Falls of Neuse spits out huge bass in tournament

Johnny Wilder caught his biggest bass ever -- this 10.69 pounder, during a tournament at Falls of the Neuse on March 16, 2019.

Butner fisherman boats 10.69-pound largemouth

Johnny Wilder of Butner, N.C., says he’s “put in my time” fishing for largemouth bass on Falls of the Neuse Lake north of the Raleigh-Durham area. Over the years, he says, he’s been rewarded with 18 fish that bettered the 9-pound mark.

But this past Saturday, he got his biggest payback ever, landing a 10.69-pound lunker in an Academy Sports Spring Team Bass Trail event.

Wilder and his partner, Mike Harris of Oxford, N.C., finished second in the tournament. The four bass they caught weighed a total of 28.12 pounds. First place went to Billy Bledsoe of Gray’s Creek, N.C., and Brian McDonald of Hope Hills, N.C., who weighed in a five-fish limit at 28.52 pounds, anchored by an 8.42-pound bass.

Wilder’s huge fish hit a bladed jig around noon on Saturday.  

“It was like God sent him to us,” he said. “He tried to jump but only got halfway out of the water. That’s when we saw how big he was. My partner talked me through the fight until we got him in.”

Big fish was Wilder’s only one of the day

The fish was the only one Wilder put in the boat. He got only two bites and lost the second fish, which he estimated at about 7 pounds. Harris got only three bites and boated all three: one bigger than 8 pounds, another about 6 and a third between 3 and 4 pounds.

“We were on a big-fish pattern,” said Wilder, who split $2,756 in winnings with Harris. “We didn’t get many bites, but they were all big.”

Phil McCarson of Durham, the tournament director, said that besides Wilder’s monster bass, three others weighing more than 9 pounds were brought in by the 91-boat field, including a 9.55-pound brute that was the second-biggest fish caught.

The big bass was the biggest of Wilder’s life; he said he caught a 10.48-pound largemouth last August at Durham’s Lake Michie. The best thing about the big tournament fish, however, was, “She swam away just fine,” he said.

About Dan Kibler 887 Articles
Dan Kibler is the former managing editor of Carolina Sportsman Magazine. If every fish were a redfish and every big-game animal a wild turkey, he wouldn’t ever complain. His writing and photography skills have earned him numerous awards throughout his career.