Paul Elias: The One that Got Away

This goes back to the very first Super BASS tournament on Lake Lanier in 1983. While I've lost lots of fish, there's only been one that has lost me a tournament ... and $91,000. That's a lot of money now, but back then it was a ton of money!

It was on the last day, and I was in the Top 10. It was a cloudy and balmy November day — a pretty good day for fishing. This was back when Lanier had lots of big fish, I just hadn't found them yet. Before this last year at Falcon, the biggest fish I ever weighed in during a tournament came from Lanier. It was 9 pounds, 12 ounces.

The first day I only had one fish, an 8-pounder, but made up ground the next day and a half. On the morning of the third day I caught a limit on a Mann's 15+ crankbait, but needed a big keeper to go for the win. I was fishing for about thirty minutes on this secondary point, and caught a 4-pounder to cull a fish. Then I thought I'd try to get a little deeper to tap into the big fish that I knew were down there. There was a log a ways away that looked pretty good, so I tied on a Mann's 20+ and tossed it over there.

It was an old crumbly log, and when I hit it, it kind of split in half. I tugged the bait because I thought I was caught, and when I did, I felt my line surge and pull away. The water is so clear on Lanier that I could see it was in the mouth of an 8-pound-plus fish — one that would easily put me in the lead. She jumped three times during the fight, and since she was still on after that, I knew I had her.

As I pulled her close to the boat, she had just about given up and was 4 or 5 feet below me. As I drug her closer, she shook her head lazily back and forth a few times and the bait worked free. She sat there for a second, then swam away slowly. It all happened in slow motion.

I knew she would get away. I thought I was going to be sick, so much so that I had to sit down for a few minutes to regain my composure.

It wasn't as bad as it could have been because that Super BASS didn't count towards the Classic, but that fish swam away with $91,000 of my money.

There's really nothing you can do about those things, and everyone has a story like that. They're heartbreaking.

I still see that fish swimming away to this day. 

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