Persistence Pays Off! "A Fishing Story by Young Richmond Angler, Hayden Kurz"

Persistence Pays Off!
In the last couple months of 2011, I started to delve into the world of swimbait fishing – throwing giant baitfish style lures that specifically target big bass. I’m not talking about the Basstrix, Yum Money Minnow, or Zoom Swimmin’ Fluke, but the truly big baits; baits that exceed eight inches in length and weigh in excess of four ounces. With these giant lures comes a certain tradeoff – you’re most likely not going to have 20+ fish days, but on the days you do catch numerous fish, they’re most likely going to be much bigger than fish caught on traditional bass tackle. It’s sort of a “Go big or go home” mentality. You have to fully commit to the big baits and not succumb to the pressure of putting them down in exchange for a jig or plastic. Keep in mind, all of this information is what I had learned from seasoned swimbait fisherman, and until yesterday, I was still in the process of sticking with the big baits until I finally caught some fish. I’ll be the first to admit, it’s tough to gain confidence in a technique when you spend seven straight hours on the water without a fish, let alone a bite. But, with all of the time and effort you put in, sticking your first swimbait fish is like catching your very first bass all over again. It’s totally worth it.
Fast-forward to yesterday, February 3rd. I had put a combined 46 hours of time into the swimbaits without a fish to show for it. Plenty of bites, swats, taps, and slaps, but no hookups. After school I headed over to one of my prime spots. 45 minutes in, I finally hooked and landed a bass on the swimbait, specifically a Huddleston Deluxe 8” inch Rainbow Trout pattern. Because of all the missed bites, I had added a small #5 treble hook to the bottom of the bait with some braided line, and tucked the hook in between the pelvic fins of the bait the night before. Low and behold, it was caught on the tiny stinger hook. The fish wasn’t very big, 3.65 pounds, but was a very big accomplishment for me. I would have gone home a satisfied man having just caught that fish, but four hours later, my day got much, much better.
By 4 in the afternoon, I had moved to a different body of water that holds some truly monster fish. It’s a very well balanced lake with tons of bluegill, pickerel, and good numbers of 7+ pound bass. After an hour with a lot of bites but no hookups, I looked at the Hudd and realized all of the slaps I was getting were indeed the beloved pickerel (At one point I had made an exceptionally long cast onto a boulder, which had very slightly nicked my 25 lb. line. This will make sense later on in the story). I reeled in the Huddleston, which at this point looked like someone went at it with a razor blade, and moved to a spot that is the epitome of a big bass haunt – a creek flows in with tons of scattered brush, logs, and limbs. When the creek is running fast after a good rain, it pushes tons of threadfin shad into the lake, and the big bass follow. Outside of the creek channel, there is more scattered brush, a small point, and a very slight drop-off that I have caught two six pounders and a 7.3 off of. The water level was slightly high and stained from the creek water pouring in, and I would guess the water temperature to be somewhere in the high 50’s to low 60’s, which is very unusual for February in Virginia.
This is where things get weird. A lot of successful trophy bass fishermen have told me that to catch a trophy bass, you have to do everything perfectly. A bass in the 8-pound plus range didn’t reach that size by making stupid decisions. The right cast at the right time with the right lure is what it takes to catch a trophy, and if anything about your presentation is wrong, your chances decrease significantly. After about 15 casts in the area, I decided to approach the creek channel from a different angle, and moved 30 feet to my left. I made a long, accurate cast right past an ambush point; a spot where a big fish has an advantage over its prey, and in this case, the cast landed in the creek channel and was set up to swim past a big laydown right on the edge of the moving water. Prime. Absolutely prime. I began the slow retrieve back, reeled it past the laydown, and then I had the most ferocious, bone-jarring strike of my life. I loaded up the rod and the battle began. Right away, I knew it was a toad. Sometimes, big bass don’t put up a very good fight. They’re big, slow, and lazy, and besides a few headshakes here and maybe a surface thrash there, they (sometimes) don’t have the energy to pull as hard as their smaller relatives. This fish was different. For the Huddleston Deluxe, I use a Dobyns 807MAGH, an 8’ XXH rod with a long handle and tons of backbone, a Daiwa Luna 300 with the drag locked down, and 25 lb. P-Line CXX. That’s some serious equipment. At one point, I literally could not reel. This big girl was pulling with so much authority that I couldn’t move the reel handle. As I got her closer to shore and saw really how big she was, I said to myself “Come on dude, don’t screw this one up.” I guess I was just so excited that I had a big fish on this monster bait, I forgot everything I had learned about landing a big bass, because when she was close enough, I went to swing her up on the shore. Thankfully my rod didn’t snap, but as soon as she was over dry land, the line snapped. Common sense told me to retie after I had cast onto the rock, but my laziness thought otherwise. She flopped one time, and with my $25 bait, landed in a foot of water. Without even thinking, I jumped in after her. When I landed on my side, cell phone, keys, and camera in pocket, I wrapped my arms around her, grabbed her by the bottom lip, stood up, and went absolutely nuts. A couple of kids that were jumping on a trampoline close by and had watched the entire thing unfold probably thought I was insane. This fish was a toad. I jumped up on shore and ran over to my camera, which was on a tripod, snapped about 20 pictures, weighed her, and let her go.
One of the reasons I took interest in swimbait fishing was that catching big fish on traditional bass tackle wasn’t giving me the same rush that it used to. After I caught this fish, I was shaking, laughing, my heart was racing, adrenaline pumping, the whole package. It was awesome. All of the hours without success, all of the missed bites, all of the questioning and doubts, I had done it. It was without a doubt the best feeling I have ever had. That fish was worth all of the money I’ve ever spent on fishing tackle, all of the miles driven, and hours spent on the water.
She weighed in at 9 pounds, 3 ounces on two separate digital scales, and measured 27 inches in length. Beat my previous personal best by four ounces. The 3.65 I had caught earlier in the day had just barely eaten the back half of the bait, and was hooked on the rear stinger hook. The 9 pounder had taken the entire bait, all the way up to the nose, and was hooked on the 1/0 treble attached to the line tie. Talk about a hog! That’s an eight-inch, four-ounce bait, and she could have easily swallowed it. I fished for another 20 minutes and caught one more fish, a 12 incher. A foot long bass tried to eat an eight-inch bait. That just goes to show that little fish aren’t afraid to hit a big, slow-moving lure. A lot of people throw much bigger lures, some reaching a whopping 16 inches!
Don’t be afraid to try something new or out of the ordinary. Almost every place I have thrown the Hudd, someone has asked me if there were fish big enough to eat it, if that was a fish I had just caught, or just laughed and shook their head. Prove those people wrong. Step out of your comfort zone and with a little determination, motivation, and hard work, it will eventually pay off. I can honestly say catching a fish on a jig simply will never be the same. I’m hooked on swimbait fishing.  --Hayden
The Photo's Stories:  Top Left:  Hayden's 27" bass and lure used.  Cool looking lure, but love that shadow.  Really shows off the fish's length.  Really nice work Hayden!
Bottom Left:  The pround angler with heart pumping, looking cool.  Probably the finest bass I have ever seen.  Awesome!