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Landing the BIG One

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Jenifer Schultz hauled in Indiana’s top largemouth bass more than two decades ago.
It was no accident, nor was it exactly on purpose.

Schultz was already an experienced angler. She credits her husband with introducing her to bass fishing 10 years before her date with angling destiny. Before their relationship, her fishing consisted almost exclusively of pursuing panfish with her father.

Dad’s purchase of a lot on Seven Springs Lake in Harrison County was the seminal event in the story of her bass, and, she said, possibly her life itself.

“Shortly after (my father) bought (the lot) my husband proposed to me, I think because he thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, I have to get into this lake, it’s an awesome lake,’ so it serves him right that I caught the big one,” she said.

She’s joking about her husband’s motives, but not the lake. Seven Springs was regularly producing 3- to 5-pound bass; the couple thought it might hold even larger fish.

In spring of ’91, she affirmed their suspicion.

“Our boys were about 3 and 4, and we both worked a lot, and like all young couples, we were pretty stressed out,” Schultz said. “As I remember it was a really long, wet, cold spring. We were going to my father’s cabin that weekend to spend the night and relax and fish.”

That fateful morning of May 27, 1991, Schultz’s sons wanted to swim.

“I put them in their life jackets, they’re in the water and having a ball. It’s warm and steamy already, it was just so nice to be out in the sunshine,” she said. “So while I was watching them I started fishing.”

Earlier that morning, her husband had gone fishing on the lake but “didn’t have a sniff, and he’s an excellent angler.” He rested on the porch and watched the rest of his family enjoy the lake.

Schultz was using a short casting rod, casting reel and Pop-R topwater lure—and she got a strike.

She set the hook and reeled in a 4-inch bass. Teasingly, she asked her husband if he wanted to fillet it for dinner.

The next fish was no laughing matter.

“I think it was the next cast, or I hadn’t cast more than three or four times and (the lure) just got sucked under,” she said. “I twitched it a couple times and it just disappeared. It didn’t make a big crash like bass taking topwater lures usually do.

“I hadn’t seen her yet, (the fish) was maybe 30 or 40 feet away, and I’m reeling her in and then she went down and I got a little bit better feel and I said, ‘Aw, this is a nice one.’

“I saw my line coming up and she’s swimming towards the bank. I’m thinking this fish is going to jump up and spit my plug out in my face, which had happened to me a few times. But instead of coming out of the water, she rolled slow and easy like she didn’t have a care in the world, not thrashing around like they usually do. I saw the side of her and couldn’t believe it.”

At first sight of the fish, Schultz knew she’d hooked something special.

“I just hollered to my husband, I said, ‘Mike, get down here. This is the biggest fish we have ever caught in this lake.’ From the tone of my voice, he knew this was an emergency. All I can hear in the back of my mind from that day is the chair scootin’ out from under him on the porch.”

Her husband wasted no time coming down to the bank with a net. Schultz recalled there wasn’t much talking as she fought the fish.

“I had her up about halfway to the bank and she ran for deep water and my drag was going out effortlessly, not fast like a saltwater reel, but very steady,” she said.

Two or three more times the massive bass gave Schultz’s drag a workout, but eventually the fish tired and got within range of the net.

“She just didn’t run and dart,” Schultz said. “I hate to say it wasn’t exciting, but she just wasn’t that wild. She was so strong but it’s like she was just going where she wanted to go but wasn’t in a hurry about it.”

With a quick scoop of the net, Schultz’s husband had almost 15 pounds of bass under control.

The fight was over and the gravity of what just happened began to sink in.

“We were both just dumbfounded, absolutely couldn’t believe it,” Schultz said, still with a little wonder in her voice.

Later that day in the meat department of a Corydon grocery store, the scale told the tale—14 pounds, 12 ounces.

Schultz owned the state record for the most popular game fish in the country.

(Reprinted from Outdoor Indiana magazine)

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