Bass anglers expect that a certain percentage of the largemouth bass that strike their lures will get away. There are just too many factors that can cause one to escape.
Back in the days when I was fishing bass tournaments, catching a limit was often easy. Achieving that goal without losing a single fish was a bit harder. Sure, each fishing trip is accompanied by a certain amount of bad luck, but I contend that many of these losses can be prevented.
I recently had a long conversation with a sorely disappointed bass angler. He is 66 and has been an ardent fan of bass fishing since his teenage years. He has caught a couple of bass that exceeded nine pounds, but he has never hit the coveted 10-pound mark. On the day of our conversation, he hooked such a monster, only to lose it just before he could lead it into the landing net. His partner, a lifelong fishing buddy, witnessed the battle and both told the same story.
The near tearful saga made a believer out of me -- because I have been there.
The big female (all 10-pound bass are girls) hit a black plastic worm next to a stump in a private farm pond. Being in shallow water, she rolled a couple of times, trying to dislodge the hook. This gave both men ample opportunity to get a good look at the fish. One said, That old girl could have taken a two-pound can of chili in her mouth and then had room for a pound of hotdogs.
It seems that, only a few feet from the boat, the hook simply tore loose from the mouth of the big fish. There are several factors that could have caused this. If the hook point wasnt needle-sharp, perhaps the hook was never driven in past the barb. Maybe the fisherman horsed the fish too much, tearing a hole in the mouth, leading to the hook coming out. He could have allowed slack line, which is often a contributing factor to losing a bass, especially if the fish jumped -- as bass are prone to do.
There are three tips in that previous paragraph. I can give you several more.
Line will deteriorate, so make sure your line is reasonably fresh. Tie the proper knots. A Palomar knot retains in excess of 90 percent of original line strength. A granny knot loses 50 percent. Cut off and retie often. All line wears thin when being dragged across bottom clutter. Keep a silk scarf in your tackle box. Running a piece of silk through the guides will quickly detect a rough spot that can cause line wear. Take a moment before fishing to check the drag on the reel. This mechanism is there to protect the line from breakage. Never try to land a large bass before it is played out.
Using all these tips wont insure that you never lose a lunker -- but it will certainly up your odds.
Emory Josey writes a weekly outdoors column. Send questions for him to The Telegraph, P.O. Box 4167, Macon, Ga., 31208-4167, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org