Jeff Shelton is a very accomplished bass fisherman. He's caught at least one bass over 10 pounds every year for the last 6 years.
He and George Theron Sumner fish the Tuesday night wildcat tournaments out of the Johnny Stewart Boat Ramp and they're a formidable team. They won 17 of the weekly tournaments last year along with the season ending Classic.
But one of Jeff's most exciting catches came not at all when he was bass fishing, but when he was bream fishing.
It was back in about 1994 and he and his brother Mitch were fishing together. Jeff tossed out a cricket under a float and his float started going sideways.
"I set the hook," he said.
A battle ensued.
"I thought I'd caught a catfish," Jeff said.
"We were following it around with the boat to keep it from breaking his line," Mitch said.
Jeff was fishing with a Zebco 33 with 6-pound test line.
Jeff told Mitch to get the net. It turned out the net had a hole in it. But Mitch was still able to reach down and grab the big fish when it came up.
"I said, 'It's not a catfish,'" Mitch said.
It was a bass and a giant at that.
They weighed it at Waterfront Grocery back when Doug Campbell had the store. It went 11 pounds 2 ounces.
"It might've weighed more if we'd weighed it when we first got it out of the water," Jeff said.
The fish's tail was bloody from fanning the bed as it spawned. They believe it had actually been laying eggs when Jeff caught it.
They found the livewell full of eggs when they got the fish out.
"She could've weighed a half pound more," Jeff said.
Today when people catch an extra large bass and want to preserve the memory with a mount, they often make measurements of the fish's girth and length and get a fiberglass replica.
Butch McKinney, the Boaz taxidermist, did an actual skin mount of Jeff's big fish. It has held up remarkably well over the years.
"It still looks like you just took it out of the water," Jeff said.
And it still brings back memories of a cricket, a bobber, a Zebco 33 and a very special fishing trip.