Lake Fork Bass
By Brent Pangburn
When Texas Tech lets us college students out for a week, instead of going to South Padre where most students go, I like to spend a weekend with my dear ol' dad, a sort of a father and son weekend at Lake Fork. We drove from Dallas to Lake Fork on Friday March 13, 1998 and stayed in my dad's fishing trailer right on the lake. That next morning, we met up with ol' Barry Yeatts and had breakfast at the Oak Ridge Cafe. We got out on the lake around 7:30 and fished for about an hour until 8:30 am, and that's when all hell broke loose. Barry, who was at the front of the boat, steering the trolling motor, set his hook. I knew he had a fish on his line because when Barry sets a hook, you can easily feel the boat jerk and hear the rod make a deep "swoosh" sound. I must set the hook like an old woman compared to Barry.
After about 5 seconds worth of fighting this fish, ol' Barry, realizing the girth and strength this fish had, said something that my dad had never heard out of Barry's mouth before. He said, "HOWARD!!! GET THE NET QUICK!!!" At that moment, my dad had a look of astonishment on his face I have never seen before. Dad may have hesitated for a moment in time because he thought Barry may have been joking about needing help landing a bass.
It's like this folks....Barry and my dad have fished Lake Fork a lot over the past 8 years, probably over 200 times in all, days and nights, and they know each other's fishing style, if one may say so. Barry is the type of guy who is well experienced in the art of fishing for trophy bass at Lake Fork, and probably, too proud of a guy to ask for help in landing a Lake Fork bass.
Dad scrambled around like a chicken with its head cut off because Barry had yelled again, "COME ON HOWARD....GET THE NET!!!" my dad immediately knew that Barry had something that was too big for Barry to land by himself. I guess it took Barry to yell twice for a net instead of once to get dad to help ol' Barry.
I had brought a simple 35mm automatic camera with me and had put it in the glove compartment of the boat. I immediately grabbed the camera and started shooting pictures. By this time, the fish had been netted by my dad and Barry was pulling it out of the net. My dad hooked the fish through its lip with a set of digital scales and tried to hold it up without straining himself.
I saw the scales for an instant when dad held it up as best as he could,....it read 13.xx and then quickly jumped to 14.xx. The "xx" mean numbers, but it happened so fast, and the fish was too heavy for my dad to hold up like a fish should be held for weighing. Those xx don't mean anything until you put that fish on state certified scales anyway. After reflecting on this moment, I believe that Barry didn't hold the scales at all when the fish was held up, which is kind of odd. He probably was in shock because he saw the size of this Lake Fork monster bass he had just pulled up from this incredible lake.
After determining the ballpark weight of this fish, we put that monster in the livewell. I honestly thought that fish wasn't going to fit, but it went in ok. Barry powered up the boat and we took off for Oak Ridge....fast!
We were going so fast across Lake Fork, I had water pouring out of my eyes, and a bug hit my front tooth, which stung for a good 30 minutes afterwards. I glanced over at the speedometer with my eyes squinted nearly shut....we were going 80 miles per hour, and it felt like it too. As soon as the bow of the boat hit land, Barry had his vest off, and my dad was running up the hill to get the boat trailer. Barry had the boat on the trailer before my dad had the whole trailer in the water. That is how fast we were going. Barry and I were still in the boat and I still had the camera in my hands. Dad pulled us up right next to the side entrance of Oak Ridge, and I thought we were going fast on the lake! Dad must have hit 35-40 mph with us still in the boat and we needed to go only 75 yards.
I shot a picture immediately of Barry leaping out of the boat with the fish in his hands. He took it inside and put it in a small tank. People were coming out of the cafe to see this fish that Barry had caught moments before. After 10 minutes being in there, the room we were in was crowded with people. It was now time to put that fish on certified scales. Barry picked up his fish and put it on the scales, it read 14.18 lbs. They weighed it several times and took the lower weight I think. I shot the entire roll of film, 36 exposures and only got 2 good pictures of Barry holding the fish. Some people would just not move out of the way for Barry or me to shoot a decent picture, like the man in the background of that picture...I guess I need to work on my photography skills.