Rem­i­nisc­ing about the mag­nif­i­cent last bass


Cherokee County Herald - - COMMUNITY NEWS - Find­ing lo­cal tal­ent can be tough. Find­ing lo­cal can­di­ates who work as hard as you?

By Larry Ed­wards

I will tell you about the last bass mainly be­cause this was not just any bass. This was the fish I pro­nounced to be present more than twenty years pre­vi­ous when I first saw the water where the Chat­tooga River flows into Weiss Lake in north­ern Alabama. The river flows be­low hard­wood forested hills and through the farms and set­tle­ments along it’s route.

It joins Weiss Lake two or three miles above the his­toric Corn­wall Fur­nace and cour­ses on un­der the Co­bia Bridge to where it in­ter­sects the rest of the lake. The water is spe­cial in that area be­cause of it’s rare yel­low- green color. In the nu­tri­ent rich wa­ters the bait fish thrived and where the food source is plen­ti­ful big fish grow and con­gre­gate.

My brother kept a RV parked just up­stream from the Corn­wall Fur­nace for over twenty years. Up and down the rivers and along the lake shore there is an ac­tive and mil­i­tant cit­i­zenry that de­clared war on the pol­luters years ago. They were will­ing to fight for this place and are the true guardians of the lake.

Their con­stant vig­i­lance and suc­cess­ful law­suits are what made this story pos­si­ble. As a liv­ing mon­u­ment to their ef­forts there ex­isted an in­cred­i­bly huge and mag­nif­i­cent large­mouth bass. This bass is wor­thy of a story be­cause it was so in­cred­i­bly huge and it crossed paths with my brother and me on a very spe­cial day in our lives. I don’t mean to im­ply we were in pur­suit of this in­di­vid­ual fish for the whole twenty plus years. Bass don’t live that long and only reach max­i­mum size dur­ing the last few years of their life.

Only an ex­tremely rare smat­ter­ing pos­sess the ge­net­ics to reach this gi­gan­tic pro­por­tion.

The con­di­tions were per­fect for a bass like this one to be present and this was the per­fect fish for the con­di­tions. It was the time my brother and I spent to­gether look­ing for this bass we loved the most.

With all the an­tic­i­pa­tion of two kids at Christ­mas we waited for those days. It is only fit­ting we en­coun­tered her on such a post card gor­geous day in May.

We were two old timers in a blue metal flake Hy­dras­ports X-270 bass boat that had been care­fully main­tained by one brother or the other since it came from the dealer new in 1989.

What no one could know is for all prac­ti­cal pur­poses it was a float­ing tackle store.

We had sev­eral tackle boxes com­pletely full plus ev­ery square inch of stor­age was crammed with sacks of lures that wouldn’t fit into any box.

We were a pair of to­tally in­cur­able tackle-holics.

We prob­a­bly should have sought pro­fes­sional help for our con­di­tion but who can af­ford that much ther­apy?

We needed the bucks we would have blown on ther­apy to buy more lures and tackle.

There was more, some­thing pos­si­bly su­per­nat­u­ral there too.

I could feel it when I placed my hands on the boat’s waxed and pol­ished gun­wales. I could feel it and it was real or maybe it was only the imag­i­na­tion of an old fish­er­man.

I do know for a fact when we were in that boat to­gether the years just melted away.

Old stiff shoul­ders and backs would fade far into the back­ground to al­low us to share a day of fish­ing.

Oh how ut­terly price­less those days were to us!

When we were out on the lake with fish­ing rods in our hands we were as happy as two hu­man be­ings can pos­si­bly be. When we put our rods away for the evening sev­eral bass would be swim­ming around just a lit­tle bit wiser wear­ing hook holes in their lips.

We laughed at the old jokes we had told each other hun­dreds of times and told and re-told the sto­ries of great fish­ing trips and big fish from all the years past.

No one else was there to lis­ten so what did it mat­ter the jokes were old and corny and we both knew the fish­ing sto­ries by heart?

Those were our jokes and sto­ries.

We owned them and they were worth telling each other again and again.

We were brothers but above and be­yond we were best friends and fish­ing bud­dies.

There was noth­ing noteworthy about our out­ward ap­pear­ance. Just a pair of com­mon and or­di­nary guys wear­ing aged and bat­tered lucky fish­ing caps.

What was dif­fer­ent was the un­com­mon and ex­tra­or­di­nary bond we shared.

The years had taken a toll on us as the years are so adept at do­ing to us all. The toll they ex­acted from my brother was ex­cep­tion­ally sav­age.

What in his younger years had been the per­fect ath­lete’s body was fail­ing fast from the rav­ages of di­a­betes.

He had al­ready lost one leg and the other one was also fail­ing.

We both had un­der­gone heart by­pass surgery. It was the ninth in­ning and we were keenly aware of how pre­cious our re­main­ing time to­gether had be­come.

We al­most des­per­ately clung to ev­ery minute of ev­ery day we could be to­gether and tried our very best to touch the other’s heart in a way to con­vey how much we trea­sured one an­other.

My brother was my hero and I was his hero. Try as you will you can­not spend the al­lot­ted time of two lives any bet­ter.

The day was grow­ing late and the sun was over in the west­ern sky above the hills of north­ern Alabama.

We had made the cir­cuit of all the old spots and sev­eral nice bass had been care­fully re­leased back to the care of the lake.

For a cou­ple of old timers we started early and quit late.

Al­ways be­liev­ing we were only one cast away from the fish of a life­time.

The power of a magic boat is fi­nite and the old shoul­ders and backs were win­ning the bat­tle. We came to the last stretch close to the camp­ground where my brother kept his RV parked.

A few more casts for this day and we would tell each other we would get the big girl tomorrow. Our op­ti­mism for tomorrow and next time should have been wore off bald but we had fiercely ban­ished those thoughts.

The big old bass was ly­ing right on that spe­cial few inches where the lake bot­tom drops off into the old river chan­nel.

My Ban­dit crank bait came to an abrupt stop and I felt the head shake that only a very large fish can send up your line and through a graphite fish­ing rod.

She charged past the front of the boat and when she came to the sur­face she was still pretty fresh.

A bass this huge doesn’t jump. They will lift their head above the sur­face, flare that big mouth open and just wal­low like a sow. When we saw the size of the fish we were both stunned.

I had seen and caught sev­eral big bass from my years of fish­ing Lake Fork and in Florida. With­out a doubt this was the big­gest bass I had ever seen or was it an ap­pari­tion?

Maybe I choked and fum­bled right there on the goal line but while my brother was scram­bling for our land­ing net the hook slipped out of her mouth and the mon­ster bass slowly sank back down into the yel­low-green water and from our view.

We were left sit­ting there in the boat with eyes as big as saucers. We were so filled with awe over what had just tran­spired we lacked the ex­tra emo­tional ca­pac­ity to feel much dis­ap­point­ment. Once again the splen­dor of this place had flooded our con­scious­ness and ren­dered us breath­less.

That is what had drawn us here time and time again. The huge let-down that comes when you’ve just had a blast of adren­a­line swept over us and we des­per­ately needed some time to col­lect our thoughts.

In near si­lence we placed our rods in the rod box and re­turned to the launch ramp.

I have cho­sen to be­lieve a higher power was or­ches­trat­ing the events of that day. Be it the fish gods, the spirit of the lake or the cre­ator of the uni­verse. Take your pick. It might even have been just plain bad luck we didn’t ac­tu­ally boat the huge fish. This one was never go­ing to be shown to an­other per­son or weighed or pho­tographed any­way.

I had al­ways planned for this to be our fish and ours alone. We were go­ing to ad­mire the mag­nif­i­cent crea­ture while she re­gained her strength and then I would just re­lease my hold so she could swim away. In our ear­lier years we would wag a big fish back to the ma­rina for the folks to ad­mire. I guess it was some­thing we needed in those days but the time for im­press­ing strangers had long passed for us both. We just ran out of hav­ing any­thing to prove or any­one to prove it to.

The idea of killing such a glo­ri­ous fish to have our ego stroked or to en­ter­tain an au­di­ence had grown re­pug­nant. Over time we had be­come aware our route to ful­fill­ment had di­verged from the main­stream.

We never pre­sumed our way to be su­pe­rior and we had not dis­cov­ered some great truth.

We sim­ply had found what worked for us and it was the path we chose to fol­low.

Late that evening my brother be­came ill and re­quired a trip to the ER in Cen­tre Alabama.

We were forced to cut our fish­ing trip a few days short and re­turn to his home in Dal­ton, Ge­or­gia.

It wasn’t so much the words he used but there was an empti­ness, a res­ig­na­tion in his voice. We had been a team far too long for me to miss it.

He had gone about as far as he could go.

Be­fore we left the lake I went to the boat and placed my hands on it’s gun­wale. I felt ab­so­lutely noth­ing.

The magic was gone, van­ished. Per­haps my rea­son to feel it and be­lieve is what had slipped from my grasp.

Dur­ing the hour long drive to Dal­ton we dis­cussed the events of the pre­vi­ous day.

My brother blamed him­self for los­ing the huge bass be­cause he couldn’t get to the fish with land­ing net.

Truth is it was never meant to be.

The lake had sent that spe­cial fish to us as a grand mes­sen­ger.

We had run out of to­mor­rows.

There was not go­ing to be a next time for us.

Weiss Lake had bid us our good­bye.

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