I have no hesitation about what story to tell when I get asked this question. It was April 2008 at Falcon Lake on the Texas-Mexico border. It was the last day of an Elite Series tournament, and I had a very solid limit weighing 44-pounds, 4-ounces — which is the second heaviest one day limit in BASS history. I needed to cull a 6-pound, 5-ounce fish for one weighing at least seven pounds to break the one day record. I didn't think I could win the tournament, but I knew the one day record was within reach. I just needed to cull my smallest fish. There was just 20 minutes left to fish, and things were looking pretty grim.
I was in about 25 feet of water fishing a bend in a roadbed I had got all of my 44-4 from. I let the spot alone for a while when the bite died down, but I went back there one more time before I had to go in. I had caught about 25 fish from that spot, so I decided to give it one more chance. I was Texas rigging a 10-inch YUM ribbontail worm, and on my first or second cast I felt a tap-tap. I laid into her with the hook set, then started to bring her in. I fought her for about 20 or 30 seconds, and as I saw it through the clear water I didn't think it was that big of a fish. Boy, was I ever wrong!
When I saw it jump, I realized the thing was at least a 10-pound fish — it could have gone 11, easy. Unfortunately, the hook didn't completely penetrate the jaw on the hook set. When big fish go for a worm, a lot of times they'll clamp down on the weight and crunch it around in their powerful jaws. It wasn't anything I was doing, it was just how she ate it. All it took was one jump from that big girl to shake it loose. I was heartbroken.
A 10-pound fish would have smashed not only the one day biggest bag record, but the four day record as well. Not to mention that I lost the tournament by 4 ounces. Talk about a kick in the butt!
That one fish cost me $70,000 that day — the difference between first and second place. The thing that really gets me is how much I lost on deals from breaking two of the most sought-after records in bass fishing. It would have been great just to be in the books as having those two records!
I'll never know for sure just how much I lost from the one fish, but I'd say upward of $100,000. I think about it all the time, but I don't really dwell on it. You've just got to move forward and not get hung up on things like that.
It's just one of those things, you know. The one that got away. Everyone's got a tale or two like that.