(Part 1 of a 2-part story)
By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Recently deceased former University of Texas football coach Darrell Royal once famously said: "When you throw the ball, there's only three things that can happen, and two of them are bad."
Similarly, when you're competing in a bass tournament and a bass inhales your bait, only two things can happen. One (the fish ends up in your boat) is good, while the other (it gets the hook out of its mouth or breaks your line before you get a hand or a net on it) is bad.
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 2012. 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 Monday.
"I had one that cost me the cut at the Forrest Wood Cup. On the first day I only weighed four fish, and I had a 4 1/2- or 5-pounder (relating to) a bream bed that I'd seen in practice. I made a blind cast into about 6 inches of water, where she'd been sitting there facing the bed, and she just exploded on that bait, trying to kill it.
"I could see that she was hooked outside of the mouth and I pulled her for about 8 or 10 feet, then she just shook her head and came off. She was there all the rest of that day and all of the next day, but I never did get her to bite again. She was just an old, resident shallow fish that was hard to catch.
Glenn Browne lost a 4-pounder at Beaver the would've put him in contention for the victory.
"Losing that one cost me the Top 20 (he finished 23rd) and took away my chance to make the Top 10 the next day."
"I always fish up Long Creek at Table Rock and the last two times we'd been there I'd done real well. On the first day of practice this year it was muddy and cold, so I got stuck on this sight-fishing deal and I did okay the first day.
"At 12:30 on day 2 I only had two fish and I had to be back in at 3 o'clock. I ran up the James River to fish a couple stretches of bushes I'd gotten bites on in practice, and the first fish I caught was a 6 1/2 pounder. I knew right then that was going to be the difference between a check and no check (he finished 47th). I ended up culling out everything I had.
"It was just one of those decisions you make in the heat of the moment that paid off."
"At the Forrest Wood Cup I was 4th after the first day and 7th after the second day, but I was only getting five keeper bites a day. Then on the morning of the third day I caught two real early, so I was thinking it was game on.
"I was fishing way back in the Chestatee River – it's almost a creek back there it's so low. There was one tree on a bend in the river I'd been hitting every day, knowing there had to be a big one there, even though I hadn't caught one yet. On probably my 40th cast to that tree, a 5-pounder rolled up on the square-bill I was throwing.
"I knew she was barely hooked and I was able to walk her around the boat one time, but she finally came off right there at the boat. That one would've gotten me to the final day."
"I finished 5th at Beaver Lake and I think I was the highest finisher who wasn't throwing some sort of (umbrella) rig. I was flipping shallow cover with a tube and throwing a spinnerbait.
"On one of the days I only had 11 pounds and I lost a 4-pounder in a tree. If that wasn't the winning fish, then it would've gotten me to 2nd place, for sure.
"It was mid-morning and I was way up War Eagle Creek and those fish were ultra-shallow – I was catching a lot of them right out of the dirt. I flipped up there and that fish bit and swam off with it, and I set the hook good. Everything was perfect, but for some reason it just rolled up and came off.
Cody Bird got the bite he was looking for on day 3 of the Forrest Wood Cup, but the fish never made it into his boat.
"A 4-pounder is a giant for Beaver, so that one really stung."
"I finished 7th at the Potomac River and I was fishing shallow cover with a crankbait. There was a long stretch of docks that George Cochran was fishing and he passed one of them up for some reason. I asked him if he'd mind if I fished it, and he said go ahead.
"I caught a 5-pounder there, and that probably gave me a Top 10 instead of a Top 25. It was about a 2 1/2-pound gain for me.
"We laughed about it afterward and George said he felt pretty stupid for doing that."
"I had a good chance to win at the Potomac River again (he prevailed there in 2007), but on day 3 I lost one swimming a jig and I lost one on a ChatterBait that were about 4 pounds apiece. Either one of those would've gotten me to the last day, and I had the best spot – I was in the right location at the right time with the right baits.
"Those two fish, I can still see them opening up their mouths and the bait come flying out. Those are the ones that really haunt me because if I'd caught them, I'd have had a real shot at winning the tournament."
"At Table Rock I lost a 7-pounder that kept me from winning. I was throwing an (umbrella) rig and she came up and jumped, and I thought she'd just jumped off. Then when I got the rig in, I saw that the snap had come open and my jighead had totally come off my snap.
"She was every bit of 6 1/2 and she was hooked good. It was a bad deal. It was really frustrating."
End part 1 (of 2)