Tyler Mahaffey of Gurley fishes often in Guntersville Lake. He fishes for fun and he fishes tournaments.
Last Monday, he was off from his job as a herbicide technician with the City of Huntsville for President’s Day. So he and his dad Duane Mahaffey went fishing.
In his own words, it “was kind of disheartening” when they arrived at the lake. The water was off-color and the lake was white-capping. It didn’t look good at all, but still they fished.
“We were fishing near some flats right off the main river channel and we’d caught some 3-pounders,” Tyler said. “We had 15 pounds if you were looking at our best 5. I was fishing an area I had fished in the Rat-L-Trap tournament a week ago and I didn’t do too much then.”
He and his dad were fishing deep water where it broke into a shallow flat. The boat was in 11 feet of water. The flat was about 4 feet deep.
“TVA has been moving some water because of all this rain,” Tyler said. “There was an eddy in the current there and we got a wild hair to fish it.”
He was fishing a Zoom swimbait in blue herring color. Guntersville Lake doesn’t even have blue herring.
“The water was stained and I felt it would show up a little better,” Tyler said. “I do that sometimes.”
He caught a 5-pounder on his first cast. And he could see other fish on his electronics.
“I told my dad, ‘I think we may have found something here,’” Tyler said.
He was reeling his swimbait back and was “10 cranks from being to the boat when she hit.”
“It felt like a freight train,” he said. “I thought it was a drum or a catfish.”
Catfish that hit bass lures are notorious to roll and Tyler even though he could feel the fish rolling. He realized later it was just shaking its head. He even told his father he thought it was a catfish.
“Dad said, ‘I’ll get the net so we don’t get slime all in the boat,’” Tyler said.
When the big fish surfaced, Tyler saw it was no catfish. It was the biggest bass he’d ever seen.
“I got lucky,” he said. “She never did come out of the water. She rolled up and rolled over right into Dad’s net. It was a blessing for him to have the net out. It was the easiest fish I’ve ever caught in my life. It didn’t make a run at the boat like so many of them do.”
His previous best bass was close to 10 pounds.
“My father has caught an 11-14 and my cousin an 11, all on Guntersville Lake,” Tyler said.
His cousin was also fishing that day. They flagged him down and got scales and weighed the bass. Those scales showed 13. Duane thought Tyler ought to get it weighed on more official scales.
They put their boat on the trailer, with the livewell pumps recirculating, and went to Guntersville Tackle & Outdoors, where the fish weighed in at 13.7. Then they put it back in the livewell, went back out on the lake and released the fish alive. Tyler videotaped the release.
“I was all kinds of torn up by then,” Tyler said.
He got another big bite, but said the excitement of landing the big one had him reeling a little too fast and he didn’t catch it.
They measured the big bass before releasing it. It went 27 inches from nose to tail and measured 22 inches around.
Tyler deer hunts too and he did not get a deer this season. His family had been ragging him that his bad deer season was going to carry over into his fishing. He blew that out of the water with this fish.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” he said of the achievement of landing such a great bass. It’s said to be in the top 6 largest bass ever landed in Guntersville and was only about a pound off Charles’ Bertus 14-8 lake record bass caught on Feb. 21, 1990.
Late February and early March are considered the best time to land a giant bass on Guntersville Lake. It’s the pre-spawn and females are the heaviest they will be all year since they are laden with eggs.
Tyler’s fish was an instant hit on social media, with thousands of views and likes.
“I’ve had people calling me I haven’t talked to in 10 or 15 years, wanting to go fishing,” he said.
Tyler is 27 and has been fishing with his dad since he was about 7. He tournament fishes with his cousin Troy.