Fish 1—15 pounds.
Fish 2—13 pounds.
Fish 3 and 4—11 pounds.
These are not the biggest bass of an angler’s lifetime, and not even the biggest fish an angler caught in a year. Believe it or not, these are the four biggest bass that an angler caught in one hour! The angler, Pat Cullen, caught these four bass in South Georgia lakes. Contrary to his customary release of his trophy bass, he decided to keep these four monumental bass and with the help of Ed Hardin Taxidermy in Thomasville, Georgia, turned them into the most impressive mount I have seen. That mount stood in the middle of a shopping mall in Valdosta, Georgia until just recently. It now resides at Paradise Public Fishing Area, a Georgia Wildlife Resources Division facility, near Tifton, Georgia.
While Pat has not recently duplicated that magical night, he has caught huge fish after huge fish, recording more than 1,000 bass larger than 10 pounds in his logbook (1,087 at the time of writing, to be exact). I am sure you are skeptical, but get this. In the two months I have known him, he has added more than a dozen 10-pounders, some heavier than 10 pounds to that tally. And, he only fishes a mere fraction of the frequency he fished over the last 30 years. Pat took up bass fishing while he was in his 20s, and catching trophy bass has become common for him.
“I tried for many years to catch a 10-pound bass until I finally did it with a plastic worm, and that was my first and only one since on a worm,” Pat said.
Although he commonly catches trophies, he cherishes each battle. Pat still comes unglued when he is hooked up with a big bass. During my recent trips with him, I have watched him calmly fight a big fish, talking himself through each move the bass makes and watched him go through disappointment as a big fish pulls off.
“If I ever quit marveling over the beauty and raw power of a giant bass, I’ll quit fishing,” he said.
Two approaches have accounted for all of his double-digit fish over the years. Using live bait that matches the forage in the lakes he fishes and night fishing with topwaters during summer are basically all Pat does. And out of these methods, 75 percent of his trophies have succumbed to the topwaters at night.
One of his other impressive catches was made at night on a lake in South Georgia near his home in Valdosta. Working black Jitterbugs, Hula Poppers, and buzzbaits, he coaxed 10 bass weighing 92 pounds to bite his offerings. His top-water pattern works best for him during the heat of summer—June, July, and August in South Georgia).
The simplicity of his approach is staggering, as most of the rest of us carry hundreds of pounds of tackle in our boats. When he showed me his tackle box, I was stunned. He reached into the seat of his Chevy and pulled out a quart Tupperware container. He chuckled and pushed it toward me, saying “all you need to consistently catch 10-pounders is in there.” As I rifled through the container of no more than a dozen lures all of which were black, I realized just how specialized he has become after decades of honing his approach.
His gear is just as straightforward, as he uses only a Shakespeare Ugly Stik rod. He opts for the 6-foot trigger handle model in the medium-heavy action.
“You have to hit them quickly and with a lot of force to get them moving where you need them to go,” he stated.
In order to accomplish that, he puts the butt of the rod in his belly and his left hand two feet up the rod as he retrieves his lure. He believes that the hookset speed and leverage he generates by having his hand that far up the rod is critical to driving the hook into a big fish’s mouth.
For years, he spooled his Ambassador reel with 17-pound test Stren monofilament, but he has recently switched to Vicious lines.
The final details of the systematic approach include his presentation. He has noted over the years that big fish are very skittish at night, and that you need to minimize your movement. He casts without the typical large movement of taking his arm back over his head and making a big, sweeping movement forward. A simple, quick flick of his wrist delivers his lure to the target.
His boat handling is also key. Working an area, he eases forward and after it stops drifting, makes a cast to the 12 o’clock position, then 1, then 2, then 3. After that, he switches to the left side of the boat and casts to the 9 o’clock position, then 10, then 11. After that, he either switches lures and repeats the pattern or moves the boat forward and starts all over again. With this methodical approach he ensures that he has saturated the area.
With catches like he has made, you are probably envisioning him methodically working his lures from the spacious casting deck on his $60,000 bass boat. But, his craft of choice, a Ghenoe, is affordable by probably everyone reading this article.
“My Ghenoe is a stable fishing platform, and it allows me to ease around undetected, unlike big, noisy boats. And, the shape of the hull keeps waves from slapping and alerting the fish I’m there,” Pat said.
Pat does not even rig his boat with a gas motor, but instead uses a MotorGuide trolling motor to push his craft around the various lakes, which range from 20 to 200 acres. Because battery power is so important, he keeps an extra battery in the boat and another in his tow vehicle.
“I want everyone to know that trophy bass are nearby for everyone, and accessible if you are willing to put in the time to figure them out,” he stated.