Kelly Bostian: Record bass pulled from Grand Lake
BY KELLY BOSTIAN Outdoors
Tuesday, March 05, 2013
3/05/13 at 8:58 AM
Go to Kelly Bostian's blog Original Print Headline: Record bass pulled from Grand Lake
The best in the world fished Grand Lake O' The Cherokees for fishing's greatest prize last week, but the lake held on to its own biggest reward until Sunday, when Billy Lemon of Sand Springs pulled a lake record 12.3-pound largemouth from the lake.
Seven days after the Bassmaster Classic wrapped up, Lemon landed a story of a lifetime with a fish that found its way onto his line to satisfy incredible odds and provide him a lucky payday and thoughts of what could have been if she had bitten a line a week earlier.
She was 23 inches head-to-tail and 21 inches around her ample belly. She tried to feast on the Gene Larew Sweet Swimmers on Lemon's Yumbrella rig, but the snack backfired on the rotund old lady. "She came in like I snagged a stump or a log," Lemon said. "She just kind of rolled a little bit."
Lemon said he and partner Corey Smith didn't think that much of her, other than she was a good-sized fish. Her stubbiness had a little to do with that.
"We thought 'man that's a good 9- or 10-pound fish,' and put her in the live well and never looked again until we went to the weigh-in. It really didn't sink in that she was that big a fish," Lemon said.
Another angler nearby who saw them land the fish even offered to let the pair borrow a scale to weigh her, but Lemon and Smith were more focused on collecting fish toward a limit in the Nichols Marine Team Series event. They had one fish in the boat, about a 5.5-pounder, and the big girl hit about 20 minutes later.
Echoing often-repeated lines from a week earlier during the Classic, Lemon said slow fishing paid off and the day overall was "kind of a grind." Like Classic anglers a week earlier, they targeted pre-spawn areas off the main lake points and secondary points.
"We had about three points we kept alternating, main lake and secondary points, we just made a milk run all day," Lemon said. "We didn't get our first fish until 11 (a.m.) and only got seven all day."
The big girl was deep in roughly 20 feet of water. "It just seemed like yesterday you had to really crawl it, really slow, almost on the bottom," Lemon said.
The fish is of remarkable size for a northern lake in Oklahoma, said Gene Gilliland, assistant chief of fisheries for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife.
"She might be 10, 11, 12 years old but grown at a maximum rate her whole life," he said. "You could have others that same age that are only six or seven pounds."
Her short length and girth fit into a long-used formula for sizing bass, he said. The formula is length times girth times girth divided by 800. "That gives you 12.6 pounds so she's right in there," he said. "She probably had a big old belly full of shad."
The fish caused a stir at the Nichols Marine tournament.
"We kept the weigh-in going, but he must have had 50-60 people back there taking pictures; you'd have thought an alien landed," said tournament director Stan Honeycutt.
The big fish led to a big payday for Lemon and Smith. They won the Nichols Marine tournament with a five-fish limit of 24.45 pounds. The big-fish award added $1,000 to the top prize Triton 18 Pro bass boat and 150 horsepower Mercury motor, plus they won a $6,000 bonus from Legend Boats for winning the tournament in Smith's Legend.
To boot, a ready buyer was there in the crowd waiting to make an offer on the boat with a pocketful of $100 bills, totaling $22,000. They sold it on the spot. "It was a good payday," Lemon said. "It was a neat deal. I'll never forget it."
While the winning anglers took care of paperwork, the tournament release boat took the big fish and others in the tournament back out on the lake.
"She swam off healthy. They said she looked real good," Lemon said. He said he likely will have a replica mount made for the wall.
Lemon said he also thought of anglers fishing the Classic, and a rule that prevents them from using Alabama-rig style baits.
Had the fish been caught during that tournament it would have set a record as the largest in Classic history, beating an 11-pound, 10-ounce fish caught by Preston Clark in 2006 on Florida's Kissimmee Chain of Lakes.
"It would have been unbelievable if the guys at the Classic could have thrown it," he said of the umbrella rig.
Lemon's fish beats out the official lake record 10.86-pound bass caught by Brent Malone of Grove on March 15 last year, as well as the unofficial lake record 11-pound, 12-ounce bass caught by Hank Souders of Grove.
The Oklahoma state record largemouth is a 14-pound, 12.3-ounce bass caught in Cedar Lake on March 23, 2012, by Benny Williams Jr. of Poteau.
Billy Lemon of Sand Springs holds a 2.5-pound fish in his left hand and the Grand Lake-record 12.3-pound largemouth bass in his right at the Nichols Marine Team Series event weigh-in Sunday. BILLY LEMON / Courtesy