On February 16th, angler Mike Gilbert of Vista (‘gilbert’ on the SDFish.com forums) set out on Chula Vista’s Lower Otay with the mindset of catching a trophy bass. His efforts were rewarded while fishing a swimbait with one of the biggest bass to ever come out of Otay, the massive 17.45 pound bass pictured above.
When asked about the catch, Gilbert said “I didn’t know I had a teen fish [on]until she was in the net, the fight was over in 15-20 seconds and there wasn’t really time to think about it.” As with most giant bass catches, he was blessed with a little luck during the fight, “when I went to net her she came up really quick and thrashed just as she flopped into the net and the bait shot up into the air, I lucked out on that.”
Gilbert weighed the fish on a handheld scale, and while admittedly trembling while weighing this monster, the fish may have been even heavier than 17.45. As with many modern big bass anglers, Gilbert was fishing with a camera recording the action. After looking at the scale, he turned it and the fish toward the camera to document the weight. When he got home to review the footage, he noticed the scale was settled on over 18 pounds while directed at the camera.
Speaking of footage, Gilbert is currently working on the “Big Bass Dreams” project, a DVD chronicle of the chase for trophy-sized largemouth bass. He is acting as editor of the project, using footage attained by big bass anglers Oliver Ngy and Ryan Crandall. At this time, Gilbert said there is no plan to include this footage in the DVD, saying “Ryan and Oliver have plenty of giants under their belt – they don’t need my help.” There is no release date yet for the Big Bass Dreams DVD, but its expected to be released in 2013.
This monster was Gilbert’s second teen fish, dwarfing his previous best, a 13 pounder. The lake record at Lower Otay is 18 pounds, 12 ounces caught by Bob Eberly on March 9th, 1980. I can’t remember a bigger bass than this being caught since that, and for years even a 10 pound bass out of Otay was an absolute monster. But times have changed at Lower Otay with the California Department of Fish & Wildlife’s decision to stock trout in this 1,100 acre reservoir beginning in 2007. Those trout stocks provided an instant boost to the health of both the big bass, and big blue catfish that inhabit Lower Otay. All of the sudden Otay became a swimbait lake, and bass over 10 pounds became relatively frequent in the Spring months.
With the trout plants continuing, Otay continues to get healthier and healthier. While this bass may set the bar for modern catches and will be tough to beat, look for Otay to once again garner national attention as a trophy-factory. Mike Gilbert intends to keep at it, “I can’t let the fact that I caught that 17 take the drive out of me, I just want to get back out there and focus on catching 10 pounders.