My one that got away happened during a 2007 Bassmaster Major at Oneida and Onondaga Lakes. It was the first round of the finals, so there were only 12 of us fishing the whole course. I had qualified fifth by throwing a 1/2-ounce football jig on Oneida Lake.
After Oneida, we moved the whole tournament over to Onondaga Lake, which none of us had ever been to before. I drove out to the spot I was supposed to fish, and once I got there I saw a few big posts that ran out toward the middle of the lake.
I put the trolling motor down and waited for the start time to make the first cast. When the clock hit the start time, I got the rod that had the same jig that I used to catch 'em on Oneida and tossed it at the post. The jig fell about a foot and a half toward the bottom and suddenly stopped, so I set the hook.
Right after that, a 6-plus-pound largemouth came jumping out of the water. I mean, none of us had ever fished this lake before, and on my first cast I lay into a 6-plus-pounder. That was pretty good! I fought it up and down the boat, and as it was getting closer, it made a surge and straightened the jig's hook! I couldn't believe it. I've never had that happen to me before.
After that, I threw that rod to the bottom of the boat, picked up a heavier rod with heavier line and a heavier flipping jig. I flipped to that same post and caught five 3-pounders in five flips, but I couldn't get that 6-plus to bite. To add insult to injury, that fish sat in the same spot next to that post for the next two days.
All of us saw it sitting there, but no one could catch it. I went on to catch the biggest fish of the tournament (almost 6 pounds), but the fish I lost was much bigger. I wound up third in the tournament, losing to Peter T and Steve Kennedy. But, if I had landed that fish, I would have won easily. The cash difference there was $30,000 versus $250,000, so that was a $220,000 fish. That would have been my biggest win ever.
Looking back, if I had used my heavier flipping jig that had a heavier hook on it, I would have had a better chance of landing that fish. I can still see that fish pulling off. That was one of the last times they gave away $250,000 for a Major. It just wasn't meant to be. God just has a different time for me.