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Bass May Be Worth Its Weight in Gold

June 06, 2003|PETE THOMAS

The fight lasted only a minute, but the fallout continues for Jed Dickerson.

The casino management worker from Carlsbad caught what he initially thought was a 16- or 17-pound largemouth bass Saturday. But the scale at Escondido's Dixon Lake "just kept going up and up," he said.

It topped out at 21 pounds 11 ounces, making it the fourth-largest bass ever recorded, nine ounces shy of the all-tackle world record.

Considering that the record was set in 1932, when George Perry pulled from Georgia's Montgomery Lake a 22-pound 4-ounce beast, and that fishermen have been gunning to beat that record ever since, just coming close has turned Dickerson into a star among his passionate circle of peers.

"I can't believe all the attention I've been getting," he said, adding that he has had calls from industry insiders wanting to talk about potential sponsorship offers.

Surely, the name of his lure deserves mention. It was an eight-inch trout-pattern swimbait called a Mission Fish. His gear included a Calcutta 400 reel spooled with 20-pound P-line, attached to a G-Loomis Muskie Light Bucktail rod.

With this equipment, Dickerson, 30, enticed, hooked and landed the third-largest bass in California and the largest in San Diego County. The potential line-class world record is also a Dixon Lake record, replacing the 20-pound 12-ounce bass caught in April 2001 by Poway's Mike Long.

Adding an interesting twist to this story, Long claims it's the same fish, based largely on a distinctive black mark on its cheek.

If so, maybe Long, a renowned bass fanatic, will be the next one to catch it, perhaps at record size, because Dickerson also turned it loose.

As for fanatics, there are plenty at Dixon these days. The 60-acre lake has for years been a lunker hole for serious bass anglers, particularly in early spring when the female bass move into the shallows to stage and spawn, at which time they're at their heaviest and most vulnerable.

For some reason this year, the spawning season has been delayed at Dixon and sight fishing for big bass remains in full swing.

"Normally March is the big time for us, but with all the oscillations in the weather, something has happened to postpone the spawning season," says Adam Stackhouse, operations manager at the lake. "Normally, come April, it's 90 degrees at the lake. We had a warm January, a cold February and half-and-half weather ever since and it's had an effect on the fish."

The fish Dickerson caught had been seen on several occasions, staging near a rock beyond Boat Dock Cove. Dickerson, Mac Weakley and Mike Winn, his friends and fellow lake regulars, had taken turns trying to catch it, to no avail. (Weakley two weeks ago caught a fish that weighed 19 pounds 7 ounces, ranking 13th in the world.)

Finally, when Dickerson returned to the spot alone early Saturday morning, he decided to try to drift over the spot instead of setting up by dropping anchor, which he guessed had been spooking the fish. The breeze worked in his favor. "I got lucky because there was only a slight breeze and it was blowing at an angle that took me right over the hole."

It was on his "fourth or sixth drift" that the fish struck. It charged immediately into the weeds, but with some coaxing it turned and ran for deep water. Dickerson pumped and reeled and soon had the catch of a lifetime in his net, one that measured 28 1/2 inches long and 26 3/4 inches around.

"I was pretty much in shock," the angler said. "I had always wanted to catch a big bass, and I knew this was a big bass, but I didn't realize how big, or the magnitude of what I had done."

Best of the Rest

Ranking between Perry's and Dickerson's bass are two caught at Los Angeles County's Castaic Lake: a 22-pound largemouth by Bob Crupi on March 12, 1991, and a 21-pound 12-ounce fish by Mike Arujo on March 5, 1991.

Rounding out the top five is a 21-pound 3-ounce bass caught by Ray Easley on March 4, 1980 at Ventura County's Lake Casitas.

High-Water Mark

Members of the Southern California Bass Council are rejoicing after the settlement last week of a nine-year-old lawsuit stemming from a Department of Water Resources construction project that involved the near-draining of Lake Silverwood and its impact on the fishery.

The lawsuit charged that the DWR had not complied with the California Environmental Quality Act when, in 1994, it lowered the lake to construct a new intake tower. Pressure maintained by environmental lawyer Patrick J. Marley resulted in some fishery-improvement mitigation measures over the years at the San Bernardino County reservoir.

They included the building of rock piles for habitat, planting of trees and brush, the stocking of thousands of bass and the removal of thousands of carp, a heartier species that had overrun the lake after a bass die-off.

The SCBC kept up the court battle, however, saying the measures weren't enough. Finally, a settlement was reached in San Bernardino Superior Court.

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