Volume 16, Issue 27 - July 3 - July 9, 2008

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The Monster Bite

You bait your hook and take your chances

I chose a big, white-and-yellow 5/0 bass bug to start out the morning. The lily pads that ringed the long reservoir shoreline looked the perfect lair for largemouth bass. Also, the no-kill regulations that govern these waters meant that there were probably more than a few big ones lurking.

Kneeling at the shoreline and pushing my bug under the water, I carefully massaged its coarse, hollow hair to make sure it was thoroughly sodden before I cast. The solid plop of a wet, deer-hair bug falling to the surface is a close emulation of the terminal end of a frog’s leap from harm’s way. Then, its mostly sunken profile as it twitches back moves a lot of water, suggesting something substantial and delicious in dire trouble. That can be irresistible to a hungry bass.

I was using an eight-foot, nine-weight Loomis fly rod built for big Florida snook but also perfect for any super-sized Maryland largemouth. Thrown from the edge of a fishy-looking cove toward the adjacent bank, my cast carried the big, wet fly into some pads lying in the shade of overhanging trees. I swam the bug back with an irregular and — I hoped — appetizing stroke, then carelessly glanced away to plan my next presentation.

That’s when it happened. The edge of my vision registered just a glimpse of a gaping white maw as my bug disappeared into torn water. Recovering and feeling the weight of the take, I clenched my fly line tight against the cork grip, leaned hard into the rod and slammed home the 5/0 hook. The water churned and fly line burned through my hand.

Fish Are Biting

There are enormous numbers of stripers holding in mid-Bay waters from Hackett’s north to the Baltimore Light and from Bloody Point to Love Point as well as throughout the Eastern Bay. They are mobbing the channel edges. Unfortunately, large and numerous schools of baitfish are congregating in the same areas. This has made the rockfish bite somewhat fickle as the stripers turn on for only a short time during the tidal phases. The rest of the time they are apparently dozing with full bellies. Chumming and fishing cut menhaden and live-lining spot and small white perch are doing the catching when the fish do decide to eat.

Big white perch are pleasing many below the Bay Bridge, but they’ve been scarce above, at least for me. The spot are continuing to get bigger, and croaker are scattered — but a persistent angler can do well. The crabs have become a bit more difficult to find of late, but they are still as delicious as ever. In all cases, fortune favors the relentless.

Its power was unbelievable. I couldn’t stop this guy. I was using a heavy fluorocarbon leader, more than enough for any bass I had ever tangled with, but this thug was making me come unglued. My stout graphite rod was bending well into the handle. Suddenly I had to give way or risk blowing it up.

After the first short surge, it immediately started another, even more powerful one. But that run was just as short, though unbelievably strong. I got a glimpse of a broad mossy back as it fought toward the top, then the angry monster’s head broke through the surface with my bright bug stuck firmly in the corner of its jaw. I estimated it at maybe 20 to 25 pounds.


That would certainly have been a new Maryland state record, perhaps even a world record, for a largemouth bass. But for snapping turtles around here, it is just about average. With effort, I winched the big and unhappy predator toward me.

I finally beached the beast and confirmed that my once-lovely bass bug was mangled and fixed solidly in the turtle’s evil grin. I also recognized that there was little chance of getting that fly back without my loss of a digit or two. Stepping back, I pointed my rod at the prehistoric demon, froze my reel spool and, with a great heave, popped the leader.

The big turtle hesitated momentarily at the water’s edge to give me the full dose of a mean stink-eye, then turned and churned back out into the dim waters. A few minutes later, the remains of a well-mauled bass bug popped up out in the middle of the lake.

That was my personal best for snapping turtles on the fly. I have since decided that I will pass up any further opportunities to better that particular mark. It is unduly hard on the equipment and hell on my bass bug supply.

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