Holding her in the water, I remember thinking that I’d probably never see a bass this large again. I was also thinking that we absolutely did not deserve her.
It was October in an off-Cape pond, but the air remained warm. The pond had received its Fall trout stocking, which meant it was the perfect time to target the monster bass that enjoy feeding on those new arrivals.
My Dad, my brother Michael, and I slid the canoe soundlessly into the pond and I somehow managed to hop in the back and get the electric motor running without getting my feet wet or rocking the boat too bad. We moved off toward the middle of the pond.
Let me tell you something about this canoe. Before we invested in a proper aluminum boat with a gas engine, we had a plastic canoe with three (really two-and-a-half) seats. It served our purposes well. We could easily load it on the roof for last minute fishing trips. We strapped some backrests on the seats for maximum comfortability. It even had a few cup holders for the occasional beverage or three. But despite all of these first-class amenities, it was not the most pretty or stable of vessels. The gunnels were beginning to warp inward from years of over tightening straps on car tops. Any sudden movements would cause the canoe to rock spastically as the passengers scrambled to balance their weight.
But the most important part was that she could support three of us (Michael in the middle “seat”) and allowed for just enough room for everyone on board to cast in separate directions.
We cruised around the pond, the wind-less afternoon making for smooth sailing. I had a large swimbait on my line, Michael cast a popper, and Dad had his trusty Senko wacky-rigged.
After a while of fish-less casts I tied on a smaller jerk-bait and quickly hooked up with a monster crappie.
Signs of life! It’s amazing what a fish can do to the spirits during a slow outing. I sat back, cracked a beverage, and took my place at the helm, content with the trip.
We moved over to just outside of a cove, where the water drops from 4 feet to close to 30. My Dad and brother continued casting. The pond was quiet, but a family had taken residence in one of the small beaches across from us and they yelled loudly on the shoreline.
I heard the splash of my Dad’s senko, then a long pause as he let it drop. Then, the quick zip of a strong hookset.
“On?” I asked. My Dad’s rod bent in a the shape of a “U.”
“Bottom,” he said. “Wait…” He took a turn of the rod handle and the spool with a locked-down drag suddenly began spinning slowly.
The fish lumbered deeper and held. My Dad fought to regain line but couldn’t move the behemoth. The canoe spun, the fish acting as an anchor.
“I think this is big,” he kept saying. Finally, he was able to turn the stubborn fish, but it began running away from us again, pulling the canoe with it.
After a few torturous minutes, the fish moved toward the back of the boat, and appeared from the depths right next to me; a massive black shadow. My brother saw it too.
“What the hell is that?” he asked half-laughing, gawking at it’s enormous size.
“What?” my Dad kept asking, out of breath from the physicality and anxiety of the fight. “What is it?”
I reached into the water, put my hand in her bucket mouth, and pulled her out, her weight threatening to capsize our vessel. What happened next, I can’t explain.
My brother, phone in hand, snapping constant pictures of the fish, began laughing hysterically. This caused me to begin laughing hysterically. Pretty soon, all three of us were howling with laughter. I don’t have any clue why we were laughing. I’d like to think it was from the rush of endorphins, or simply due to how funny a nearly 10-pound largemouth looked in real life. But I think we were laughing because catching a huge, once-in-a-lifetime fish is a pretty fun thing to do.
The rest of the people at the pond must have thought we were crazy. Here we were, three googans in a plastic canoe, casting plastic worms in October, pulling state pin-sized bass out of the water. People fish their whole lives for a bass like this.
“I can’t believe that fish,” my Dad kept saying. I thought about handing it up front to him so that he could get a picture, but we decided she was to be released back to her home. I put her on the electronic scale for a quick weight.
“9 pounds 9 ounces.” The laughter started again and didn’t stop.
I lowered her massive body into the water and held her there, blurry-eyed. She took a while to get her bearings, but eventually kicked off into deeper water.