The Biggest Small Mouth Bass I Ever Caught
Last spring the fishing fever hit me hard. It was all I wanted to do. I live in the southwestern corner of Missouri which is home to many wonderful rivers, creeks, and streams. My friends, family, and I spend a lot of time canoeing and kayak a creek that runs through the back of our property. Every weekend throughout the summer we go put our vessels in a few miles up stream and float back down to our property. The water is cold and quick moving in spots so it creates a perfect habitat for small mouth bass. Most of my life I spent fishing for large mouth bass, striper, and catfish. I still love to fish for any of them but in the past few years because of my location I've begun to really enjoy catching small mouth. In this creek however you don't usually see a lot of really big fish. We catch lots of small mouth and goggle eye that are edible and big enough to put up a great fight, but you don't usually see many fish in abnormally big sizes. Last summer I had one lucky day however where I caught the biggest small mouth bass that I have ever caught.
My friend Pat and I were fishing right on the back side of where I live. We were fishing it regularly every chance we got as the fish were biting in that area frequently. Using simple gear and worms for bait we would just walk out in the chest deep stream and slowly work our way up and down hitting root balls, fallen trees, and rock walls. The weekend prior to this we had caught 20 or so edible sized rock bass on the back side of a big root ball right across the stream from my place. We decided to fish it again to see if we could repeat our results.
Where the tree fell in to the water two more trees sort of fell on top of it creating a large optimal fishing area that runs diagonal with the river. On the back side of the root ball the water was over our heads deep, and this is where we would catch all of the rock bass. On the water side of the trees there was a very swift and deep current that would occasionally produce decent small mouth. On the back side the water was calm and mostly filled with long eared sunfish. The center of the debris has somewhat deep calm water but is filled with branches and limbs so its hard to fish. Every once in a while I would get a wild hair and to Pat's dismay I would drop a line in this area, which to his humor usually involved me having to cut my line. To his laughter I would declare that I was going to catch a fish out of that mess eventually.
On this particular day I decided to give it another shot, but I decided to be more risky than normal. I figured no matter how things went I was probably going to have to cut my line, and I always say, “If you want big fish you have to take big risks”. So I positioned myself standing on the brushy hill that stood beside the fallen trees and about 3 or 4 feet above them. I cast my line over some old branches and really tall weeds. Right after I cast I realized that I had just made a huge mistake. There was no way that I was going to be able to reel my line back through all of that without getting it stuck. Pat was standing to the side putting another worm on his hook and snickering at me for my folly. I stood there staring at my line with despair. I really didn't want to have to reline, but I couldn't see any alternative to get around my foolishness. Even if a fish did bite I would have to lift it up over the fallen branches and tall weeds to get it to me. In hindsight it wasn't a well thought out strategy, but then something happened...
While I was standing there pondering my own stupidity my rod violently bent down and nearly came out of my hands. This of course nearly caused me to fall off the hill side and into the debris. Holding on to my rod and trying to plant my feet I realized whatever was on the other end of my pole had some fight. Pat glanced over his shoulder and said, “hmmm... you actually got one.”
I began to reel my line in and the fish must have been swimming towards me because it came back with ease and I responded that I didn't think it was big. Then it tugged back, and again I thought I was going in. It had been a few years since I had fought a fish with this kind of punch. I couldn't figure out what was going on. Then I saw its shadow almost surface and I heard myself say, “Uh... Pat.”
My tone got his attention and he looked at me curiously from where he was about to start fishing again. I didn't have time to explain as this fish was giving me an all out war. The problem wasn't just that it was a big fish, but that I had it hooked in a really bad location. If it decided to make the wrong turn my line would be wrapped in tree limbs and inevitably would have to be cut. This meant I had to turn my drag off so that the fish couldn't take any extra line. In most cases this would result in the fishing breaking the line. Making the split decision I turned off the drag and started trying to work the fish toward me. It came closer to the surface and I started to see how big it actually was.
Again I said, “Uh Pat!!!”
Annoyed at me now he said, “Whaaat????”
I responded, “I think I'm going to need your help on this one!!!!”
He looked at me curiously, “How big is it?”
Straining I said, “Just get over here and be ready to grab this thing when I attempt to swing it over the branches!”
Pat dropped his gear and ran over to assist. Giving it everything I had in one fell swoop I pulled the rod up and lifted the fish in to the air and swung it over the branches and to the shallow water on the back side where Pat was waiting to grab it. As the fish hit his hands his eyes got huge and he simply said, “Wow!”
I gave the line slack and we both grabbed a hold of the fighting fish to secure it and remove the hook. Finally with the fish under control we could get a good look at how big it was. Now I do have to say that this wasn't the biggest fish I've ever caught, in fact it's not even close. However, it is the biggest small mouth bass I've ever caught and the biggest fish I've ever caught out of this small stream. Unfortunately at the time I didn't have any scales to weigh it with, but I was able to get a few good pictures before releasing the behemoth back in to the stream.
The reason I chose this story as my best fishing experience wasn't just because it was a big fish and a decent story, but because this fish inspired us and fueled us to continue fishing all summer long which led to even more amazing catches and an amazing summer of fishing. Prior to this catch we had been going pretty regularly and as I said we had the fishing fever, but this one catch set up the remainder of our year. Arguably, I don't think we caught anymore quite as big, but we did catch some really good ones. Including Pat and another friend's favorite story about the one I caught that actually snapped the metal swivel in half while Pat was holding it. He may give me static about it not being a legitimate catch but he was just as disappointed as I was when the fish flopped out of his hands and back in to the water. No... we didn't get a picture of that one.
Even now when I look at the picture of that fish I remember the fight and the excitement of landing it. It pumps me up to want to go fishing. Fortunately for me the season has finally rolled its way back around again!