G. Sam Piatt
PDT Outdoors Columnist
On a warm summer night on Greenbo Lake, 48 years ago, Delbert Grizzle and T.L. “Lardy” Groves moved their boat slowly along, casting plastic worms to the shoreline. Suddenly the bass of all bases sucked Grizzle’s bait in and the fight was on.
I’ve told the story of the battle for the then-state record largemouth bass before, but it’s always fun to hear it again.
It was late evening Aug. 3, 1966.
Groves had called to ask Grizzle to go bass fishing on Greenbo with him.
Grizzle was marked up to work his job that night as a brakeman on the C&O Railroad’s Big Sandy Division. Laying off meant missing three days work, as that’s how long it took to make the run up and back.
“I first said ‘no,’ but after I thought about it for awhile, I called Lardy back and said, ‘Let’s go give ‘em a round.’”
The whippoorwills were calling and raccoons worked the shoreline for a crawdad supper as the two turned their boat up Pruitt Hollow, the second cove on the left as you go down the lake from the boat dock.
They turned around at the head of the cove and began working the left-hand shoreline coming back out.
About 9:45 p.m. Grizzle felt “two little taps” on the six-inch purple worm he had cast to the shoreline.
He hesitated a moment, then raised the rod tip to drag the lure over an underwater log.
The fish sucked the worm into its mouth. Grizzle’s 14-pound test line swerved to the left and away from the shore. He let the line play through two fingers on his left hand until the slack was gone. Then he threw the brake on his Garcia ABC Matic 170 reel and set the hook.
The fish had towed them to the middle of Pruitt by the time he first headed for the surface to try to disgorge the offensive piece of plastic.
“He broke water behind Lardy, who got the flashlight on him. I heard Lardy say, ‘My gawd, don’t lose this one. He’s bigger than your record.’”
In late summer 1965, Delbert had caught the then-record largemouth from Greenbo weighing more than 11 pounds.
WHERE’S THE DIP NET
Groves looked for the dip net as Grizzle continued to wear the fish down. He discovered they had left the net at home. All they had was a small, short-handled trout net.
Grizzle, using the drag on his reel, finally brought the fish alongside the boat. He told Groves he would try to guide it head-first into the net.
But they wound up with it crossways in the net, it’s massive head sticking out on one side and its tail on the other.
Groves gave a heave and threw the bass over the side and into the bottom of the boat, where he fell on it.
“Lardy let out a yell that I’m sure they could hear all the way back to the boat dock,” Grizzle said.
Grizzle jammed the metal point of a nylon stringer through the fish’s lip and secured him to the stringer. He started to put the fish over the side.
“What are you doing?” the unbelieving Groves asked.
“I’m gonna tie him off to the side so we can get back to fishing,” Grizzle said. “The night’s still young.”
“Damned if you say! We’re gonna weigh this fish – now!”
Back at the dock, then-Park Manager Claire Frost, rousted out of his home by Groves, stared wide-eyed as the fish pushed the scales down to 13 pounds, 8 ounces.
They wrapped the fish in foil and put it in the freezer, and Grizzle and Groves went back out on the lake to continue an anticlimactic night of fishing.
The picked the fish up at 6 a.m. the next day, took photos, and had it weighed on official store scales, where it registered the same as it had on the boat dock scales.
Grizzle’s Greenbo bass stood as the Kentucky state record for 18 years. Dale Wilson caught one in 1984 from Woods Creek Lake that weighed 13 pounds, 10.4 ounces.
Grizzle fretted and fumed over that for awhile as he tried time and time again to catch a bigger bass from Greenbo.
One summer night, again on Greenbo, in the same year Wilson caught his fish, Grizzle swears he had a bass up to the boat that would have weighed 15 pounds.
“I had him at the side of the boat with his head out of the water,” he said. “I was reaching behind me with one hand trying to reach the net when the hook tore loosed from his mouth. If I had thought to grab that bass quickly by the lower lip, Greenbo would still have the record.”
Grizzle said he’s not sure whether a state record largemouth swims in Greenbo today or not.
“But I haven’t given up on it,” he said.
Tom Clay, who retired recently as business manager of Greenbo Lake State Resort Park, said he’s caught and released two bass from Greenbo that weighed more than 8 pounds each.
And several yars go, he was out on the lake with Al Surmont, biologist with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, when they shocked up a largemouth that would weigh more than 10 pounds.
About 15 years ago, a bank fisherman, baiting up with corn and marshmallows in hopes of catching a rainbow, landed a largemouth bass weighing right at 12 pounds.
It will require stealth and patience to get the record, if he is indeed swimming in Greenbo, a clear lake that covers just 181 acres,.
“And people are going to have to start releasing those 8-pounders, not put them on the wall. Just take a photograph of it and put it back to keep growing,” Clay said.
G. SAM PIATT can be reached at (606) 932-3619 or Gsamwriter@aol.com.