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In search of Moby Bass

7/25/2007

Like Ahab and his obsession for Moby Dick, three record bass hunters have actually held their quarry, only to have it slip through their hands, but their pursuit continues with a vengeance.

On March 20, 2006, Mac Weakley, along with childhood friends Jed Dickerson and Mike Winn, caught a 25-pound, 1-ounce largemouth bass that would have smashed the 75-year old record of 22-4. They took a few pictures, filmed its weighing, and released the beast. With controversy and the fish being foul-hooked, they opted not to pursue the International Game Fish Association world record.

But why? Mark Zona, host of the World's Greatest Fishing Show, wondered the same. Zona goes to Lake Dixon in Escondido, Calif., to visit with the three in this week's show, which airs at 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on ESPN2.

The highlight of the show is footage of the fish being weighed.

"It's horrifying looking," Zona says of the beast that indeed pulls the scale down to 25-1. "It's a mutant.

"The show also focuses on what those guys went through, the story they never got to tell."

News of their catch and release was a boom for little Lake Dixon, a 72-acre impoundment in Southern California's big bass country. Zona had a preconceived notion that the lake would be this "dark, naughty," bass haven tucked away off the beaten path, but he found it a hub of activity.

Stocked regularly with trout, there were anglers all over it. The city-owned Dixon Lake Recreation Area northeast of Escondido suburbs rents boats with trolling motors, and they usually sell out early.

"What happens on the lake in the morning is a treat," Zona says. "When they let these guys go, it's a race to get to the best spots.

"It's bizarre. It's a circus out there."

As for Weakley, Dickerson and Winn, one of them is on the lake at all times, circling its shore looking for the bass like Ahab sought the white whale.

"To me, the whole story is how consumed and obsessed, and haunted these guys are by one fish," Zona says. "You can look at all three of them, and each wants to catch that fish and no one else.

"The amazing thing to me is, they look for that fish every single day from Feb. til June."

Zona says each of the team has a specific job, from tying their one and only bait, a half-ounce living rubber jig with a 6 aught hook, to driving the boat, to actually catching the fish.

"They are tremendous sight fisherman," Zona says. "They will circle that lake several times a day. They will go weeks without making a single cast."

During the shoot for the World's Greatest Fishing Show, the anglers catch a dozen or so 2- to 6-pounders, but Zona says he froze when they spotted a 17- to 19-pounder which was a day or two from bedding.

"Now, I've caught 10, 11, 12 pounders, but seeing a 17-pound bass, I couldn't even function," Zona says. "Seeing something like that, I now know why they're so obsessed.

"But the most interesting part of the show is seeing that fish."