George Little: Training for that big catch

George Little

Lake Dixon, Calif., has been the hot spot for a group of tightly focused competitive fishermen since 2003, when Jed Dickerson hauled a largemouth bass out of the lake that weighed 21 pounds, 11.2 ounces.

No bass less than 20 pounds holds much interest for the big-bass hunters. Their goal is to catch the largemouth bass that will be officially recognized as the new world record.

The current record is 76 years old. George Perry caught a 22-pound, 4-ounce bass near Jacksonville, Ga., in the summer of 1932. In monster-bass terms, where ounces are as big as tandem trucks, no one has come close to Perry’s record.

The “bucket mouth” Dickerson caught was nicknamed Dottie because of a distinctive beauty dot below her chin. Dottie was caught and released two different times. Each time, she made the list of the 20 biggest largemouth bass on record.

Dottie is the only fish to hold two spots on the top-20 list at the same time. She won’t make it a third time.

ESPN reported May 19, and a park ranger confirmed, that the giant bass found floating on the surface of Lake Dixon was Dottie. She died after spawning. Where the big-bass hunters go to wet their $400 lures next probably depends on where the next monster bass is caught. It’s rumored there are still some big fish in Lake Dixon.

The location may change, but the goal for those single-minded (some say fanatic) fishermen hasn’t changed. The goal never was to land Dottie. The goal is to catch the new world-record bass.

It is widely believed that Dottie would have shattered the existing record had someone been lucky enough to catch her (again). In fair-chase fishing and hunting situations, random chance is the wild card. That’s why The One That Got Away is the most famous fish.

Fisherman — and hunters — who are chasing a spot in the record books come from different walks of life, but they all spend considerable time refining their techniques and practicing their skills. They position themselves to be successful.

While most of us aren’t tightly focused on world records, there is something to learn from those who are. There is no substitute for practice. Professional guides and outfitters agree that most clients who leave dissatisfied arrive unprepared for their hunting or fishing adventure.

First, they haven’t shot at enough targets or presented enough lures. Clients can’t close the deal when the opportunity presents itself. Secondly, they arrive with little or no knowledge of the country they will be hunting or the waters they will be fishing. Both are easy fixes.

Practice with your equipment before you pack it to travel. Do it more than once. Then study up on the territory you will be visiting. Learn the lay of the land. Find the landmarks. Know which direction the streams flow. As Yogi Berra said, “You have to be very careful if you don’t know where you’re going because you might not get there.”

George Little can be reached at