Shot to the Heart
It has rained here in Aiken, SC almost every day for over a month.
I live in a community called Cedar Creek and the development has four ponds that have been stocked with fish for over 10 years. I have just recently taken up the sport again because I can be at a pond in less than five minutes and fishing in less than seven. All of our ponds are catch and release only.
In the past month, I have caught perhaps six bass that weighed over a pound. This is a nice sized fish and fun to catch. Plastic worms are the lure de jure.
Because of the rain every day, the water in Golden Pond has backed up to places that have not seen water in a decade. Due to this change in water location, the pond has begun to take on a pale brown color. The water is clear, just pale brown. This color comes from the fallen leaves that are now underwater and are releasing tannins that color the water. The father back you go into the sources of the rainwater wash off, the darker the water gets. I have found a place that I can get to and cast my plastic worm but the water is shallow and full of weeds, twigs and other traps for lures, even weed less lures. There is one place... each time I cast to it, some kind of fish hits the lure but does not seem to be big enough to get the whole thing in its mouth. Yesterday I hooked a bass in this small area, but loss the fish because it wrapped the line around an underwater stump and freed itself. The day before that, I cast my lure to the left versus the right and caught a one pounder. Lots of fun in this very restricted area.
To day I fished this same spot and got hits in both directions but nothing on the hook. I gave up, crossed the water farther up stream and began the walk to my next fishing area. I must have done this a dozen times. Each time I pass, I view a water spot that I am sure has fish, but it is too well protected by many saplings and lots of underbrush. This time, I think I see a place where I might be able to make a short cast.
I work my way through the brush, keeping an eye out for Copper Heads or other pit vipers, and finally get my rod through a hole in the brush and cast up stream about eleven or twelve feet. A very short cast.
As the lure approaches the shore, about three feet from my feet, an apparition appears. It is a monster Bass. I can see the entire fish, which is, at a minimum, two feet long. He does not see me, but does see the worm. With the confidence of the meanest dog on the block, he moves with the determination of a Dallas Class Attack Boat. With just a modest effort, he sucks the worm in his great maw and turns to head to deeper water. He is in no hurry. He disappears from sight and I am leaning forward to give him as much line as I can but it runs out in a hurry. My right Wellington is already in the water and my left foot is hooked around a sampling to keep my balance while casting. I bring this left boot into the water and strike the bass with all my strength and limited rod movement. Then the shot to the heart. I can taste the adrenalin.
I have awakened Lucifer. The fish is really strong and is peeling line off the reel. I cannot allow him to go for the reeds and underwater brush. With my left hand I make a quick twist of the break and now get some control over Moby Dick. I can see it coming, the line is moving right to left and he is coming to the surface like a Titan missile. This is where he gets a chance to throw the hook, break the line or change direction to the weeds. I suck air as the monster clears the water. He has jumped so high that he leaves his body length of air between himself and the water. An amazing feat of strength. It is a sight I will never forget. The Bass is shaking his head and body so violently that he breaks by six pound line with no difficulty.
Immediate disappointment! But hold on. I just got a chance to see the miracle of an award winning Large Mouth Bass. This vertebrate is a wonder of nature's evolution. Powerful, muscular and imbued with instincts that allowed him to avoid capture. After some thought, I am thankful to have had the experience. Since it was a catch and release anyway, the only part I missed was beaching this fine example of a true game fish.
But, here is the lingering memory that I will cherish until my end of days. A maroon 9" swishy tail plastic worm making its way to the end of my rod tip. Then...a head as big as two of my fist slides out of the deep and I see all of him as he gulps the worm and heads for deeper water. I am a lone witness to the superb performance of one of nature's marvelous creatures. I am humbled.
He is still out there!