Austin Vowell said he’d fought all the wind he wanted after two hours Tuesday morning, fishing at Neshoba County Lake at Philadelphia, so he decided to quit and fish his way out.
Good thing he didn’t just stop altogether.
Vowell made a couple of casts, then a phone call and then threw his Zoom Super Fluke lure at an isolated patch of lily pads in two feet of water and set the hook on a new lake record largemouth.
“I had just put the phone down and I cast at these pads,” said Vowell, 23, a logger from Philadelphia. “She hit the Fluke, I set the hook and I immediately knew I had a big fish. Then she jumped a couple of times and that’s when I saw it was a really big fish.”
Officially, it was a 14-pound, 3-ounce bass.
“I think I fought her about five minutes before I finally got her to the boat,” said Vowell, who was fishing alone. “I missed grabbing her the first time, and she took off. I thought, ‘oh no, nobody is going to believe this.’ I told myself that if she came back, I’d drop the line, pole and everything and hug her with both hands if I had to.
“When she came back to the boat, I grabbed her lower lip with my left hand, dropped the rod and used my right arm to grab her, and hug her right into my boat.”
Vowell finally had the opportunity to realize what he had done, catching such a big, fat bass and getting it into his 19-foot Ranger.
“When I got her in boat, I didn’t know what was going on, I knew she was big but when I got my hands on her, she was really big,” he said. “I just laid back on the front deck and waited until I came to my senses.”
There was one other boater on the lake, and he apparently saw the size of the fish jumping in the water.
“He started coming over, but by the time he got there, I had her in the boat and was getting ready to head to the ramp,” Vowell said. “I never made another cast, I just headed straight to the bank and tied up to the pier. I walked up the (headquarters) and the lake manager (Chuck Hazelwood) got his scales and came and weighed her.”
The fish, measuring 28 inches in length, is at a taxidermist shop.
“The biggest fish I’d caught before that was 9 pounds and it came out of the pond at my house,” Vowell said.
Even though Vowell lives just a few miles from Neshoba County Lake, which has a reputation of producing big bass since its draining and restocking between 2000 and 2006, this was just his fifth trip to the lake. It is part of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks’ state lake system.
“I usually fish at Barnett Reservoir, but because the weather was so bad that I couldn’t work and I knew it was going to be windy, I decided I’d stay close to home and just try to catch a few fish,” he said.
He launched at 9 and got his record-breaking bite at 10 a.m.
“I had caught a 6-pounder earlier on a worm, then I missed another big one, about the same size, and then caught a small one,” Vowell said. “I had gone to the first channel that leads from the main lake to the back of the lake and went all the way back to fish the bank. The surface temperature was 61 and I thought the fish may have moved up to the bank looking at making beds.
“The wind was blowing a steady 12 miles per hour and it was really hard fishing the worm. That’s why I switched to the Fluke, which I really like to fish a lot. It’s easier to work in the wind.”
Vowell was using a 7-foot Berkley Cherry Wood rod, 14-pound Trilene line and an Abu-Garcia Black Max reel.
“I really had had just about all the wind I wanted,” he said. “I would have idled out but the water was too shallow so I decided to fish my way back to the main channel where I could crank and leave.”
It was a decision he will cherish a long, long time.