.
Anderson was fishing with a 3-inch Yum swimbait (black with a chartreuse tail) on a 3/0 weighted corkscrew hook to keep the lure balanced.
“I just tried to make it look as natural in the water as I could,” said Anderson. “I used a slow retrieve — no jigging, no jerking.”
He used a 10-bearing open-face Quantum Escalade reel spooled with 12-pound-test Stren line and a 6-7 Ugly Stik rod.
“I tried to go to sleep after all that,” said Anderson, “but I was really excited. It took me a while.”
Anderson’s neck surgery went off without a hitch, and now he feels great.
“I might even go out today,” said Anderson. “I’m eager to get my kayak out there.”