It wasn’t a world record, but the 11-pounder Jeff Kriet netted May 19 turned out to be a pretty special birthday present.
To understand the significance of the catch, it’s necessary to start at the beginning, two years ago. On April 6, 2010, Jeff Kriet went fun fishing on Lake Murray with Gene Eisenmann, a friend of his. He found and caught a giant bass bedding on top of a stump, and Eisenmann encouraged him to have it weighed.
“I was just going to let it go,” Kriet said. “My buddy Gene told me I needed to weigh it.”
The behemoth tipped the scales at 12.12 pounds and was certified as the new lake record.
“After they certified it, I wanted to leave it in the marina, because you can’t fish in there,” Kriet said. “So I let it go right there next to the gas dock thinking maybe we would get at least one good spawn out of her.”
Fast forward to May 19, Kriet’s birthday, and he and Eisenmann loaded up to fish a small tournament on Lake Murray. He was able to get out the day before the derby and found one offshore hump that seemed promising.
“I pulled up on that deal first thing in the morning and caught a 3-pounder,” Kriet said. “75 percent of the time that will be big bass. The next one we caught was an 11-something. I netted it and got lined back up and caught a 9.”
Before he could catch his breath, Kriet and Eisenmann had compiled a jaw-dropping 31-pound stringer, something unheard of on Lake Murray.
“I figure catching a 31-pound sack there is like catching a 60-pound sack on Falcon,” Kriet said. “It’s just unheard of. There was a jackpot last night and it probably took 7 or 8 pounds to win. It’s one of those lakes where if you catch over 10 pounds, you have a chance to win. There are some big fish in there, but they are just random. And I caught those fish on back-to-back throws.”
His biggest stringer previously there was around 21 or 22 pounds and they topped that by nearly 10. Second place was 11.5 pounds, the size of Eisenmann’s one fish. The other anglers in the tournament were left shaking their heads. How else do you explain such an occurrence other than calling it a birthday miracle?
“They can’t get mad – that’s so unheard of on that lake,” Kriet said. “It was just one of those fluke deals where everything lined up – I don’t know if it will ever be done again.”
The real surprise came later that day when he received a call from Eisenmann.
When they started looking back and comparing pictures of the 12.12 Kriet caught in 2010 and the 11-pounder Eisenmann boated in the tournament, the fish looked identical. The telling mark was a black dot on the jaw of the fish reminiscent of Dottie, the 25-pounder caught in California.
There is no doubt in either of the two anglers’ minds that it was the same fish. Kriet was floored that his catch-and-release tactics from two years ago paid off.
“I was just blown away – catch and release sure works,” Kriet said. “It was probably only a mile and a half from where I caught her the first time and only a mile and a half from the marina where she was released.
“That was an awesome birthday present. It was just a fishing day I’ll never forget.”
Dottie 2.0 still swims in the waters of Lake Murray after another successful release by Kriet and Eisenmann.
“Maybe I’ll get lucky,” Kriet said, “and catch her again two years from now.”