Bussey Brake gives up another monster largemouth

Nathan Morris had a choice.

Zig or zag. Fish one side of a bush or the other. Whichever side you choose, your fishing buddy, Justin Martin, will fish the other.

Morris zigged. He should have zagged. On the “zag” side of the bush, Martin flipped a black/blue Yum Dinger and was rewarded with a strike from a 12.02-pound Bussey Brake bass.

“When I caught my fish, he said to his son, ‘Evan, we went to the wrong side of that bush,’” Martin said.

The huge bass, 24 ⅜ inches long and 21 ⅛ inches in girth, was the third monster largemouth caught at 2,200-acre Bussey Brake this month, including Todd Herrington’s 13.58-pound lake record caught on Valentine’s Day.

Martin, from Monroe, only decided to go fishing after recovering from an illness the week before.

“I had to go to Alabama for work last week, and I caught something, some crud,” he said. “When I got feeling better, I asked my 11-year-old son, Brady, if he wanted to go fishing Sunday, and I gave him the option: Caney (Lake) or Bussey (Brake). He picked Bussey.

“We left the house at about 8, and when we got there, the wind was blowing from the south/southeast. We took off to the southwest, to sort of avoid the wind. My first cast, I caught a pound-and-a-half bass. I told my son, ‘This ain’t good. It’s bad luck to catch a fish on your first cast.’”

On the move

Oh, how wrong Martin was. After fishing an hour in 52-degree water, he called a fishing buddy, who said he was fishing to the north, found out the water temperature up there was 54, so he and Brady took off. They stopped at a place where Martin had some success in 2022.

“On about the fourth or fifth cast, I felt it get tight and set the hook,” he said. “It was a 9-pounder. My son netted him.”

That fish hit a black/blue Mizmo tube – the same lure and color that fooled Herrington’s lake-record fish.

With the wind picking up and 11 a.m. approaching, Martin made another move.

“I went to a place where I was working in and out of a flat and into the channel with a little deeper water,” he said. “I was coming up this little trail, and I saw my brother and nephew. Then, when I got to the back of the trail, I saw another buddy (Morris) coming. We were talking, and I went to the left of this one bush, and he went to the right. We were just talking, and I threw on my side and said ‘There’s one’ and set the hook.

Justin Martin caught this 12.02-pound Bussey Brake bass on Feb. 19.

“I didn’t think it was that big, but when she came to the top, my buddy said, ‘Oh my God, Justin.’ My son missed her with the net the first time, but the second time, he scooped her up. When I looked over the side of the boat and saw her, I said, ‘There’s a double-digit fish.’”

New personal best

Martin pulled out a set of portable scales to weigh the fish. The digital readout bounced back and forth between 11.15 and 12-0, and he headed to the lake office to weigh her on certified scales. He arrived, called a phone number, received a code to the door’s lock, entered and weighed the fish at 12.02 pounds and released her back into the lake.

Martin, whose previous personal-best bass was a 9.35-pound fish from Arkansas’ Lake Monticello in 2017, said, “There’s something about Bussey fish; that Yum Dinger is one of our go-to baits, in black/blue or watermelon red. There’s something about those Florida-strain bass; they like that black/blue.”

The big fish was caught in 6 to 7 feet of water. Both Martin’s 12-pounder and his 9-pounder had bloody tails, indicating that the spawn isn’t far away.

“When we left, the water temperature was about 60 degrees,” he said. “With that warm weather, they’re up, ready to push up on the flat.”