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This is why we do this.

louie bartenfield avatar

Written by Louie Bartenfield

carters lake huge spotted bass

I fish for a living, but on my days off...I go fishing. It isn't all what you might think though. Believe it or not, when you fish for a living, fishing is WORK. When someone pays you $350 to go fishing, YOU BETTER get them on fish!

So on my days off, yes, I go fishing, but I am working: exploring seasonal locations, observing migration patters, and studying new baits and trying to get a mastery of the game before I put my next paying client in the boat. On this day, partner guide Bill "The Pain Train" Payne had the day off too, so I planned to have him meet me at about 9:00am and help with the prep work for a few hours.

I showed up a little early to wash the boat down and get things cleaned up. I had just received my first production shipment of the BigBite Real Deal Craw. This is a bait that I featured on the home page for October. I also featured the SpotSticker Crawler Head because I knew the two together would make a deadly combination. But honestly, I hadn't mastered the bait yet. Heck, the dang Real Deal Craws aren't even in stores yet and I ran through the few samples I had weeks ago. Nevertheless, Bill and I have been intrigued with the realism of this bait and eagerly anticipating its arrival.

It didn't take long for the fish to tell us what they thought of the bait. Crayfish get to moving around the rocks in the fall, and the timing of this product hitting the market couldn't be better. In just a couple of hours we were pushing 19lbs in spots. That's SPOTS folks. We're talking bags of 4+ monsters back to back, in no time at all.

And then this happened...

I made a cast up a long rocky point with a 3/8 oz SpotSticker Crawler rigged with a Big Bite Real Deal Craw, and let it sink to the bottom. I pulled it into the chunk rock and started slowly bouncing it back when I felt a solid THWUMP on the line. I swung into the hook set and thought I had hung the bottom. --the friggin thing didn't budge a bit! ...and the fight was on.

If you fish a lot, you get to where you pretty much know what you have on the end of your line before you ever lay eyes on it. The force of the bite, thrashing vs running, the cadence of the head shake,... These are all clues that tell you what species you've got and how big it is.

I thought this fish was a flathead catfish. For one thing, I could hardly gain line on it. Every time I'd get a little bit, it would go on a deep run (like a striper) ripping drag for 30 feet, then sit there and thrash (like a catfish). After a few minutes of battle, I was able to get the fish under the boat, where it just sat there. If I wrenched on it, I risked breaking off. If I gave it line, it would surely run down into the rocks and break me off. We were in a stalemate, all the while I'm grumbling "Friggin catfish. This is like something Chris would do... catch a daggon catfish on a jig...whoever heard of such nonsense..."

Then Bill saw it and called out "IT'S A BASS!"

The next few minutes were full of nervous jitters and little prayers to the effect of "Please don't come off please don't come off pleeeease don't come off." Thankfully, the prayers were answered and Bill carefully netted the beast.

I couldn't initially see the fish because of the console and the angle that Bill had swung the fish into the boat. When I rounded the corner and laid eyes on it, I couldn't believe it. The thing was huge. I mean huge. Bill put it in perspective when he said "I've only seen two, maybe three spots in my life bigger than that one." He's right. This fish was exceptional. On my BPS grip scale, the needle was sitting between 6 and 8 lbs. That may not sound like much for a largemouth, but for a spot, it's a giant.

"I believe that scale is off, Louie. That thing looks to be well over seven." Bill commented. We catch several over six out of Carter's Lake each year. But fish over seven pounds you only hear about once or twice a year. I'll be checking the calibration on my grip for sure.

Careful not to stress her any longer, we snapped a few photos, and gently put her back in the water. "Thanks for the fight" I thought as I watched her dive into the dark.

Fish don't get big by being stupid. They're old, wise, and wary of what they eat. They are fully aware that we fishermen are running around up there on the surface trying to fool them into getting caught. That is why the older, bigger ones are so elusive and difficult to catch. REALLY difficult to catch. Many guys will fish their whole life and never connect with a spot of this caliber. Trying, trying, trying through the blistering heat, bitter cold, trying new baits, new locations, new tactics, studying the game, analyzing mistakes, trying again, failing again, keeping at it, never giving up...

The difficulty makes the game compelling, and when you finally connect with a trophy like this one, you know that you brought it all together and got it right.

This is why we do this.