MISSION VIEJO-Just so everybody understands, I love all kinds of fishing. But the way I’m wired, I want to shoot the biggest deer, catch the biggest catfish, whack the biggest salmon, and get the biggest bucket of crawdads. I happen to fish at a place (Mission Viejo Lake) that grows freakishly giant bass, so, I’m a junkie.
Now, nothing else scratches that itch pertaining to bass. I drank the Kool-Aid. Yes, your honor, I’m guilty. I walked right up to the line where the devil was asking for people to sell their souls. He asked, “Do you want some?” and I said “Sign me up.” Now, 15 to 20 years later, I’m still chasing that unicorn.
I look at trophy bass fishing more like it’s hunting. My technique, sight fishing, is outside of the box. It’s a totally specific technique for one given time of the year. Everybody does it, but it’s just another tool for other people. For me, it is my game. What I do, though, you have to keep in context: I’m not looking at 10-pounders, I stare at 15s, 16s, 17s, 18s.
If you were staring at donkeys like that all day long, nothing else would seem to matter. Trust me on that.
It’s ruined my mindset for bass fishing. My bar has been raised so much, I can’t even blink at a 10-pounder.
How many 10s have I caught? Somewhere between 400 and 500. I’ve been doing this since 1998, and I average about 30 a season over 10. I had one year where I had 86. I had seven in one day: Two 16s, two 15s, a 14 and two 13s. I’m happy for everybody who catches a 7, because that’s a nice bass, bro! But it’s hard for me to have fun with anything less than a donkey.
The mind of a trophy hunter: If I’m on the lake from sunup to sundown, from the minute they come to spawn, I figure I’ll see every single fish that comes to spawn. I know the world record is in there, but if I make this commitment, I’m still throwing the dice.
Monday morning, I’ll be up at 4:30 a.m. because I can’t sleep. I take the car and wait at a gate that doesn’t open until 8. I turn 120 acres upside down: Grid it, cross hatch, scour it until sundown. After the sun sets, I take the boat home, drop it off, give my wife a kiss, eat a sandwich and jump on the freeway to sit in an hour and a half of traffic to get to work.
I stand on one leg on a trolling motor for 12 hours and do nine more hours in a resin pit building surfboards. I work until midnight, maybe 1 or 2, drive home and try to get some sleep – but still thinking about that donkey I left at dusk so I can get up at 4:30 and start it all over again. I do this from from Feb. 25 until May 8. I’ll lose 15 pounds from eating crappy drive-through food at 2 a.m.
Give me a No. 9 with mild sauce, please, and the Jack In The Box $2 tacos, a chicken sandwich and an iced tea. It grinds my ass down.
But I can’t stop.
Editor’s Note: Read the rest of Joe Everett’s “trophy hunter” story in the March issue of California Sportsman, on newsstands throughout the state now.