Finding a giant bass is even rarer than you might think. Over the years I’ve been lucky to have caught many large bass well over 15 lbs. and to have caught one bass over 20 lbs. I have caught them using swimbaits, live crawdads, waterdogs, and jigs. Most of the large catches were during the spring months here in southern California (March-May). Some were blind catches and some were spawning bass. Most of the time, if the water is clear in the reservoir, you’ll get a chance to see one of the giants of the lake and, if you see them multiple times, you might even get a chance to track them and figure out their current migration route between their feeding and spawning areas.
One day early this March, I found a giant bass and was able to figure out its route. I was at one of San Diego’s clear water, trout-fed lakes casting swimbaits in the evening before it closed and had spotted a monster bass that I knew was well over 20 lbs. This giant bass would follow my swimbait all the way to the steep bank I was casting from. She followed the bait and would turn at about 20′ from the shore near a sunken tree in the water and hold off the tip of the tree. She played this game with me for about five casts and then would just sit off the end of the sunken tree and slowly swim under it where you could not see her at all. The following day, I made an early morning trip to the lake and hit the area where I had seen this big bass. After about a dozen casts with no follows and no sign of the big female bass I started to make a move.
I kept with the swimbait hoping to get a bite, or just get a big follower and eliminate water. I worked my way to a fishing dock and that is where I saw this giant bass again from the day before. She had a distinct shape which made me certain it was the same bass and not just another giant bass. This big bass was hanging out at the end of the dock and would not follow a swimbait, or even give it a look. As the sun rose and hit the water, she slowly began to move off the dock towards deep water and in the direction of where I had seen her the day before, which was about 100 yards away. It was about seven days before a full moon with some really nice, warm weather so there were quite a few males up on nests spawning with just a handful of female bass up at that time.
I slowly fished my way back to the area where I originally saw the giant bass and with my first cast I saw her again. She would follow my swimbait to the shore, but not commit. As the sun got higher in the sky and lit up this North-facing steep bank, I noticed a spawning male that was about ten feet to the right of the sunken tree. When I would toss my swimbait near him he would rise up and chase it away from his nests in a guarding posture; he was very aggressive.
As the sun got higher in the sky and the air temperature reached around 80 degrees, the big bass would sink down in the water and disappear into the depths. I played this game through the weekend seeing her early in the day around the dock and then 100 yards away by the steep bank and the sunken tree as later in the day. I had definitely found a big bass with a recognizable pattern I just had to stay on it. Monday came and I had to go to work, but I knew I wanted to return to the lake that day. I rose early so I could get an early start and was able to leave work around 3:00 p.m. and I headed straight to the lake.
We were now just two days before a full moon and that day the moon rise was around 5:42 p.m. When I arrived at the lake I went right to the spot and, to my surprise, there was the big female bass sitting dead center on the nest with the aggressive male bass. My heart was pounding and I almost fell down into the water from the steep bank I was standing on. It was time to think before making a cast; I got the net near the water and checked my line and knot and planned the fight of how I would I hook her and land her. I had calmed down some and started to make some some casts.
I was using a Revenge Jig with their custom, shad-color skirt tied to 20lb. Maxima line and a Dobyns DX744 rod with a Shimano Calais reel. I was ready. After about 30 minutes of casting into the nest, I started to realize this big bass was not going to move. She was frozen on the nest and the male was sitting outside and would not show any interest in my jig either. Knowing how big this bass was and that I could bump her with my jig it was extremely frustrating that she would not show any interest at all. Sometimes in these situations if you can get the male interested in the jig the female will follow, but in this case both were in a neutral mood. It was now around 6:00 p.m. with only an hour left until the lake closed, the sun was behind the hillside, but I could still see the bass in the nest and that is when I saw another female rogue bass that was around 15lbs. approach the nest.
The male bass instantly worked his way up to this new female bass and they both began rubbing and swimming in a circle around the nest, but the original giant bass was still in the middle of the nest not moving. I watched this for about ten minutes to see if the giant bass would show some interest in the new female being in the nest area, but she did not. So I figured it was time to flip the jig again. Immediately the 15lb. bass showed some interest in it and went nose down on the jig after a few more casts she ate the jig. As I fought her to the bank, I watched the other giant bass slowly rise up and follow her to the bank and as I reached down to land the 15lb. bass with my left hand the giant was about 3 feet away; so close that I could have netted her and yes she was a lot bigger than the 15lber I had just landed. I unhooked the bass I had just caught, grabbed my scale and weighed her at 15-6, and released her quickly so I could make a cast back towards the nest. Unfortunately, I noticed the big girl did not go back; she was gone.
Tuesday morning I was back at the lake first in line and first to the spot. The giant bass was there again sitting in the center of the nest, but this time she was moving around more and rubbing with the small male bass. I retied my jig, checked about ten feet of my fishing line for any cuts, or kinks and started to cast out to the nest. It did not take long to get the big female bass interested; after about 20 minutes she started to back out of the nest area and slowly charged towards it and tilted forward so she could get her big bug-eyes that were almost on top of her fat head to see the jig. BOOM!
I saw her finally inhale the jig and I as I swung she turned toward the sunken tree took off in the blink of the eye and in about all of one second had snapped me off in the sunken tree … and the words I used next I can’t publish. I had just lost a bass I believe to be between 23-24lbs. and I never turned the reel handle once after she ate my jig. All I can do is learn from this disappointing experience and try to find her again or another monster and hope for that window of opportunity to get them to bite and land her.