By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
A professional angler catches hundreds of fish over the course of a season and loses some along the way. A few of those successful battles lead to triumph of one sort or another, and some of the failures result in heartbreak (and also the loss of potential income and Angler of the Year points).
Either way, recollections of them are firmly implanted in the anglers' memory banks throughout the off-season.
BassFan asked several anglers on both major circuits to recall their most memorable fish from 2013. Some instantly dredged up a fond memory, while others related a man-vs.-bass duel they wish they could forget.
Responses from FLW Tour pros appear below, with those of Bassmaster Elite Series anglers to follow on Wednesday.
"I had a good finish at Beaver Lake, but I missed the (Top-20) cut by one spot and it just ate me up. I caught a smallmouth on the second day of the tournament that was one of those fish that just makes the light bulb go on. It was like, 'ding dong.'''
"It was about 11 o'clock and I may have had a small limit of spots at that time. But because I caught that smallmouth, I went from being very discouraged to going on a rampage for the rest of the day and I came in with a decent bag (12-11)."
He was throwing a YUM Mighty Worm on a shaky-head.
"It had to do with both the bait and the type of area I was looking for. After that, I could go around the lake and call my shot."
"I lost a legitimate 10-pounder at Okeechobee that straightened the hook on a (vibrating) jig. That same day I weighed a 1 1/2-pounder, and I ended up taking 2nd, about 6 1/2 pounds behind (winner Drew Benton).
"When fish get that big, it's hard to know exactly what size they are – they could go from 8 pounds to 12 pretty easily. But the next day I flipped one that was almost 9 into the boat and I thought it was a 6. I know for a fact that other fish was quite a bit bigger.
"That's the first time I've had that happen on a vibe jig. I think it must've been hooked funny to pull off like that."
"For me, it was my first fish on day 2 at Okeechobee, which was the first Tour event of the year. I didn't know how the year was going to play out at the time or that I was going to end up 6th (in the Angler of the Year race), but that one fish made a big difference in my season.
"I was in about 100th place after day 1, then I caught a 6-pounder pretty early on day 2. I ended up catching 18 pounds and moved all the way up to 33rd place.
"We'd had the EverStart there before that and it was one of four times I missed a check in the 18 tournaments I fished this year. Then when the (Tour event) started out bad too, I started thinking man, this just isn't happening.
"That one fish got my confidence rolling and I was able to put together a good bag. The next seven tournaments I fished after that were all good, and I think a lot of it was because of the confidence I took from that day."
"At Chickamauga (where he finished 6th) I was working a broad area and catching fish sporadically here and there. They were scattered along this ledge and it was just your typical setup at a TVA impoundment, and the bite was kind of tough.
"The first day I had 20 pounds and the second day I caught quite a bit less, but still made it to the third day. I'd caught a couple nice ones, but I was struggling and when I got to the perimeter of this broad area and worked it about halfway in when I decided I had to get back to the more centralized area.
"I'd just kicked the trolling motor to turn the boat around and I was reeling the jig as fast as I could when a 4 1/2-pounder ate it maybe 15 feet from the boat. The bait was moving really fast and that fish just came out of nowhere.
A rapidly moving bait produced a key 4 1/2-pounder for Jim Moynagh at Lake Chickamauga.
"I got it in and threw a marker out and as I was looking at the graph I saw all of these great big arches on this little, tiny rock pile. I caught one that was over 6 and I weighed in 23 pounds, and that moved me to day 4.
"I was really excited about fishing the last day, but when I got out there that school had moved. All those big blobs were gone."
"For me it would be the first of the five big ones I lost on the second day at the Forrest Wood Cup. I'd been fishing the pads (with a frog) and I'd caught like 40 keepers in the first half of the day and I'd maybe lost one. I hadn't been having any problem with hook-ups.
"Right in the middle of the day I lost a giant – I'm not quite sure how big it was. Then over a 30-minute I lost four more. I should've weighed about 23 pounds.
"The first one was bad, and then after the second one I was angry. After the third one, I didn't know what to say.
"By the time I got to No. 5, I was a complete mental case. It was time to hang up my hat and go to the house."
"On the second day at Smith Lake I was fishing a brushpile on a flat in the middle of a creek, and there was one place where the channel swung up against the bank and make a little point. I'd caught a 5-pounder and a 3-pounder there the first day.
"I didn't start there the second day, but when I pulled up that morning I hooked one that was probably 5 1/2 on my first cast. I got it almost all the way to the boat and then it pulled off about 5 feet from the net.
"I was catching them on (an umbrella rig) and I knew the exact cast I had to make. When she whacked it, I told my co-angler, 'This is another giant.'
"For whatever reason, she just pulled loose. I weighed a 14-incher that day, and that would've been another 4 1/2 pounds, for sure. It kept me from being in 2nd place going into the third day and probably cost me a Top-10."
End part 1 (of 2)