Outside of Bluegill, there is no finer eating fish than a common freshwater bass.
Three weeks ago Robert Whitehead of Austin snagged a 13.9 pounder out of Lake Austin. The fish was 27.28 inches long and 19.84 inches in girth. I hope he trundled it home for a fancy fish dinner hot out of an old cast iron pan.
But in keeping with the ShareLunker program ethos the catch was most likely transported to Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC) in Athens, Texas for breeding.
I fished five days a week for years when I was a kid. We had a multitude of ponds on our farm in the Cumberland Highlands of Eastern Kentucky, and I was obsessed with the sport. I'd get up around 530 in the morning, brew up a pot of coffee, and walk back into the fields with my trusty Zebco rod and reel.
I had the state record Bluegill for years til some wiseacre up in Madisonville knocked my off my throne.
I was ten.
We had all of our ponds fully stocked, but as in any closed system there had to be an alpha fish. This one came with a name: Waldo. He was a monstrous, large mouth bass that my dad would catch from time to time, always releasing him so he could return to the depths to feed on the Bluegill.
I never managed to catch this monster but I had plenty luck otherwise.
I'd catch them, and my dad would clean them. That was the deal.
Here's how to cook a large mouth bass, Kentucky style.
1 c. Meal, corn, white, fine ground
4 T. Mustard, dry, prepared
1 T. Salt, Kosher or Sea
2 T. Pepper, White, ground
2 T. Paprika
1 t. Cayenne, ground
4 each eggs, whipped
2 lbs Bass, cut into filets
* Soak Bass in eggs in fridge for 2 hours
* Heat big cast iron with peanut oil to 360 degrees
* Combine corn meal with seasonings, blend thoroughly
* Drain off eggs by placing Bass in colander
* Dredge Bass filets in corn meal
* Carefully place in hot oil
* Cook approximately 2 minutes per side or til golden brown
* Remove and place on platter lined with paper towels
I've eaten thousands of pounds of Bass in my life and it never cost me a nickel. Just a few hundred hours of time spent standing on the banks of old ponds as the sun rose in Knox County, Kentucky.
photo credit Jarret Marquart, © Texas Parks and Wildlife Department