I have two of these stories. One is in the more distant past, and one is a wound that has almost healed.
The older one is less painful now, only because it has been overshadowed by another lost fish, but it haunted me for a while. It was back in 2004 on the Harris Chain of Lakes down in Florida. It was a late January event, so the big fish were on beds. On Day 3 I was back in a residential canal and there was about five minutes of fishing left before I had to go in. I had just found a good group of fish that would've held me over the next day. Just before I had to go in I hooked into an honest-to-goodness 10-pounder.I had a solid hookset in her, but there was a bush hanging down close to the water along the bank. The fish took a run to the left, right toward the bush, of course, and she jumped just right to get the line caught in the bush. I had to watch this fish suspended in the air by this bush. After a moment, she flopped off and I watched as she went right back to the bed. I swear I saw her smile at me.
That day I had come upon a 30-pound bag for the next day, but because that fish went and hung herself up, I missed the cut for the final day. I'm pretty sure I could've won if I had gotten that fish to the boat.
While that was a hard one to swallow, I have another one that made me nauseous during this past Classic on the Red River.After Day 1, I was kind of on the bubble as far as being in contention, so I needed a good day on Day 2 if I was going to defend my title. I was in a backwater area that was really clear and saw a big fish. It was right around 10 pounds.I tossed over to her and when she took it, I got a perfect hookset — dead center in the top lip. I had heavy line, but as she ran toward me I noticed a "V" shape in a laydown between her and me, but thought nothing of it. It looked thin enough it would break if there was tension on it. I kept taking up slack and let the line fall in the "V."
As tension was put on the "V" from her pulling, the stick didn't give. That fish was there thrashing around for a good 10 seconds. Something that big squirming around while hung up is like using your plug knocker on a crankbait in a bush. If it moves around enough it'll eventually get free.If I could get one mulligan in my career, that would be it. In hindsight, I think if I had let her run a bit, she may have missed the laydown, and I would've gotten her into the boat and added 8 pounds to my total.I'd never felt physically ill from an on-the-water incident in my entire career, but that did it. I could've culled a 2-pounder that day and added 8 pounds to my total, putting me right up near the top.
Bass fishing is a game that involves seconds and inches. Miss by one or two, and that could spell disaster. That was one of those moments that can change your whole career. Both of those fish did that for me, and you'd better believe they bothered me.But, I've more or less gotten over them.