– memories of a man getting older –

The One That Got Away

January 3rd, 2009 · No Comments



I walked onto the dock, fishing rod in hand. The morning mist was upon the lake, no one around, no boats, no voices echoing over the water, peace. This dock provided a good place from which to fish as it nestled up to a large lily pad area, a favorite place of fish. I created a small, firm ball made from soft, white bread and pushed it on the tip of the hook. I was fishing for “shiners.” They looked like large minnows, running anywhere from 2-10 inches or so. Smaller ones could be used for bass bait. Larger ones too, it turns out.

Dock with lily pad field to left

Dock with lily pad field to left

I was placing my casts along the edge of the lily pads, catching a shiner every now and again. I had hooked one and was reeling it in when suddenly the surface of the water erupted! Shiners jumping, skipping over the water surface, leaping into the air! The entire school of fish was in commotion, trying to swim into the sky. I realized they were being hunted, being hunted by a larger fish and were running for their lives. I slowed down the retrieval of my hooked shiner.

largemouth[Memory time lapse here.]

I stood on the dock staring down into the clear water. I held my fishing rod in both hands. The line left my reel, traveled the length of the rod, turned and headed towards the lake surface. It entered the water and traveled down into the mouth of a large shiner whose lip was pierced by my hook. I could clearly see the shiner’s head. Its head was sticking out of the mouth of an enormous large mouth bass.

I stood on the dock shaking. This was the largest fish I had ever seen and there it was, just a few feet below the water’s surface, just a few feet below my feet. The shiner on my line was a large one and over half of it disappeared into the mouth of this monster bass. My God!

Now, a fishing reel has a thing called “drag.”

Defined: “drag allows larger and more powerful fish to be safely brought to boat and landed, as the drag will “slip” below the breaking point of the line, but in combination with the angle of the rod, it puts relentless pressure on the fish, quickly tiring it. It can be adjusted up or down as needed by the fisherman while playing a fish, though it takes practice to do this without adding too much drag which frequently results in a broken line and a lost fish.”

So, the idea is that you want your fish to be able to pull some line out as you try to reel line in. This constant give and take will tire the fish. If the drag is too loose you will be reeling in but line will be going out. My fear was this large bass would take all my line out in about two heart beats. So, as I stood staring down at the bass holding my shiner like a mother cat might hold a kitten. I reached to the front of my reel and turned up the drag.

OK, it was now time to land my fish! I hadn’t given any thought to the fact my hook was in the shiner’s mouth, not the mouth of the bass. I hadn’t given any thought that I might just pull the shiner right out of the bass and end up catching a half eaten shiner. I hadn’t considered going to get breakfast while the bass swallowed the rest of the shiner so my hook would be in the bass. No, I braced myself and gave a firm yank on the rod.


The line instantly snapped against the too firm drag and weight of the fish. The bass didn’t budge! Didn’t move an inch! Had no idea we were once connected. Still floated motionless beneath my feet with the shiner in its mouth – the mouth that had my hook – the hook that had a short piece of filament line connected to – nothing.

I ran. Ran to the small cottage where my parents slept. Ran into the room and proceeded to fervently babble out a story about a huge bass, shiner, drag, line breaking … to my half asleep father. He mumbled out something resembling a word and fell back into sleep.

As I left the cottage, to my wonder, people were coming out of the main building. As it turned out, it really wasn’t that early in the morning, wasn’t the break of dawn as I had thought. The quiet was due to everyone being at breakfast. I don’t know why, but this fact somehow added to the folly of the event. But, fishing too has its metaphors and in this case the monster bass showed: The tighter we try to hold on to things the more they seem to get away. “Ping!”

Tags: Washington Lake

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