Skip to content

Coming August 26th – SCOF 52 Ascofalypse Now

The Record That Will Never Be Broken

I have never been compelled to chase records; this is true primarily because I am just happy to get to go most of the time. It also seems greedy to fish to be better than other anglers, but the size of a fish is also a testament to the health of the water being fished, so it is not a useless statistic. To tick a new species I have never caught off my register of goals for myself is generally enough for me. Maybe if I was a more experienced angler I would care about the record-busting impulse. Monte Burke’s book Lords of the Fly does an admirable job creating a sense of the passion and struggle people undergo to chase record-setting tarpon. However, there is a place in Alabama that is less exotic and distant than Homasassa, where I might catch a record-setting largemouth bass.

My mother’s husband’s first son once chased this dream, and spoke of the 16.8-pound bass caught at a lake in central Alabama known as Mountain View Lake. This young man’s name was Sterling, and from his early teen years, he chased fish on the fly. In fact, his passion sparked within me, his stepbrother, a love of fishing. We first chased fish together in the Ozarks, near St Louis. His younger brother Miller was with us, so the three of us became a family of fishing buddies, and in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, we’d often fish for trout in Montana near Ennis on the Madison River, because their grandfather bought a cabin out there. I was fortunate to compete with and learn from this family about fishing. Every outing was a quest to catch the most, and the biggest.

Sterling got the bug before the rest of us because he learned from artist/angler Dave Whitlock at Mountain View Lake, when Rob Rogers from Deep South Outfitters brought Whitlock and a group of anglers to the Pless-owned lake. When Sterling graduated from Washington University in St. Louis, we all were very proud that he took a 3 wt with him and his girlfriend up to Maine to hike the Appalachian Trail. He finished the hike after several months in North Georgia. He was unsure what to do next so he took a job at an outfitter and proposed marriage to the young lady with whom he hiked the trail. According to legend, he caught a 12-pound bass at Mountain View, but there were no pictures that remain of this legendary fish. Sterling was so close to the record that he left late one evening from Birmingham to return to Mountain View Lake, where in the ‘80s, the 16.8 record was still a testament to the fish that lurked here. A near 17-pound bass was still a recent memory for Sterling and his family, and it did not seem to be such an elusive benchmark as it does today. Sterling must have dozed off while driving and wrecked. This tragic circumstance has haunted all of us as a family for about 20 years.

I reached out to Miller to see if I could bring my SCOF team out to Mountain View to kick off the Tour de Lacs tourney. Miller was kind enough to request permission from his uncle, and one of the owners. Robert Pless was generous and allowed us the great privilege of chasing records at Mountain View. We were really trying to beat each other, but when you fish a lake where the record stands, there is always hope of breaking it. Memories of my stepbrother faded in and out, and the gold team caught a sure enough giant that registered as big fish of the day. Big Mike Steinberg caught a five-pound bass, and we watched all day as fish blitzed the new bait, shad loaded into the lake prior to our visit. Though no records were caught during the Tour de Lacs, it was still a special day for all of us, and me in particular.