Okay, first things first. This is what a five-pound bass looks like:
I am an honest man, so I must inform you the person holding this five-pound bass is not me. In fact, I have never met this man in my life, and I don’t want him to sue me for use of his image without permission, so I have deliberately decapitated him pictorially. Even if I did know him, he would not be part of this story. His sole purpose on my humble blog is to show you what a five pound bass looks like. So please, carefully absorb this image as you read the remainder of this entry.
As posted last week, I joined my father and two of my brothers for a fishing trip. Our destination was Lake Vermilion in Minnesota, not far from Cook; less than an hour’s drive from International Falls. If you are unfamiliar with Lake Vermilion, here is what it looks like on a map:
Please note the scale to the lower right on this map, and how short a distance on your ruler two miles is. Folks, this is one big lake. It is also a popular lake, with several resorts on its coastlines, and many private residences, even island ones that have to have supplies to their homes–or home–ferried by lake barge. I actually saw one of these on Lake Vermilion a couple of times. Being mostly functional moving machines they’re not very photogenic, so I’ll spare you a picture of one. Just accept the premise that this is a great big body of water, because it simply is.
And it is loaded with fish, and for six days, four of which were as perfect as one could hope, one of which it rained for fifteen minutes and then got hot, and another of which was just plain hot; we caught fish.
Now, these fish were typical of a huge freshwater lake as Lake Vermilion is. My father caught a couple walleye that were in the slot (meaning they were a size requiring them to be thrown back instead of mounted or eaten), one of my brothers caught a couple respectable size bass weighing just over a pound or so, another may or may not have but is being “modest,” and by the fifth day we had enough bass, perch and bluegill fillets for four honest meals, which we consumed in three, with fried potatoes and peppers, baked beans and sliced Indiana tomatoes for sides. Two of those meals we had consumed by Friday, the last day of the trip and, deciding we would close out the trip with one final fish dinner and having more than enough to do so, Friday would be a sporting day of catch and release, one of us on each of our boats equipped with a camera to document our trophies.
And document we did. Though I haven’t yet uploaded my camera, I personally brought in a twelve-inch perch. That may not sound like much to the layman, but to a fisherman, it’s the perch equivalent of hooking Shaquille O’Neill. Perch are not known for getting all that big. A “keeper” perch is typically just a little bigger than the palm of your hand, and quite good with a spicy Southern-style breading. But the combination of that, and another pound-and-a-half bass caught by my brother in the boat, convinced us this was a location well worth trolling in.
So we trolled, and brought in some more nice perch along with their baby brothers and sisters (friends, Lake Vermilion is swarming with perch), and several hand-sized bluegill, and a couple more respectable bass; and then my brother’s last rig got snagged and snapped in the water. I could empathize. Lake Vermilion does not give its bounty without sacrifice, having claimed six of my rigs already by that point. So we checked the time and decided to head for our lunchtime picnic spot where we’d greet my father and other brother and compare progress.
As we started to pull out, my line snagged in the weeds. I told my brother I was snagged, and as he put the motor in neutral so I could unsnag myself, the snag suddenly moved away from the boat with startling force, bending my rod at easily a forty to fifty-degree angle.
“This is no snag,” I said to my brother, “this is a fish!”
And the fish fought me, and I fought it, and as fought it my brother grabbed the net there in the boat for the bigger ones, and as he got to the middle of the boat, I managed to get the fish within a foot of the surface of the water.
It was a bass.
It was a big bass.
It was a great big stinkin’ monster Godzilla-cubed five pound bass.
“OH MY GOD!” my brother and I screamed in unison as he sank out of view, trying to pull my pole with him.
“Get him back up to the boat!” my brother screamed. “Get him over to the net! I can’t reach him! Get him over here!”
“I’M TRYING!!” I screamed. “God Bless America, this thing is a BEAST!”
I got him in our sight again, ginormous, sleek, succulent; realizing that this was no ordinary moment in my middle-aged existence, no, this was why God Himself created fishing, so ordinary men might know what is to wrestle Him as He Himself wrestled Jacob; and remembering that Jacob actually won, so might we, and so might I; and I threw every ounce of limited strength I have into pulling that fish in, and got him just close enough to my brother’s net that he could tip the tail, just tip it; and as he tipped that tail so the fish said “I’ve had it with you jokers” and flipped us off with it, breaking my rod in two and snapping the line at the same time.
And time itself, stopped.
Stopped cold in that one spot in Lake Vermilion.
And for that short eternity allowed to us, I laughed like I’ve never laughed before, and my brother, aghast, reeling in the shock, kept telling all the ways we could have caught it, should have caught it, and what we could have done if we’d caught it. For about ten minutes we froze time like that, until my brother noticed someone in a power boat about fifty feet from us paddling.
I looked back at the power boat.
“Can you give me a pull?” he hollered. “My battery’s dead; I live right over there across the lake.”
We did, making sure to tell him of our five pound bass adventure while getting his boat secured to ours.
“Sure it wasn’t a muskie?” he asked. “There are lots of those in this lake. My sons have a couple mounted.”
No sir, we politely insisted, this was a bass. A five-pound bass.
As is we got him across the lake to his home, where he offered us water or beer for our charity, which we politely refused; decided to make for our lunch spot instead.
And from there it’s really not much of a story. We relayed our tale to my father and our other brother, who asked us deep probing questions to confirm our tale’s veracity, because there are no greater skeptics towards one’s greatness than his own family; and we enjoyed a fine meal of sliced turkey sandwiches, and then my brother and I went back to the same spot to see if we could get him again.
Of course we couldn’t. One shouldn’t presume God will repeat and improve upon a miracle. In fact He punished us for our arrogance by cursing our 25-horsepower two-stroke motor so it would quickly consume our remaining fuel, requiring my father and brother to tow us to a nearby resort for a refill. For the essence of any good fish story, even real ones, is just a little bit of humility to keep it all in perspective.
And this is a real one. Even though neither of us could reach for the camera to provide you the photographic evidence, it is undeniably true.
Yes. It is.