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.