Fishermen are not always forthcoming with the “whole story” of a trophy fish, so when Dustin Gates of Jonesboro started to tell me about the 10.49-pound lunker he caught out of Caney Lake on Friday, June 26, I was ready.
“Well, you probably aren’t going to believe this,” he started out with. Uh huh, fish tale alert, I thought. But trust me, he is sharing the whole story with us.
“My buddy Casey Pennington and I just ran out to the lake for a little while to test out his new Humminbird Solix,” said the 35-year-old Agape Paint and Body employee. “We were headed to a big brush top to see what it looked like on the new depth finder and we stopped pretty short and started casting.”
Gates was throwing a swim bait and Pennington was throwing a crankbait. Gates made a long cast toward the top and after a few reels, he got hung in the edge of the top. They started to ease up to it and get the bait loose, but decided to turn on the side imaging and take a look first. When they did, they saw two big fish in the top.
“We both grabbed up our worm rods and made casts in there about two seconds apart,” Gates said. “Within two seconds after mine hit the bottom, I got a bite. When I set the hook, I knew it was a good one. A few seconds later it came up to the top and jumped and my heart stopped. It was huge.”
Getting the big bass in the boat
But then the big fish turned and headed back to the top. Before he knew it, the fish had wrapped him around a snag. He worked it back and forth, back and forth and it was right under the boat, but he couldn’t get it loose. He was about to tell his partner he was going to jump in and get the fish loose. But Pennington beat him to it.
He brought the fish, the green pumpkin Missile D Stroyer creature bait and a chunk of brushtop back to the top. Gates got the fish in the boat, then helped his net man back in the boat and they headed to Hooks Marina to weigh the fish.
It tipped the scales at 10.49 pounds, was 15 inches long and had a girth of 19 1/8 inches. Gates planned on turning the fish back in and having a replica made, but things didn’t work out.
“I hate to even say this and it made me sick, but that fish didn’t even flounce once we got it in the boat,” he said. “After we weighed in, I worked with it almost an hour trying to get it to swim, but it was spent. It didn’t make it. The water was hot and it was stressed.” So instead of just letting it sink to the bottom, he decided to keep it and get a skin mount of the fish instead of a replica.
A great time for Caney bass
Gates lived on the lake for more than 10 years and has released more than 50 huge bass in that time and he hated to lose this one, his second 10 pounder (the first was released). But as he said, “it happens,” especially in the heat of the summer. In fact, it’s unusual to even catch one in the 10 pound club this time of year.
Gates says he thinks so many big bass are being caught out of Caney the past couple of years because of the grass. It has completed a mecca for the entire food chain. He said he hopes they don’t do something like they did before and eliminate the grass, because it really hurt fishing then and it will hurt it now.
There was another funny moment to this story. Once they got the big fish in the livewell, they started to take off when he realized he still had his other bait hung in the top. So they stopped just in time to save his rod and reel and go back and unhang the swim bait.
Gates does have some tips for catching big fish in the summer. Slow down, fish big baits, and use your electronics to find the good spots with fish on them. Then just have fun. And, oh yes, always have a net man who’s willing to go above and beyond….or is that “below.”
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