"Call me Ishmael."
Those words opened Herman Melville's classic novel Moby Dick. In one sentence, Melville began to paint an image of a man completely involved in the search for the white whale that haunted his dreams.
Melville's narrator is a man not quite in step with the rest of society. He's a sea captain and would rather be on the water than the streets. His quest to find and harpoon the Great White Whale is his only motivator. Ishmael is a man obsessed.
Had Ishmael been alive today, he may have found fellowship with the trophy bass angler, for he too is obsessed and on the fringes of his society.
While the modern bass angler is known for his desire to compete, the trophy angler prefers solitude. Most tournament anglers prefer to launch fiberglass vessels powered by monstrous engines designed to get to the fish fast. The hardcore trophy hunter typically fishes from a low-profile aluminum boat rigged with a small, quiet outboard designed to stalk his prey with the utmost stealth.
For the typical bass angler, lure choice revolves around what will get him the most bites on a given day. He uses the law of averages and bets that he will eventually come across a bigger bite. For the trophy hunter, it may take several days of tossing giant swimbaits before getting even one strike.
Every angle is important to the trophy hunter. He will schedule his vacation time around the lunar schedule. He saves his sick days for the chance that an approaching storm front coincides with the full moon in the prespawn. That way he can take advantage of the natural aggression of giant females looking to bulk up for the spawn.
The trophy hunter seeks to understand every detail of his prey, choosing to pour over scientific manuals looking for the edge that will aid him in locating the largest of the species. Hours may be spent on one piece of structure, sitting low and hiding behind the gunnels so as not to spook the double-digit fish that could be a lake record.
These anglers seldom achieve the fame associated with their tournament angler counterparts, yet in their own community they carry the same respect as VanDam, Martin, Clunn, Dance and Brauer.
Trophy hunters come from around the world and every corner of the United States, South Africa, Japan and anywhere else giant bass are found. They target largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass, and they are never satisfied — not even with even their personal best. There are always bigger bass to be caught.
Big bass require special attention. In this ongoing series on Bassmaster.com, we're going to explore the freaks of the Micropterus clan, those bass that tip the scales at more than double the average weight of their cousins.
Our goal is to help you understand the habits and needs of trophy bass and the tactics required to catch them. Our desire is that you, too, will catch the fish of a lifetime, even if you can't be completely satisfied with that accomplishment.
You might even become obsessed with the pursuit of your own "white whale."