By Mike Giles / outdoors writer
Steve Grace recently had the two momentous events occur in his life in the same week. If you know him then it wouldn’t be a stretch to believe he’d been fishing again, or that he’d caught a nice bass. But, this time he actually caught the bass of a lifetime.
Grace and partner Jeff Collum made a short trip to try the bass on a beautiful day. And he didn’t waste any time either.
“We pulled up on a flat right off of a main point and tried to locate a bass,” Grace said. “We knew it was early but we figured we might catch some near there.
Grace spotted a patch of dead grass near the point and started working the area over. “I was using a Carolina rig with a Junebug colored Zoom Trick worm and searching for a bite,” said Grace. And it didn’t take long for the talented angler to entice a sow bass into striking.
Grace worked his Carolina rigged worm along the bottom and felt the tell-tale thump of a bass about 15 feet off the point in three to four feet of water. Grace immediately reared back and drove the steel deep into the jaws of a sow bass. The enraged bass exploded from the depths and took off like a torpedo and Grace held on for the ride as she bore down and wallowed violently from side to side, trying to shake the stinging hook from her jaw.
“We didn’t have a net but I finally wore her down enough so that Jeff could lip her,” said Grace. As it turned out the monster tipped the scales right at 12 pounds. “I’ve been fishing 41 years and it took me that long to catch one this big,” he continued. “I caught it at high noon and it’s the biggest bass of my career!”
“We got on a pattern fishing in front of alligator grass along the last point near a spawning flat and that was the ticket,” Grace said. “We ended up catching around 50 bass on the day, but my first strike was the big one,” said Grace!
Grace’s monster bass turned out to be the fish of a lifetime, but his week wasn’t over yet. A few days later Grace experienced another life changing moment that was even bigger. Grace and his wife, Shawnda, welcomed their first child, Anna Claire Grace, three weeks early. “It’s been a great week, just a wonderful week, ” said the proud dad. And a lifetime memory they’ll never forget.
McPhail Crowned National Champion Call Maker
Mark McPhail has always been passionate about his turkey hunting and call collecting. After retiring McPhail made a decision to start making his own calls and subsequently entered the NWTF National call making competition last year just for fun.
“I decided to start making turkey calls so I could keep meeting call makers and to swap and trade calls and maybe sell a few,” said McPhail. McPhail, an avid turkey hunter signed up for a woodworking class at Meridian Community College and began learning how to use power equipment to work with wood and make calls. And make calls he’s done! In fact, it’s astonishing how fast he’s picked up the craft of call making. While a competent woodworker might be able to fashion a decorative call, it’s very difficult to make a call look good for hunters, collectors and sound good to turkeys also.
McPhail set about his newfound passion of making calls and promptly settled on a couple of styles of calls; trough calls and scratch calls. Although he makes a beautiful trough call which is easy to play and has excellent sound quality, McPhail’s “Cane Yelper”, made out of bamboo and cedar recently garnered national attention. After making calls for only two and a half years he recently designed a slightly different variation of the Cane Yelper which is very unique. Not only is the call easy to use with a handle for easy handling, it has a unique sound making it slightly different from other calls.
McPhail’s Cane Yelper was awarded first place in the NWTF’s 2013 Grand National Turkey Call Competition Scratch Box Division in Nashville recently. McPhail edged out Veteran Call Maker Everett Drury of Geneva, Missouri, with the Cane Yelper and was crowned National Champion in the Hunting Call Scratch Box Call Maker division. Over 850 calls were entered in several categories in the Call Maker’s Contest.
McPhail also won the Southeastern Call Makers Scratch Box Division held last week in Raleigh, North Carolina with another specially designed Cane Yelper. Various criteria were used in the contests including ease of use, sound quality, tone, versatility of the calls it produces, and its ability as a break over call.
“It’s not about killing turkeys anymore,” said McPhail. “It’s all about meeting people, doing the right thing and enjoying God’s Great Outdoors!” And making a few outstanding turkey calls we might add.
Contact Mike Giles at 601-917-3898 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org