Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Almost a star

Here I am taking a short break under the I-79 bridge along the Monongahela River in West Virginia.

By Mac Arnold
MAHFS Editor

I almost thought I was headed to the hall of fame with the fish I had on while trolling the weed beds on the Monongahela River in West Virginia this past weekend.

Almost in the hall ... well, it would have been the Mac Arnold's Hunting & Fishing Spectacular hall if any I suppose. There's only one game entity in there now and that's the fall gobbler I took with the 14-inch beard last season.

Anyway, it was hot there, which is typical. And the bite was tough, which was also typical for that time of year. I'm often told by brother-in-law that fall is where it's at. Unfortunately, I'm hunting for whitetails like a possessed man at that time of year.

What I at first thought was the monster bass I have for so long coveted was actually a creature of another species.

I didn't figure that out until later while reviewing the situation in my mind over and over again as I moved on down the river.

This beast had made his presence known immediately when I paddled the canoe gently out from the small channel into the wider river opening. He had smacked at the top of the water in pursuit of a meal not once but twice.

After patrolling the outside of spongy weeds once I came back around and tossed a buzzbait to the opposite side ... bam! He chomped at the air once with a miss but he was relentless and his next effort was true. Bing! He was on.

Pure joy from excitement surged through my body as the fight went through its initial stages. I only caught a glimpse of his stripes as he thrashed the top of the water and then he went under with a tug and took line.

And as fast as it began it ended. I felt the tension go slack and up came the line without the buzzbait.

What I was left with was nothing more than the top of the steel leader. He had broke the leader off at the connector part.

So what was at first major disappointment became admiration for such an awesome fish.

On the video for this piece you will likely hear me speak of the finned warrior as "more than a 5-pounder" in reference to him being a bass.

As I said previously, it wasn't until later in the gig that I put the pieces together ... hmmmm, tiger stripes ... sheer strength to pull the leader apart ... aha! It was a musky.

Which was just as cool because that was the other fish I had hopes of catching during this vacation.

What kind of bummed me out when I thought about it later was how close I was to changing that leader before I even made it into the channel. I had made some casts in the shallow cove where the launch is when I first got into the canoe -- mainly because my brother-in-law told me he nailed a 3-pounder bass in there a few days before -- and the leader had tangled the line on me a couple of times.

I even looked in the tackle bag for a new one but guess what? That was the last one I had for the trip.

See, I hoisted a musky half on, half off the canoe two years ago without a leader and likely would have pulled that one in for longer than the minute or so I grappled with him had I handled it better.

So my thinking on this is I may have had a better shot with the 12-pound test alone than with a worn leader. Then again, he may have done what the fish of two years ago did once he slid down my arm and got into the water and that is with one shake of his head he had sliced the line and escaped back into the muddy depths of the Mon.

I'm not down over this. In fact I look at this event as putting me one heave closer to landing the elusive fish of 10,000 casts.

And another thing: I now have three packages of steel leaders in separate poundages in the tackle bag.

I'll be ready next time.


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