LADSON, S.C. – Most of Chicago’s 2.7-million residents were fast asleep. But for avid angler Joe Capilupo, the night of Monday, Oct. 14 provided the perfect opportunity to cast for Lake Michigan smallmouth bass. The payoff, as it turned out, would more than justify a little loss of shut-eye.
Working their usual Chi-town fishing turf, Capilupo and two friends had cast and moseyed their way from the Shedd Aquarium, south toward Buckingham Fountain without much action. Twenty minutes before 11 p.m., a police officer strolled by to remind the anglers the Monroe Harbor lakefront park would soon be closing. At 10:50 p.m., Capilupo felt something crack his Ned rig.
“Soon as I set the hook, the fish started pulling really hard, stripping drag,” recalls Capilupo, a Cook county corrections officer. “Figured I had probably hooked a drum or maybe a bigger bass.” Darkness prevented Capilupo from getting a good look at the fish until he worked it slightly closer to shore.
“When the fish finally flashed in the water, I thought, my gosh, I’ve got a huge smallmouth bass! But even then, I figured it couldn’t have gone more than 5 pounds, which had been my goal for several years.
“I reached for the net and hollered for my buddies Jonny Pitelka and Myles Cooke to come over and help.”
As Capilupo stretched out to maneuver the smallmouth bass into his net, the fish woke up and tail-walked clear of the water. “It was an incredible jump, but it kind of gave me a heart attack,” he laughed. Fortunately for the LeGrange, Illinois angler, the big bass’ head shake didn’t dislodge the Z-Man jig and Finesse TRD from its jaw.