Steve Grace launched his bass boat on Lake Neshoba just before noon on Feb. 15, one of the few we've had with sunshine this year. Grace and partner Jeff Collum had a little time off from work and decided to try the bass on a beautiful February day.

"We pulled up on a flat right off of a main point and tried to locate some bass," Grace said. "We knew it was early and they wouldn't be pulled up tight to the point yet, but we figured we might catch some near there, since there was deep water right off the flat."

Grace spotted a patch of dead grass near the point and started working the area over.

"I was using a Carolina rig with a june bug-colored Zoom Trick worm and searching for a bite, "he said.

It didn't take long for the angler to entice a sow bass into striking.

Grace worked his Carolina rigged worm along the bottom and felt the telltale thump of a bass about 15 feet off of the point in 3 to 4 feet of water. Grace immediately drove the steel deep into the jaws of a sow bass.

The bass exploded from the depths and took off like a torpedo, and Grace held on for the ride as she bore down and wallowed violently from side to side, trying to shake the hook from her jaw.

"We didn't have a net, but I finally wore her down enough so that Jeff could lip her," Grace said.

As it turned out, the behemoth tipped the scales right at 12 pounds and was the big fish of the day.

"I've been fishing 41 years, and it took me that long to catch one this big," Grace said. "I caught it at high noon, and it's the biggest bass of my career."

He credited the knowledge that the spawn was approaching for the catch.

"We got on a pattern fishing in front of alligator grass along the last point near a spawning flat, and that was the ticket," Grace said. "We knew that the bass were thinking about spawning and moving in that direction, and we located them in precise locations and ended up catching around 50 bass on the day - but my first strike was the big one."

Grace was using a Gary Dobyns' rod and Quantum Tour P T reel filled with 20-pound Parallelium line that was tipped with a 15-pound leader.

While the huge bass turned out to be a fish of a lifetime, Grace experience another life-changing moment a few days later when his first child - Anna Claire Grace - was born three weeks early.

"It's been a great week - just a wonderful week," Grace said.