My one that got away happened at Santee Cooper. It was the year Zell Rowland won; I think it was 2003. It happened on the first day of the tournament.
I was fishing along and I hung this fish that was ridiculously huge. This fish was so big that when it ran into shallow water, she tried to jump and couldn't. She got her head stuck in the mud in about 8 inches of water. Her tail was flopping around, and she looked like a marlin.
I remember instead of going and getting her, I pulled her out of the mud when all I had to do was go up there and get her. I pulled and got her un-hung from there and she swam out, bent my hook and got off.
My partner was hollering, "Oh, he's got a giant! Oh, he lost it! He's kicking stuff! He's throwing stuff!"
I remember Tommy Biffle was across the water from me, about 50 or 60 yards away. He saw the whole thing. He yelled over at me and asked, "How big was that fish, Kriet?"
I said I didn't know but that it was the biggest I ever had on. I guessed 10 or 12 pounds. He hollered back that he'd caught lots of 12-pounders from there and that thing was bigger than that.
I'll never forget him saying that. I couldn't believe it when she came off. I didn't know they got that big. I'd guess now that she was about 13 or 14 pounds. It was unbelievable.
Here's how big she was. As I retied, I was pissed and shaking and all that, and Biffle's over there telling me I lost a 14-pounder. I throw right back in there, get a bite, set the hook and think, "Oh, this is the one that came off."
Turned out it was just a little one, so I flopped it into the boat. It weighed 7-12. That's how big that other one was. That one that got away is still the biggest fish I've ever had on in a tournament.
If I had caught that fish, I would say there was a good chance that fish would be the biggest fish ever caught in a BASS competition. It was big, man. To have that opportunity in a Bassmaster tournament, especially when I was new to the circuit would have been huge.
That fish getting off still comes up. Tommy Biffle and I were talking about it at this year's Classic. He always repeats what my partner said about me losing it. Back then, he was a veteran and I was a rookie, so that would've been cool if I got that fish to the boat. If I wasn't such a rookie, I would've just slid up in there and gotten her.
There was crazy weights caught in that tournament, too. Practice was horrible, then they all moved up for the tournament and we whacked 'em. I caught 23 or 24 a day and barely got paid!
I still think about that fish ... and Biffle ribbing me about it doesn't help, either.