On September 8, Dee Cowgill caught and released the biggest bass of his life, a 13-pound, 2-ounce pig. Dee is a good fishing buddy and one of the best bass fishermen I know. Exactly one week later, while fishing at the same spot on Clear Lake, California, I caught and released my biggest bass to date, a 12-pound 5-ounce lunker.
Now here's the fantastic part. If you compare pictures of these two bass, note the following.
- Two black pigmentation marks on the right cheek.
- Split in right pectoral fin.
- Ripple in the bottom edge of the tail.
Nobody who has compared these two photos denies that my buddy Dee and I caught and released the same bass !!!
I have caught and re-caught many fish, which I could tell I had caught before by looking at one type of distinguishing mark or another. But because Dee released the largest bass of his life, I was able to catch and release the largest bass of my life! And because I released it, some other lucky angler might now catch and release the largest bass of their life, and so on. We call this our best catch-and-release story.
One more thing on this: we realize that someone could catch a fish, take a picture, and then hand it to his buddy on the other side of the boat for more pictures. But note the time of day. Mine is in the morning, his is towards the evening. The sky: my picture is smoky from fires up north. His picture is clear blue. You can also see that the water is calm in one picture, not in the other. The weight of the fish: When he caught it, it had been on an obvious feeding binge. But after the initial catch, it had chilled out a bit. You can see the difference in weight, all in the belly.
I took a picture of my 12-5 by myself. I only use a cheap 35mm camera with a built-in timer. It's mounted on a two-by-four that swivels up from the front bench in my twelve-foot aluminum. Hey, I'm after trophy bass, and I usually fish by myself. I had to devise a way to document my catches, or people might not believe me. And I can't blame them. I mean, I hear about all kinds of ten-pound bass. But you know what, talk is cheap. Show Me The Pictures!
I believe that if more guys knew how to do this, they wouldn't feel like they had to drag the fish halfway around the lake or, worse, kill it to show it off. Catch and release works, folks, but only if you do everything you can to get the fish back into the water.
Editor's note: We received these photos separately from each man, more than a month apart from each other. We've enlarged and examined the photos, looking at details you can't see here. We're convinced this is indeed the same bass. Is this a hoax? We doubt it. They have nothing to gain and all to lose if it were.