By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer
When Jeff Foster set the hook on his only strike of the day last Friday, he had no idea the biggest bass of his lifetime was at the other end of the line.
“It felt like I’d hooked the bottom of the lake and pulled it up,” he said, “and I honestly thought it was a big catfish. Not long ago, one of my buddies caught a 40-pound catfish near that spot on the same kind of bass rig, and this fish didn’t act like a big bass normally will.”
It was no catfish. After a five-minute fight that involved working the drag then struggling to keep the fish from breaking off under the boat, the big bass slid to the top where it was netted by Foster’s fishing partner, Errol Tootle.
“He netted her and I had to reach down into the water to help pull the net up, it was so heavy,” Foster said. “It was wild.”
To qualify as a record, a fish must be weighed on certified scales, the sort of scales used by butcher shops and grocery stores and whose accuracy is regularly tested by state officials.
A short ride in the live well brought Foster’s bass to a meat market in Houlka, where it weighed in at 17.34 pounds, just ounces shy of the record 18.15-pound mark recorded 20 years ago by Anthony Denny with a bass caught in the lake at Natchez State Park, in Adams County.
Foster hooked the big bass using 8-pound test line and a 7-inch blue Zoom trick worm on a shaky head rig.
Though it goes without saying last Friday’s specimen was their largest, Foster and Tootle have made a regular practice of catching big bass on Davis Lake during the winter.
“We’ve been doing it for a couple years,” Foster said. “My buddy and I tend to get out and go when it’s crazy cold. He and I have fished there in the spitting snow, and we’ve caught big ones in cold, bad weather. It’s just a chance to get out of the house and see how tough you are, or how crazy you are.”
Once a regular team on the bass tournament circuits, Foster says he and Tootle have redirected their efforts toward Davis Lake, a 165-acre fishery in the Tombigbee National Forest. It was stocked in 2000 and has become a big bass destination in recent years.
“I feel like a state record could come out of Davis Lake in the next few years,” Foster said. “It could be swimming in the lake there right now.”
Quiet, patient work
“To go to Davis in the winter, over the last three or four years, you can’t go down there expecting to catch a lot, but you’re waiting for one big hit. It takes patience,” he said. “We’ve been out there in days not fit for man nor beast. You’ve got to go and fish slowly, methodically.
“We put in at 9 Friday morning and I didn’t get a bite until 2:15,” he said.
That bite, though, was the one he was looking for.