Thoughts of landing a specimen largemouth bass flickered through my mind's eye as I prepared my tackle. The location, conditions, and the emotions were vivid. I could even imagine the fish smells and waterway smells that go along with the experience.
I could feel all systems come to a halt­p;lure, fishing reel, even my mind­p;as the great fish seized the tempting red-and-white morsel, trying to kill and reposition his prey. Waiting just a split second, I set the hook and instantly the lunker burst out of the water. He was beautiful! As he broke water, the sound of his splashing was almost deafening. The water reflected a blue sky, autumn foliage, and a sailboat with a bright-red sail.
Against this backdrop his colors were gorgeous: Stripes of black, green and white, from his back to his underside, banded him from head to tail. Again and again he danced on the water, thrashing in frantic determination to shake loose the traitorous morsel that had tempted him so sorely a few moments earlier.
He dived deeply into the lake, trying to escape this thing that looked like an evening meal.
The drag on my ultralight was singing, unlike any fishing reel I have ever heard. Fearfully, I adjusted the control just a little lighter. I must not loose this trophy! It seemed as though he were never going to tire. Only a few moments had elapsed, and I was beginning to feel stressed and greatly excited as he broke above water again, now much closer than I had earlier supposed. I estimated him, at this point, to be at least 22 inches in length or better­p;a fish with an extreme girth, probably five pounds, I judged. I just had to land this monster. I just had to!
The wind had picked up just a little and began to cool my brow. The smells of cooking over a campfire mingled with wood smoke, and a trace of decaying foliage, were carried on the early autumn breeze.
My attention was quickly drawn back to the battle at hand as the fish came closer to the boat. My rod had not been straight since the huge fish took hold of that shiny lure. The rod was now bent into the shape of the letter "C," and it seemed as if it would never again be straight. I held the pole high and hoped and prayed that the fish would not get tangled in and around my anchor line. I eased my large landing net into the water very carefully so the lunker wouldn't make a last lunge. Then I continued to reel in my prize. He lay motionless a few inches under the water's surface. This was the moment of decision. Quickly but carefully, I slid the floating landing net under him and brought it up, hanging on as he thrashed and made a last attempt to free himself.
As he shook and thrashed for the last time, I became aware of the icy temperature of the water hitting me on the face and chest. It almost took my breath away. The once fighting specimen was now lying motionless in the bottom of the boat except for a twitch of the tail, and the frantic working of his gills in an effort to stay alive. Looking at the lure in his wide mouth, I now wondered how I ever boarded this wonderful trophy.
I suddenly regained my senses and realized that this was a dream that still had to be fulfilled. I continued to sort,
inspect, and make ready my rods and tackle for the actual trip to that dream spot.
Many times the preparation and anticipation are more thrilling than the actual act. Sometimes our hopes and dreams are more exciting and picturesque than the undertaking itself.
photo-Art Michaels; illustration-Ted Walke
September/October 1998 Angler & Boater
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