° empty

Jeff Foster’s fish gives Natchez natives top two bass records

NATCHEZ — Jeff Foster had seen the state-record largemouth bass displayed at Rex Sporting Goods in his hometown of Natchez. The 18.24-pound fish that Natchez-native Anthony Denny reeled in from Natchez State Park Lake in 1992 had drawn a bit of envy from Foster, who had fished the waters of the Miss-Lou for 25 years before moving away and settling in Tupelo.

But on Jan. 4, Foster managed to make a run at Denny’s record and draw a bit of envy from anglers all over Mississippi when he pulled in the state’s second-largest bass.

“It’s one of those things where you always see the other guy holding up the big fish, and it’s nice to be you holding a big fish up like that,” he said. “I grew up fishing the oxbows like Deer Park, Lake St. John, Lake Concordia and Old River. I did a lot of fishing up and down the levees, or bar pits as we called them. I grew up johnboat fishing, dreaming all my life I might catch something like that. It was an awesome feeling.”

Foster was having a frustrating morning on Davis Lake in the Tombigbee National Forest.

While his fishing buddy, Errol Tootle, reeled in a handful of six to 10 pound bass, Foster sat and watched.

“He was having a real good day,” Foster said. “All I was doing was netting fish for him.”

But once morning turned to afternoon, Foster’s luck changed.

At approximately 2:15 p.m. he got his first big bite of the day, and it was bigger than he ever imagined. He fought the fish for more than five minutes, he said.

“At first, I thought I had a catfish, (because) it was pulling so hard,” he said. “It didn’t want to come up like most bass there do. This fish stayed down and fought real hard. It got under the boat, and I was worried about her breaking the line. But finally she gave up and came out from under the boat and didn’t give us a fight anymore.”

When Foster and Tootle pulled the massive fish out of the water, they discovered why the fish was so difficult to tame.

“Most people have seen pictures, but you have to see it in real life. None of the pictures did it justice, until you actually saw it face to face to see what a monster it really was.

The final tally was a 17.34-pound largemouth bass — the second largest in Mississippi history.

“Once we got it up to the boat and netted, my partner was worn out and said, ‘That’s it. Let’s go,’” Foster said. “There was a lot of excitement.”

Foster weighed the fish on two different scales and the number came out as the state’s second-largest largemouth bass, falling just less than one-pound shy of Anthony Denny’s state record largemouth that was caught at Natchez State Park.

Foster’s previous personal-best catch was 10.10 pounds, he said.

“This was a pretty big jump,” he said.

Word spread quickly back to Foster’s hometown, and he said he doesn’t know what it is that keeps Natchez-born anglers at the top of the state-record charts.

“My mom and dad still live (in Natchez), and they pretty much showed everybody,” he said. “People around the world have seen pictures of it.”

Foster said he is waiting on the fish to be mounted, but he is still amazed at the physical features of the fish that measured 27.5 inches long with a 24 inch girth.

“It’s almost freakish to jump from a 10-pound, which is a big bass, and all of a sudden you get something seven-pounds bigger than that,” he said. “You just don’t see them. It was like pulling in a brick.”