Chicago Sun-Times

THE BIG CATCH

Wooten adds to fam­ily legacy af­ter haul­ing in flat­head

- DALE BOW­MAN dbow­man@sun­times.com | @Bow­manOut­side Illinois · Facebook · Hinsdale · Iowa · United States of America · Montrose · Tom Brady · Fox River · Plainfield · Upper Iowa University · United States Fish and Wildlife Service · Montrose, IA

Ryan Wooten was fish­ing for small­mouth bass or “maybe some wall­eye” last week with a “lit­tle 3-inch black twister­tail” with a 4-pound line on spin­ning gear.

“Then the ad­ven­ture started,” he said.

Let’s pick up with Jack­son Kennedy, who walked down to the spill­way on the Fox River in North Aurora to make a few casts as the ad­ven­ture was be­gin­ning. At first, Kennedy thought Wooten was snagged, then called over and found it was a fish on.

“He had been fight­ing the fish for over an hour when I had ap­proached him,” Jack­son posted in Illi­nois Fish­ing Ban­dits on Face­book. (Thanks to Ed Sch­mitt for tag­ging me on this epic tale.)

“I de­cided there was only one op­tion to suc­cess­fully land this gi­ant, so I jumped in the river and helped him se­cure a fish of a lifetime. We walked up and down the tail­wa­ter of the Fox for about 30 min­utes. I live down the road, so I called my brother [Josh] to bring down a net and we pulled in a [42-inch, 31¾-pound] flat­head. This [is] a mem­ory I will never for­get and I’m grate­ful I could be there to as­sist him!” Wooten nailed the mo­ment.

“I would prob­a­bly still be there fight­ing the fish with­out Jack­son and his brother,” he said.

At the be­gin­ning, Wooten thought he was snagged, too.

“He must have picked it up,” he said. “The fight was like fight­ing a log. It was def­i­nitely an ad­ven­ture. I am prob­a­bly never going to ex­pe­ri­ence any­thing like that again.”

The unique­ness was the light line. “I had an 8-pound test rod in my car, but I didn’t have it with me,” Wooten said. “If I had hooked into him on 8-pound, it would have been eas­ier, but I don’t think I would have him mounted. It was def­i­nitely the fish of a lifetime. I know they get much big­ger on the Fox, but it was the [unique­ness of catch­ing it on] 4-pound test.”

Wooten plans to have it mounted at Cliff ’s Taxi­dermy in Plain­field, where his dad, Les, had some big crap­pie mounted.

“My grandpa Al loved to fish, then passed it down to my dad,” Wooten said.

That’s truly fam­ily fish­ing. Wooten first ap­peared in the Sun-Times when his cousin Eli­jah Wooten earned Fish of the Week in 2009 for his first sauger while they were fish­ing with Eli­jah’s dad, Brad.

I reached Jim Bondi, bass fish­ing coach for Hins­dale South, where Wooten was on the bass-fish­ing team for all four years and was also an honor-roll stu­dent and a soc­cer player.

“I truly ap­pre­ci­ated how much fish­ing and the out­doors was in his blood,” Bondi emailed. “He clearly had a lifelong passion to spend hours on the water that was fos­tered at a young age by his Dad and other mem­bers of his fam­ily. In terms of fish­ing, he had the pa­tience and skill to fi­nesse fish and coax fish to bite while many others strug­gled. While I may have taught him a cou­ple things, he was the first to show me an un­der­spin and blade bait, among other things I’m sure.”

That love of the out­doors trans­lated to col­lege. Wooten will be a se­nior at Up­per Iowa University ma­jor­ing in bi­ol­ogy. Last year, he had a nice in­tern­ship sur­vey­ing na­tive brook trout in north­east Iowa.

“It was an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence,” Wooten said. “I might do my masters in wildlife or marine bi­ol­ogy. That is my passion.”

Wild things

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice team banded Monty and Rose’s three sur­viv­ing pip­ing plover chicks Mon­day at Mon­trose Beach, Chicago Park District vol­un­teer site stew­ard Les­lie Borns emailed . . . . John Vuk­mirovich has been pick­ing mul­ber­ries for more than a week. I picked my first rasp­ber­ries on Thurs­day.

Stray cast

Tom Brady keeps prov­ing he’s the same as a big­head carp.

 ?? PRO­VIDED BY JACK­SON KENNEDY ?? Ryan Wooten (left) and Jack­son Kennedy with Wooten’s 42-inch, 31 3/4-pound flat­head shortly af­ter it was net­ted last week on the Fox River.
PRO­VIDED BY JACK­SON KENNEDY Ryan Wooten (left) and Jack­son Kennedy with Wooten’s 42-inch, 31 3/4-pound flat­head shortly af­ter it was net­ted last week on the Fox River.
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