ESCONDIDO, Calif. A friendly competition at southern California's Dixon Lake between two fishing buddies culminated Saturday with Jed Dickerson of Carlsbad, Calif., landing a monster largemouth bass that set a lake and San Diego County record and came up just a half-ounce short of the official state mark.
The bulging bass, which weighed 21 pounds, 11.2 ounces (21.7 pounds), was taken near the point in Boat Dock Cove. It fell just short of the officially recognized state record, which was set by a 21¾-pound fish caught at Castaic Lake in 1991.
When verified, the bucketmouth will rank No. 4 all-time, according to records kept by Bassmaster Magazine. The world-record largemouth is 22¼ pounds, taken in Georgia in 1932.
Dixon Lake's boat docks were buzzing Saturday morning as trophy bass hunters, reporters, park rangers and state Department of Fish and Game wardens swarmed around the huge fish.
Dickerson, 30, who said he has been seriously fishing for big bass for the last three years, hooked the monster at 6:45 a.m. after about 45 minutes of fishing.
He was casting into about 15 feet of water in the 70-surface-acre Escondido impoundment using a rainbow trout-colored Mission Fish swimbait. It landed near the large female bass, which apparently was on a nest, ready to spawn.
"She hit and went right into the weeds. I was praying I wouldn't lose it, but felt pretty sure that my 20-pound line would be OK." Dickerson said. "There was also a big male down there in the weed hold."
Dickerson was alone in his boat when he hooked up, and began yelling. Buddies Mike Winn and Mac Weakley were quickly alongside.
"I knew it was big and it only took me about a minute to get it in the boat," said Dickerson, who said he spotted the fish the previous day in the same area.
"I saw it in the water yesterday and was hoping I could beat Mac Weakley, who landed a 19.5-pound bass (which ranks No. 13 all-time, according to Bassmaster Magazine) here earlier in the week," he said. "Last year I lost a knee-shaker here and when this one hooked up, I really didn't want to lose it."
Dickerson is a former Escondido resident who attended Orange Glen High School before his family moved to Florida, where he graduated.
"I've been fishing this lake since I was 8 years old," he said. "I try to get up here four or five times a week."
His previous best catch was a 15½-pounder that was also fooled at Dixon. The tiny lake has a tendency to produce mammoth bass.
Lt. Mike Ference, a Fish and Game warden, verified the catch, which eclipsed the previous lake record of 20¾ pounds caught April 27, 2001, by Mike Long of Poway, Calif. That fish ranks ninth all-time, according to Bassmaster Magazine. With three bass in the top-15 all-time, tiny Dixon Lake is attracting international recognition and notions that it may yield the next world record.
At first, the anglers had problems weighing the huge bass because it didn't fit on the certified lake scale. But they used a plastic bin that was zeroed out on the scales and held the fish.
Dickerson held his breath, wishing for the extra half-ounce when Ference determined that the official weight was 21.7 pounds.
The California Department of Fish and Game recognizes the Castaic Lake bass at 21.75 as the official California record, despite a fish also taken there in 1991 that reportedly came in at 22.01 pounds. That fish was never officially weighed or certified, however.
"We think the next world record is in here,'' said Dixon ranger supervisor Jim Dayberry. "We've been putting in a lot of trout, and the bass are getting fat off of them.''
Dayberry said that the bass in Dixon are Florida largemouths, as opposed to the slightly smaller Northern strain found in other nearby lakes.
"Many of these fish originally came from Hodges or Otay,'' he said.
Dickerson kept his fish alive while the outdoor media arrived to record the event and then released the fish, which was estimated to be anywhere from 5 to 10 years old.
"I've seen older fish that were smaller,'' said Dickerson. "Maybe she'll grow to be the next world record."
This article was republished with permission from the North County Times in Escondido, Calif.