I've lost so many fish over the years — all the guys have, I'm sure — that it's hard to pick one out. But my one that got away that really stings is actually a string of fish that got away, one after the other! It dates back to 2007.
The last time we were at the California Delta I really had a tough practice, but I found this one little area of matted grass that I thought I could get a few in. The first day I caught a couple of fish out of there and ended up with a decent bag, but the tide wasn't set up just right.
On the second day I knew the tide would be a little better, so I went in there and started flipping, and I got bit almost immediately. No sooner than I got that first bite did it all come apart.
Without even moving my boat, I lost five fish that were in the 7- to 10-pound range, easy. They were just completely whipping my tail. It was bite after bite and miss after miss. It was brutal. My co-angler got five bites and put every one of them in the boat. I think he had 24 pounds and wound up winning the co-angler side. I only got 14 pounds that day when I had a legitimate shot at a 30-plus-pound bag. I could have easily won the tournament on that one spot.
I have no explanations why all those fish came off. I just have no clue. Those were some of the most unbelievable bites I've ever had. I think I flipped out after the fourth one, so that didn't help calm my nerves to land any subsequent fish.
[Editor's note: Those were Russ' comments just prior to the 2010 Duel on the Delta. What follows are his thoughts leading into that tournament and what happened during it.]
All week long I've been thinking about what I'm going to do to get those bites. I also know I'll find another place out there like that; I can just feel it. I'm just going to make sure my rod, reel, hook, line — everything — is ready to go so I can be ready for them if they're there. I cannot wait for Monday morning to go straight to that place and see if they're going to be there again.
[Editor's note: And here's what happened.]
Well, I went back there and caught a 4-pounder the first day of the tournament, and that was it — not exactly what I was hoping for.
However, it had changed a lot. There wasn't as much hydrilla in there as before, and the tides were all screwed up. But, I did get a good one out of there — so I'll take it, I guess.