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In February of 2017, I wrote the story of the largest striper I had caught at Lake Powell, and in my heart felt it was truly the fish of a lifetime. To recap the event, my friend, Brent Daybell, and I were fishing in a deep canyon between Bullfrog and Good Hope bays, chasing schools of shad on a fish finder and vertically jigging “spoons” for the fish in 50 to 80 feet of water.
I decided to fish above a large school of shad we found mid-canyon that filled up the screen of the fish finder from 50 to 70 feet directly under the boat. After dropping my spoon to 48 feet, I immediately felt a strike. As I set the hook, the realization hit me that this was not your average 3- to 6-pound striper. The fish dove to 70 feet and while stripping line from my reel, headed out of the canyon towards the main channel.
After a seven minute fight we landed the huge fish which weighed 16 pounds, eclipsing my largest previous striper by six pounds. I wrote, “If you prepare your tackle to catch big fish and make a habit of never making a cast unless you know the condition of your tackle, I promise you will be ready whenever that fish-of-a-lifetime chooses your lure.”
Little did I realize lightning was about to strike for the second time in 2017.
In a tournament on Lake Powell last week, I was fishing in the early afternoon with Jason Francis, an angler from Bountiful, Utah who I drew as my co-angler for the last day of the event. I chose to fish an area within a couple of miles of the no-name canyon in which I caught that 16-pound striper in February. However, instead of chasing schools of shad and “spooning” down 50 to 80 feet, I was throwing a 6-inch topwater lure called a “Zara Spook,” in 8 feet of water in the back of a tiny cove just off the main channel.
My goal was to entice a strike from a large or smallmouth bass, hoping for a fish in the 3- to 5-pound class which would have helped me make up for a couple of lack-luster performances in the first two of the three-day tournament.
My co-angler still needed one fish to fill his five-fish limit for the day so I wanted to show him where he could fish a little deeper than I and still have the opportunity to catch that one last bass.
After throwing my “Spook” about 35 yards ahead of the boat, I turned around to show Francis where to cast his line when, “Ker-Splash,” we both turned to see an enormous striper leap from the water with my topwater lure in its mouth. Francis later said it sounded like a teenage boy doing a cannonball of the high dive in a swimming pool.
[In my previous story titled, “Be Prepared For The Big One,” I mentioned having the right lure, hook, line, reel, drag, rod, and the presence of mind to set the hook, play the fish, and eventually get it into the net.]
After exploding from the surface twice, it took off directly under the boat heading (I was certain) for the deeper water of the main channel. I kept tension on the line, allowed it to take over 75 yards of drag, turned my boat with the trolling motor engaged and followed the fish out of the cove towards the channel.
After a crazy 10 minute fight that took the fish up and down from the surface of the water to 70 feet, Francis netting the fish and the fight was over.
The striper weighed 26.72 pounds and made my 16-pounder (caught in February) look small by comparison. It measured 43 inches and had a girth of 25.5.
Yes, lightning can strike twice to the same angler, and I am eternally grateful for two opportunities at such magnificent fish in the same year.