Last week, Cale Helms found himself with a day-off from classes during his last semester at Wingate University and a club tournament this coming weekend. Just one problem: his Phoenix bass boat was in the shop. 

So he turned to an old Fisher aluminum boat with a 25-horsepower motor that’s always been a big-fish boat for him, and headed for Tuckertown Lake, a 2,600-acre lake on the Yadkin River near Denton, N.C.

Boy, did that work out.

Fishing last Thursday, April 12, Helms had a huge fish blow up on a buzzbait he was fishing. A few minutes later, his fishing buddy, Bryson Burton, lifted the fish into the boat, and Helms was stunned to be looking at the biggest bass of his life, an 11.03-pound lunker.

“A week before, I had a good fish blow up on a buzzbait,” Helms said. “This spot had a spawning flat on one side, and there were laydowns, and there was this one little stick up. I hadn’t made 10 casts when this beast came out of the water and choked on the buzzbait.

“I was figuring it was a 6- or 7-pound fish, until I got it to the side of the boat, but when I saw it, I said, ‘That’s a man-sized fish.’ I didn’t have my net, and I tried to flip her in the boat, and my buddy finally grabbed her and got her in the boat. 

“I felt like a little kid at Christmas. I was so shook up, I couldn’t hardly fish the rest of the day.”

Helms, a senior at Wingate, fishes with the Reservoir Dogs, a second-year club in the WIngate area. The club’s April 21 tournament on Tuckertown was what drew him to fish that day.

“I went up to fish and ran into this monster,” he said, describing the bass, which was 24 1/2 inches long and 18 3/4 inches in girth. “She was so fat.”

In his little boat, putting in at the ramp on US 49 on the lower end of Tuckertown, it took Helms and Burton about 25 or 30 minutes to get to the place he wanted to fish, expecting the warm weather to have sent some fish into the shallow to spawn.

He was fishing a True South V Twin buzzbait when the big bass hit. After catching her and noticing that she had a bloody tail — indicating that she was spawning — he released her, then slipped up to the spot where she had been.

“I couldn’t see her because the water was so stained, but I went to look, and next to this little stick up, I could see the light spot on the bottom that was her bed when I got up close,” he said.