AMERICAN IN AFRICA: THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY …

TO CHOOSE THE ‘BEST’ FISHING ROD

WORDS: George Robey III* IMAGES: Supplied

When my friend told me of a HUGE bass, the biggest to ever greet his eyes, one that could possibly shatter all existing African records, my journalist’s inquisitiveness boiled over – I just had to get the story!

The quiet, farm boy from what was then Rhodesia, was no stranger to big, specimen-size fish. He had caught many ‘up north’ including a documented bass just shy of 5kg. Not to mention a substantial number of monster Tiger Fish. He knew how a big fish felt, looked and moved and was honest beyond reproach.

I begged him to tell the story, but with my journalist’s passion for credibility, wanted it ‘on the record.’

“A magazine story, who would believe it?” my bass friend asked. “Without a photo and it not being weighed, people will just snigger and call me a liar.”

My friend had a point. Every day, online bullies belittle brag photos, challenge the published weight and flash a selfie that reads, “this is what a real bass looks like.” Imagine the roar from arm-chair anglers for a super-bass with no publishable record of it at all?



The veteran angler suggested measuring the depth of the net in which the giant would NOT fit and/or a strength test on the EWG hook that bent straight. At the end of the day, we had to, albeit grudgingly, admit that no post-mortem would accurately identify the size of an ‘almost’ bass. So, my angling brother refused to go ‘on record’ but spoke freely of that magical day. 

“I’ve never seen anything like it. That bass could very well have weighed twenty pounds, certainly it was close!” he couldn’t keep the wide-eyed excitement out of his voice.

The encounter happened in a private Natal dam with limited access, large enough to comfortably fit a wide-decked boat. The glassy surface lay still and welcoming when my friend and his partner pushed-off. Little did they know that the short and ‘inconsequential’ trip would become forever etched in their memories.

They hadn’t fished long when my friend’s partner stuck a big, heavy fish on a magnum-sized creature bait. The behemoth raced for the bottom and fought like the devil itself. His rod tip pumped rhythmically, the sturdy braid line strained and turbid water concealed the fish from view.

“A barbel,” the fishermen mused. They traded ‘junk fish’ barbs throughout the thrashing duel until Ol’ Mossyback lost steam and rose to the surface. Both anglers became frantic when they realized it was a bass, a whopper of immense weight and girth and the biggest they had ever seen. My friend frantically grabbed for the net while the servile fish rolled lazily on its side.



“Try as I might, the bass wouldn’t fit in the net. My partner kept lifting its head, but it became too much for the hook,” said my friend. Eventually, the hook straightened, and the bass, with one lumbering sweep of its tail, retreated slowly into the inky water.

It goes without saying that any bass over ten pounds is difficult to judge, let alone one of world class status. We see too few of them and never will we know the true weight of the magnificent bass they hooked on that sunny Natal morning. The only thing that remains certain is that these two heartsore anglers will remember ‘the one that got away’ for the rest of their days.

If you were to survey every bass angler on the planet it would be my guess all would have a story to tell about one that got away. I certainly do and remember it like yesterday. It’s what makes us return to the water, time after time and day after day. Just like my two friends . . .

“We’ve returned to the same place several times and caught bass up to 3kg but no sign of the ‘Hulk’. How about we do this story ‘on the record’ when we eventually catch him?”

That’s a deal, my friend!


*George Robey lll is a third generation of freelance outdoor photojournalists. He and Zambian-born wife Catherine, both accomplished multi-species anglers, relocated some 12 years ago from Ohio and today reside in a country home north of Pretoria. He is also the proprietor of the Venom Lures agency in Africa.  Email him on info@venomluresafrica.co.za; follow him on Facebook/All Outdoors Africa.



The latest digital edition of THE BANK ANGLER / DIE OEWERHENGELAAR is now available!

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