The following was written by Justin Furnace and posted on the Texas Fishing Forum in April of 2016. For those unfamiliar, what follows is a firsthand account of one of the best days of bass fishing that has ever occurred.
The Nuclear Day
Good afternoon folks-
I debated on whether to chime in at all but was asked to share my story by several friends. I am the blessed angler that caught the 15 ½ pound bass. I want first to say I am not bragging, or trying to sell anyone anything. I am simply sharing my story. I have to believe many of you, just like myself, get on this forum daily hoping to see pics of big fish and read stories about great days. I do not get to fish nearly as much as I would like and live vicariously through this forum most days. I also am not rich; I work 100-hour weeks, and have three young boys at home. I do not even own a boat. I only have a certain budget to fish, and therefore choose my trips to suit my goals. I only share that, to relay the point I'm just an average Joe. I am not a pro, nor am I a great fisherman. I just know there is a lot of controversy over Camelot Bell being a "rich guy's" lake. I probably spend less money on fishing than many on this forum. I have been an avid bass fisherman since I was old enough to hold a pole. That said, I am a trophy bass fisherman. What I mean by that, is that I look for BIG fish. I will fish all day for that one bite. I am not concerned with how many fish I catch. I want THAT fish when I am on the water. As a result of my constant pursuit of giant bass, I only fish in places where I believe my odds are maximized. When it comes to public lakes, I spent most of my time on Falcon and Choke Canyon when they were so good. Nowadays if I am on a public lake, it is usually in Mexico. I usually fish with guides as I do not own a boat currently.
Here's a brief rundown on my history with Camelot Bell. I had the pleasure of meeting the lake owner, Mr. Mike Frazier, back in 2012. He is a friend of my brothers as they are both in the scientific deer breeding industry. After a couple of phone conversations with Mike, I quickly realized that not only was his lake the real deal but also that he had more passion for growing and catching giant bass than anyone I have ever met. Luckily, he is also a heck of a nice guy, and we have become great friends. This man knows what it takes to grow giant fish, and is happy to share as much of his priceless knowledge as you care to hear. I like catching giants; therefore, I listen. I can tell you that Camelot Bell was built specifically to grow giant fish, and he nurtures it like it is his baby. While Texas Fish and Wildlife would cringe at some of his managing practices, I can tell you first hand that it works.
My first trip to the Bell was in March of 2012. At that point in time, it was a trip that I could not have imagined in my wildest dreams. I was with a great friend of mine who is a much better angler than myself. We fished the lake over the course of the two days. The first day our top 5 fish went 52lbs, and on the second day, we wound up north of 54lbs. It took us a while to figure them out, but we did, and it was incredible. We both landed our personal best at that time which was a 12 pounder each. The memories are still vivid.
From here I fast forward to March of 2016. I have learned that weather is very critical to this lake. The fish in this lake are pure Florida’s and are therefore very smart and finicky. I knew there was a terrible front coming in and the weather would be going downhill on me as the day progressed. I decided to roll the dice knowing that it would likely be feast or famine. The pressure was dropping, and I thought it might be a special day before the front blew in. I woke up to a steady, pouring rain and stiff 20-25 mph winds. I put on my rain suit, rolled up my sleeves, and went to work. I had caught a 13, an 11, and several other good fish on a particular color of lizard just two weeks prior on another trip to Camelot Bell. This day, they would not touch it. After some experimentation with colors and weights, I finally found what they wanted that day and started catching some fish. Fighting the trolling motor in the wind and blinding rain, I did scratch out a 12, an 11, and couple of other solid fish before the lightning shut me down at about 11:00 am.
I had to get off the lake and wait out the heavy thunderstorms until the lightning moved out at about 1:00 pm. Then I got back on and went back to work. I had them figured out at that point. After the heaviest storms had blown through, the fish went into a frenzy. I wound up with 61lbs of fish for my top five that day. I had (6) DD's (double digits). My best 5 being a 15 ½ lbs, 12.5lbs, (2) 11s, and a 10.5lber. What was more amazing to me was that I had behind that best 5, another 10, and (6) 9s. All weighed on highly accurate Boga Grips. I honestly probably threw back some more 9s as it was so silly at that point I was not even weighing fish that I did not think would hit 10lbs. I threw back at least 12 fish that were in the 8-9-pound range. I call this my "nuclear day."
I will end my novel with the details of my 15 ½ as I know I personally like reading big fish stories. Through the years, I have caught a lot of DD fish off this lake, probably 30ish if I were to give it my best guess. While I have caught a 13 on a chatterbait, and a couple of DD's on a spinnerbait and squarebill, the majority of the big fish on Camelot Bell for me have been on a T-rig soft plastic. The key is usually a VERY slow presentation, with a very light weight pegged with a bobber-stop. This trip was no different until I stuck the big girl. There is a particular area of the lake where the bluegill congregate. While I have always thought that would be the spot to find a giant, I had never even gotten a nibble there until this day.
While fishing in the highest winds that morning, I had caught an 11 pounder about 20 yards down the bank from that spot. So on this day, I had a little more confidence in the location. At 3:47 pm, I came down the west bank of the lake, downwind from the spot and made a long cast that landed 18 inches or so from the bank in a little opening in the reeds. Before I could even snap the reel, I knew something special was happening. I must have dropped the lizard on her nose. The instant my lizard hit the water; it was like someone had dropped an anvil from 100 feet in the sky into that exact spot. I swear water exploded 20 feet in the air.
My stomach dropped, and I reeled down until I felt weight and set the hook with all I had. To say that she was not a fan of that 7/0 hook going into her head would be an understatement. She literally cut down about 7 feet of reeds as she headed to deep water running horizontally with the shore and off the end of the point. I had the drag cranked all the way down on my Curado, and she was peeling it off; there was nothing I could do to stop her. When I finally got her turned, she came to the top of the water and was sideways to me when I got my first good look at her. My heart was pounding out of my chest. She did get her head out of the water twice but was so fat she could not get her body out. That head shaking at me on both trips to the surface is something I shall not soon forget.
Her head was just enormous. After playing her out for about 45 seconds, I finally got her to the boat, and the fella fishing with me got her netted. When that fish hit the boat, I quickly realized I had caught THE fish I have been after my entire life. I can't even remember what all I was spewing at the top of my lungs, but do know I was hoarse the rest of the day. That was the fish of my dreams, and I am grateful that Mike has chosen to share the most special lake in the state. He has graciously offered it up to fishermen like myself to make their dreams come true.
Again, I am not telling this to brag, but just to share a story that I know I would love to see. I hope some of you enjoyed the read.
Have a great Sunday!
Justin's 61lb stringer is likely the best five fish stringer ever caught in a single day of fishing in Texas. Only a handful of California stringers have topped this number, notably Tom Young’s 62.2lbs in 1991 on Lake Casitas, Butch Brown’s May 8th, 2010 65lb stringer, which featured an 18.5lb kicker, and Bill Murphy’s unbelievable 72lb five fish catch from San Vincent reservoir in 1975.
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