(Part 1 of a 2-part story)

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 2017. Some instantly dredged up a fond memory, while others related a man-vs.-bass duel in which they came out on the short end.

Part 1 of the 2-part story appears below. Part 2 will be published on Wednesday.

Mark Daniels Jr.
Bassmaster Elite Series

"It was at Dardanelle on day 2. I'd had a really bad day 1 and I was down in like 100th place or in the 90s – way down there, man. Then everything changed.

"I just went fishing kind of blind in areas I knew had fish, but I hadn't figured anything out. I decided to do something different and pulled out a spinning rod even though the water was high and dirty. I caught my biggest fish of that week, which was a little over 5 pounds. I hadn't seen anything that big in practice or the tournament.

"I caught it on a dropshot off a laydown log late in the morning, and it was like my third fish of the day. It was real dramatic – it ran around the log and out the other side. On 6-pound line, it was a freak show.

"After a 3- or 4-minute fight, it finally swam back the other way. When I finally grabbed it, I just knew it was a turning point for me in that event. I moved up to like 44th and made the cut, and then on day 3 I had another great day and I ended up finishing 28th."

Scott Canterbury
FLW Tour

"It was a jig bite on day 2 at Cumberland. I had three fish and I made a long run and I caught a 6-pounder flipping a tree. The fish came out of the middle of the tree and I boat-flipped it in, and I ended up making the cut and (eventually) finishing 5th.

Photo: FLW

Scott Canterbury made a long run to catch a key fish at Lake Cumberland.

"I'd caught one good one there in practice, but I hadn't had many bites. I made that long run in the middle of the day hoping I could catch another good one and it paid off."

David Mullins
Bassmaster Elite Series

"I usually don't lose a lot of fish, but this year I did. On the first case of the first day at Rayburn, I lost one that was over 8 (pounds). I was throwing a big worm and it hit the bottom and I hopped it about three times, and that big one bit it.

"I re-rigged and broke off another giant, and then the same thing happened again. I took off my 16-pound line and put on 20 and finally caught a 6-06.

"That first one was the biggest fish I'd ever hooked in a tournament. I didn't know how to feel at that point – I was pretty much just numb.

"It jumped 3 feet in the air like a big Florida-strain fish will do. I still had it hooked after that and I turned around to my marshal and said, 'I've got this one.' Then halfway to the boat it pulls off. It just made me sick.

"I could've had over 30 pounds that day if I'd caught everything that bit."

Cliff Pace
Bassmaster Elite Series

"Mine was at Okeechobee. I'd had a pretty good day 1, but on day 2 I wasn't having a great day and I was afraid I might fall out of the top 50. I was fishing an area where the water wasn't real clean and I felt like some of the fish I was catching were spawning, but I wasn't totally sure.

Photo: FLW

Jeff Sprague well remembers a fish he didn't catch in the FLW Tour event at the Mississippi River.

"I was swimming a jig and I hooked a fish, but it turned and came off immediately. I only had one 13-incher in the livewell at the time and losing that one was a big disappointment because it would've made a big difference.

"I made a big loop and came back to that same clump of tree and I caught what I'm pretty sure was the same fish. That one got me to the third day and kept me in the tournament."

Jeff Sprague
FLW Tour

"It was at LaCrosse (the Mississippi River) on day 3. I'd gone to a local tackle store and bought some tungsten weights that weren't the brand I use, and I broke off four fish.

"My first flip into a bush, the bush rattles and I set the hook and it's a 4-pounder, just rolling there on the surface. Then the weight cuts my line smooth off.

"I went back to the one weight I'd brought with me that I had left and I finished the rest of the day with it. From now on, I'll always make sure I've got enough of them with me."

Adrian Avena
Bassmaster Elite Series

"I lost a 4-pounder at Ross Barnett, and it ended up being the second year in a row that I missed qualifying for the Classic by one fish. I was burning a spinnerbait in some lily pads and fish were busting all over the place on gizzard shad.

"I had almost the same thing happen the year before at the Mississippi River, when I only weighed four on the third day – I had a 3-pounder come off on a buzzbait. It's tough to look back and realize that one fish would've put you in the Classic."

End part 1 (of 2)