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By Dan O'Sullivan
Alabama gave California a real gift when Coosa River spotted bass were transplanted to the Golden State. The Alabama fish adapted to their new surroundings nicely, making it "Sweet Home California."
The aggressive spots quickly grew to enormous size. The first lake to become known for giant spotted bass was Lake Perris in Southern California. It produced world record and record class spots in the late 1980s. Pine Flat Lake, outside of Fresno, was the site of Brian Shishido's 2001 world record spot that weighed 10 pounds, 4 ounces.
Spotted bass also adjusted nicely to Bass Lake, a Sierra reservoir on the way to Yosemite. While Bass Lake is nationally known for being the site of the 1988 comedy The Great Outdoors starring Dan Aykroyd and the late John Candy, it deserves more notoriety for the giant spotted bass being taken by local angler and lure maker Allen Borden.
Borden, who worked with Strike King's design team on the King Kong, King Shad and Sexy Swimmer, also has his own bait manufacturing operation, ABT Lure Company. He's also a skilled angler, with a Bass Lake record 15.17-pound largemouth to his credit along with a spot that tallied 9-12.
"I've caught my share of big spots from Bass Lake," said Borden. "I've caught 15 over 7 pounds, including three over 8 and two over 9 pounds, but 9-12 is my biggest … so far." He caught the giant on April 9, 2008, on a chartreuse shad ABT Shad.
"Bass Lake has a good population of docks, and some of them extend more than 100 feet into the lake," he said. "I always make a pass by the docks in the spring to see which way the bass are facing, because I can sneak in on them a little easier."
After a sneak peak, Borden approached the dock from the front, angling his boat so he could make a cast down the side.
In order to avoid spooking the bass, Borden made an extra long cast, all the way to the bank.
"I like to land the bait in the sand on the bank," he said. "Then I make the bait enter the water on the retrieve to avoid a big splash."
Once the bait entered the water, Borden used every bit of speed his 6.1:1 retrieve reel would produce.
"I burned the lure parallel to the dock as close as I could get," said Borden. "The ABT Shad was about 3 feet deep when she came out from under the dock and crushed it.
"As soon as I set the hook and tried to pull her from the dock and the rocky bank bordering it, she tried to go back underneath," he said. "I clamped down on the drag and pulled as hard as I could on the 20-pound-test fluorocarbon to turn her head."
Borden was able to get her coming toward him, but the fight wasn't over.
"She turned and rushed straight at the boat, and I had to keep reeling hard to maintain tension on the line," he said. "By the time I caught up with her, she was already heading to deep water, to an underwater obstruction that I'd lost a couple other fish on."
After a two-minute battle that Borden called "vicious," he began to see how big she truly was. "I'd caught a few big spots prior to this, as well as big largemouths, but she surprised me," he said. "I could tell that she was bigger than any of the others I'd caught, and she looked like she would give a 10-pound largemouth a run for her money."
After she settled into the net, and he weighed her on a digital scale, Borden released the 9-12 back into Bass Lake. "She's my biggest, but I've been back to that area and seen some I know are bigger. I even had one of them hooked. They're monsters!"