😸The Cat Whale🐟
All About That Bass
Largemouth Bass is about my favorite thing to fish for, mainly because they have a great flesh to skin/scale/bone ratio which makes them great to clean and eat. Saturday, I was in search of some of these freshwater delights as my supply in the freezer, from frying them up on Labor Day, was now depleted.
If you look across the lake in this first picture, you'll see some buildings and what you can't see, is the parking lot to the right of that hidden by the trees. It was a good mile jaunt around the lake to where I finally caught the catfish, even though it wasn't my intended target.
I fished around the entire way, and had several bites. The problem was, is since it was raining, the bugs were all knocked down on the top of the water. This made easy prey for the hunters below the surface and it didn't take much but a quick gulp to slurp down a snack.
I wasn't having trouble getting bites, I was having trouble actually hooking the fish because of the swift attacks. I was using an ultralight rod (Ugly Stick Glow Tip) and a small Flueger reel (President XT) to enhance the action of a decent sized bass. I had the drag set fairly weak, to about a 5 pound maximum draw, but was smart in using 20 lb. braided Spiderwire.
I lost my first lure by being a total derpa and underestimating the wind. I casted right into a thicket of bushes and there was no recalling it from there. The second one, was a small jerk worm I had gotten in my most recent #mysterytacklebox surprise package. I lost that one from several hits that finally ripped it off of the #02 red Harmony hook. But, they seemed to really like the action of that worm.
Immediately after that, I went to a slightly weighted Eagle Claw #04 and a larger 8 inch green and white jerk worm. The proper speed allows one to 'walk the dog' on top of the water with it. Then all of a sudden, after about four casts, this lunker jumped up outta the water from beneath a bush (as I had hoped it would) and snatched my enticing bait.
I could see it was a good sized largemouth, probably about seven or eight pounds as I had to tighten my drag to get any headway on the retrieve. Five minutes into the fight, he wrapped my line around something; probably a fallen log or rock or maybe a tire for all I know. I let loose a little, hoping it would swim out and away from the obstruction and went to start reeling in again? It was gone, along with the lure leaving me with an empty hook.
Chasing the Bubbles
That was frustrating. After almost three hours, I still hadn't caught anything. I stood there for awhile and watched the catfish nudge the water's surface and suck down bugs. I swear one of them, was playing with a feather and pushing it around the top of the water.
I had also gotten to the end of the shallow side of the lake and it was about to get much deeper. I was also transitioning from a muck bottom to a more rocky bottom. Knowing this, I decided to put on one of my most successful soft baits. The Berkley Powerbait 3" Crazy Legs Chigger Craw. In total, with the 'antennae', it is actually six inches. Which, if you watched the video up there, should put things in a little better perspective.
Nary a day passed have I not caught anything on one of those. I have to say, it is my go to for lures. I twisted the guage into its butt and hooked her up good as I headed down to my favorite spot on the lake. The spot my family and I have (over the years) dubbed 'the flat rock'. The flat rock is simply a large flat rock embedded into the side of hill, that two people can sit comfortably on and dangle their legs fishing out over the lake.
Once I got here, I decided to sit my own happy ass down for a bit instead of testing the wet pebble rock sheet that covered the hillside. I suppose I could have stood on a smaller rock, which I usually do when someone else is with me as I tend to have sure footing, but it was 3 hours already, I needed a break.
Another 15 minutes went by and I casted over here, and I casted over there and I even casted right there. Nothing. So, I decided to start chasing the bubbles. I figured the mess of bubbles was one of a few things; a giant largemouth, a grass carp, a snapping turtle or a beastly catfish. Chasing the bubbles means casting in front of the direction of a bubble trail you know isn't yours. Something has to be be making it, so why not try and catch it?
The Cat Whale
Here fishy, fishy, fishy, I thought to myself. I casted under some low hanging branches to my right and stood up on the rock. Something was near the bubbles. A huge something. It hit so hard and so fast, I didn't hardly have time to react before I was reeling it in! I will never know what it was though, as once I had the drag tightened and was able to set the hook, it spit me out.
Fuckity fuck fuck.
I was almost mad by this point. I sat back down, reset my drag and took a few deep breaths. My adrenaline was rushing and I just hucked my lure out as far as I could beyond the normal range I dare to go with such a pole and setting. But, fuck it. A good long retrieve will calm me down, or so I thought.
It was about a split second after I gave the reel one turn,
and this giant mouth come gulping it up and splashing the surface like no bass I'd ever seen. The mouth was huge. This whale wants what I have out here, and it's not letting go until it gets its meal. I realized upon seeing the size of the thrash, it was way too big to be a bass, and my eyes widened to hone in on the strike.
Once my focus was in place, the reel started winding out and there was maybe only a yard on it left. You could see the metal of the spool and I quickly tightened the drag as much as I dared to slow the predator down before it ran all my line off.
Then I set the hook.
That's when the fun started.
This goliath was not getting away. The ultralight rod I was using was bent completely in half (and even more so as it got closer to the bank I was near) and it was truly testing the strength of the line. Every five feet I gained, it would pull out four and half.
The real challenge, was keeping it from winding around any of the stumps, or worse, going down deep and digging up under some rocks. I fought it frantically trying my best to keep it up where I could see at least a silhouette, comforting me that it wasn't going to tie us up below.
I pulled it to the left around some fallen, then back to the right to avoid the stumps I knew were underneath and then it saw a brush patch about 20 feet in front of me and made a beeline for it. It was successful in pausing the struggle we both were facing. I tried my best to pull it up over the branches and twigs, rendering no effect. It was just too powerful in its own element.
Then it accomplished its goal. I was stuck. I couldn't pull it free from the patch of debris. If the rocks weren't wet, I would have chanced walking down the bank a ways and pull it sideways to free it. However, I felt that was not the best option. I decided to let it swim out, taking the chance it may go deeper and snap the line on a rock's edge.
As I felt the line slack, I abruptly changed the fishes trajectory and steered it around the bush as fast as I could and it jumped a good foot out of the water once I did. Once it landed, it shot back out, screeching my reel, and gained another 20 feet on me. I again proceeded to close the distance between us and it jumped towards me again - and I could see its entire body.
It was a Cat Whale.
One of the last things an angler wants is for a fish to start swimming at them, and that's exactly what this thing did, however, it was close enough now (about 15 feet from the bank) that I could pull the rod up and reel fast enough to counterattack its efforts to loosen the hook snagged in its lower jaw.
Believe it or not, within ten feet of the shore is when I have lost more fish than not. They can see and know the water is getting shallower and the torque on the rod and where the lure is tied, is all the greater, from the minimal distance between the raw power of a submerged fish and your gear.
This was a good five minute fight closing the rest of the way to the bank and when I finally got it to the water's edge? I've never seen anything like it. This little son of a bitch starts doing this alligator death roll in a last ditch attempt to free itself. It definitely kept me from grabbing it and I had to pull it up the bank, another ten feet, and stand on its tail, just to grab the fish.
The Cat Whale.
Now, in the video, you'll hear me say it must weigh at least 20 pounds, but I am fully under the notion that it was much closer to 30. My adrenaline was pumping so hard and blood rushing through my veins, I probably could have lifted a car and said it was only a hundred pounds. It's head was wider than mine. It was also as big around as my leg, and a little bit longer. At three feet long and that girth? I'm no expert, but I do know my afterthoughts are more accurate than my ultra-pumped blabbering.
This is the largest fish I have caught all year - heck in the past 3 years! It also the second largest freshwater fish I've ever landed and the biggest catfish I've ever caught. The channel cat (can tell by the color and fork of the tail) will probably live another 20 years and get twice that size, assuming nobody else catches it and makes it a meal. I'm sure it'll be more leery of things dropping from the surface now.
Then the neatest thing happened, which made the catch probably the best ever in my life. As I was taking the final round of pictures, the one just above this paragraph, it barked at me. It was almost a pleading sentence that came out which only it could utter and I could understand. I could have sworn it said "Can I please get back in the water?"
Without even thinking that our languages were as polar as the north and south poles, I said "crap, ya, I'm sorry, here ya go." and I released it back into the wild. It swam in a little circle, turned and paused while it looked at me, and slowly submerged beneath the murky water, leaving a trail of bubbles. #truestory I encourage all of you now to REMEMBER TO BE YOU! I always am, even if I don't need a universal translator anymore.
Let me do it for you!
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