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Big Thunderbird bass

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It probably doesn’t come as a big surprise that fish biologists are often pretty good fisherman as well.
After all, Ken Cook was a biologist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation before he gained fame as a pro angler and Bassmaster Classic champion.
Gene Gilliland, a fishery biologist for the state and avid bass angler, is no exception.
On Wednesday, Gilliland landed a 10-pound largemouth from Thunderbird Lake. Here is his fish story:
“I had full intentions of getting up early on my Veteran’s Day holiday but it was 40-something degrees at 7 a.m. so I slept a little later. I finally got up when it was warming up and dead calm.
“I decided to mow the yard for the last time this season and spray for weeds. I finished up about 1 p.m. but the afternoon weather was just so pretty for November that I couldn’t resist.
“I hooked up the boat, if for nothing else, to burn up some old fuel in the boat tank. I headed to perhaps my least favorite lake in the area – Lake Thunderbird.
“I launched and went to several spots and flipped and cranked, but didn’t get any bites – pretty much my usual for T-bird. I ran around mostly to use up the old gas.
“After about three hours of futility I stopped at a spot where there was an ODWC brush pile in the middle of the cove, about 8 feet deep. It was so shallow that a good foot of one of the big cedar trees was showing above the surface.
“I pitched around two or three of the trees. Nothing. As I was moving off with the trolling motor, ready to head in for the day I made one last pitch to a little one 2-inch stump sticking up a couple of yards to the side of the brush pile. I stripped out an extra foot or so of line to allow the bait to fall straight. That’s when I realized I had stripped more line than there was water depth – set the hook dummy!
“She came to the top and even in the muddy red Thunderbird water I could tell this was a BIG fish. A surprisingly short battle later I lifted her into the boat. What a toad! This fish was not very long but had a belly on her like a pregnant spring female.
“My digital scales read 10.7 pounds (10 pounds, 11 ounces). She was too long for my livewell so I took out the divider to give her more room, then I headed for the ramp to find someone with a camera.
“Luckily, Matt Pangrac with the BassZone website was at T-bird that evening and was able to get a few shots of the fish with his phone camera.
“Not the best of photos (I know, I know – take off the sunglasses, watch out for distracting backgrounds, etc., etc.) but it was all we could do before the sun went down. I didn’t want to load the boat and haul the fish in my livewell 15 miles around the lake to the bait shop to have her weighed and photographed so we took a few shots at the dam where I released the fish.
“I may have to raise Thunderbird a bit higher on my “Favorites Lakes” scale after yesterday.”

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Ed Godfrey

Ed Godfrey was born in Muskogee and raised in Stigler. He has worked at The Oklahoman for 25 years. During that time, he has worked a myriad of beats for The Oklahoman including both the federal and county courthouse in Oklahoma City for more... Read more ›