You never know what’s going to happen when you make a cast. That’s why you hear professional bass anglers say over and over again that you should control what you can and make certain all of your equipment is in tip-top shape.
It was a few minutes before noon on the first day of the 2019 Power-Pole Bassmaster Elite at St. Johns when it happened. I tossed my lure near some grass. All I was trying to do was round out a limit. In the last 30 minutes I’d put a 4-pounder and a 6-pounder in my livewell.
The plan was to get my last keeper and then go hunting other places to see if I could catch a giant and start culling. That’s why I was using a spinning rod and reel with 12 pound-test braided line on the St. Johns River. Normally you wouldn’t see any Bassmaster Elite Series angler doing that.
When she bit I knew right away she was a quality bass, but I had no idea that she would weigh 11 pounds, 2 ounces when I brought her to the weigh-in. I saw her jump and roll around on top. I honestly thought she was a 6-pounder, maybe a 7-pounder at best. Even when she was alongside the boat I didn’t realize what I had.
But when I pulled her up, over the gunnel I knew. I’ve only caught one other bass over 10 pounds. She felt heavier than I remembered the first one feeling. But still, you never know. It’s hard to estimate the weight of a giant bass. You don’t catch enough of them to get good at it, at least I don’t anyway.
Why it happened
About a week before the tournament I finished up the toughest show schedule I’d ever had as a pro. I love shows, but this year was brutal. It was one after the other.
A full week before I left for Florida, I had to strip all the line from my reels and replace it with fresh. That’s earlier than normal, but I had to do it then because the week before I left for Florida I was in Chicago, then home (Virginia), then Mississippi, then back home.
I’m really particular about my tackle. Because of that I even took the time to clean every guide on every rod I’d be fishing with this year. I’ve fished long enough to know that small things can turn into big things.
I caught her on a Neko rig with a Missile Baits Fuse 4.4. It was armed with a No. 1 Gamakatsu Octopus hook. It’s a combination I use to catch keepers all the time. But the real star of this particular setup was the 12-pound-test Sunline Xplasma Asegai Braided Line I was using. My rod was a 7 foot, 3 inch medium action Cashion.
I knew my rod, reel and hook would hold. If I was worried about anything, it was my 12-pound-test line with a fish that big in, and around, heavy cover. I shouldn’t have given that a second thought. There was no issue with it whatsoever.
No matter all of my work and all of my preparation I would never have landed that bass on spinning tackle without that line. It held fast all the way through the fight and into the livewell. I owe my personal best bass of a lifetime to it.
Be prepared at all times when you go fishing. Take the time to put everything together properly and always use high-quality products. There are no exceptions to what I just said.
You never know when any one cast will produce something spectacular, maybe even your personal best. Mine came along when I wasn’t really fishing for it, and I certainly didn’t expect it. But because I was prepared, and because I was using high-quality equipment, my dream bass became a reality.