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Out of the clouds: Adventure to remember for father and son on a rainy-day fishing trip

Mark Garner, the 9-year-old son of Fitchburg sports writer Chad Garner, caught this whopper of a bass while fishing at Lake Whalom in Lunenburg on a recent rainy day. PHOTO/CHAD GARNER

To me, Lake Whalom in Lunenburg has been a place of great frustration over the years when it comes to fishing for bass.

I’ve never seemed to get skunked many times while fishing for either largemouth or smallmouth bass, but the problem every time is the size of the catch.

Approximately 15 years of fishing at Lake Whalom has produced a largest catch of no more than a 2- or 3-pound bass. And that was caught a couple of years ago by my then 7-year-old son, Mark.

And he caught it on a simple nightcrawler and bobber.

And me? Well, let’s just say I continue to catch bass after bass there — some of small, fish-tank size — but those little one-footers that don’t put up much of a fight are the norm there.

Yes, it probably doesn’t help that we always fish from shore at Whalom since I don’t own a boat.

But this story isn’t going to be about fishing failure or the great catch that got away.

It’s more about an unforgettable experience fishing with my now 9-year-old son and landing a mesmerizing catch at my local fishing hole.

It all started on a recent Monday. The sun was nowhere to be found and it was raining cats and dogs.

Of course, who wants to brave the elements and even go outside in monsoon-like conditions?

Typically not me.

But I just didn’t want to sit in my house, or kill time going out shopping and spending needless money.

I had the head-scratching idea to gear up and go fishing.

My little guy thought it was genius.

He’s a daredevil anyway and a kid who is nonstop all the time.

Heavy rains certainly weren’t going to slow him down.

When I asked him to go fishing, it was a no-brainer. He sprung into action and tried to find anything to wear that would keep him dry.

It was all systems go from there for me, too.

Honestly, I have no real fishing gear to fight the elements, so I also found anything in my closet that would keep me as dry as possible.

We packed up our fishing gear — rods and a tackle box — and ventured off to get nightcrawlers for the little one.

While driving to the store for worms, I had my windshield wipers on high and knew fishing might be nasty with extremely limited visibility.

After getting the worms, we got to Checkpoint Charlie to fish. We have several places that are proven to catch fish at Lake Whalom — smalls, but fish nonetheless — and baited up only to be greeted by strong winds and rain that were blowing in our faces.

The conditions were less than desired. Seriously, who enjoys being rained on anyway?

But I was 100 percent committed to making this a great experience fishing in the rain with my future Bassmaster.

While he used nightcrawlers, I went with my old reliable, rubber worms.

Obviously, a fisherman never tells all his fishing secrets, so I can’t share the brand name or color I was using. Sorry, we’ve been sworn to secrecy here at the homefront, too.

But let’s just say you can get these rubber worms pretty much at any story that sells fishing tackle.

And after about 30 minutes of coming up empty without a bite, my day brightened up with one memorable cast.

I hit the exact spot I was shooting for, and no sooner did my plastic worm hit the water, something came out of the water to attack.

It made a thunderous splash.

I didn’t yank as a reaction to the fish causing all the commotion.

I stayed patient while this fish was in attack mode.

After the splash, I moved into striking position, hoping this fish would run with the bait and my line would go straight out.

And it did.

The Trilene 8-pound test line took off like a speeding bullet.

Then I gave it one gigantic tug to set the hook.

Fish on.

After the hook-set, this bass jumped straight out of the water and push on a brief aerial show. It was beautiful. This hog definitely wanted to spit the bait.

I prayed my hook-set was right on and there was no wiggle room to lose this keeper.

My Ugly Stik rod supporting my Quantum spinning reel was getting quite a workout. It was bent over like I hooked into a whale.

My son, to my right, was in shock. He stood there with his rod and reel in disbelief.

I told him to put his rod down and get ready to lip this fish.

I still had work to do, however.

While reeling this bass up and envisioning how I’m going to lose him, he jetted to the right — hoping to escape — and about 50 feet from shore, he was acrobatic again, soaring out of the water to show me he was serious about escaping.

My nerves were at an all-time high, knowing I had to somehow land this fish with no net or without the ability to lip the fish while in the water because we were fishing over a high fence on Lakefront Street.

I got the fish at the edge of the water, and lifted high to try and get him over this fence that stands about four feet high with the water approximately another four feet below that level.

Needless to say, it’s not an easy land if you’ve ever fished this area.

He was too heavy, so with the rod in one hand, I grabbed the line — this is typically a no-no and gives you a greater chance to snap it — but I was desperate.

I instructed my son to be ready to lip this beast. His eyes lit up and he later told me he was nervous that he’d drop him. I’m glad I taught him how to lip bass years ago.

He didn’t cave in under the pressure.

Mark grabbed the lip of the bass with all of the might with his right hand — a hand that easily fit into the bass’s mouth — and then I quickly let go of the line with my left hand and also lipped the bass for good measure.

The bass was safely landed on stable ground.

It was the fishing thrill of a lifetime.

We made eye contact — our eyes were beaming with excitement and pride — and we both screamed out in celebration.

One guy stopped on the street and yelled, “Nice bass.”

This bass was a pig. Take a look at the pictures for yourself. I’m estimating at least 5 or 6 pounds. Could be more?

According to Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife, “Largemouth Bass and Chain Pickerel are difficult to find” in Lake Whalom.

My little guy took out my iPhone in the heavy rain and snapped some photos. I let him hold “Billy the Big Bass” and snapped off a photo of him so he could remember this as well.

He called his mom and she came down quickly to see the catch for herself. She took a keeper photo of the two of us along with Billy. That’s something I’ll cherish for the rest of my days.

We were all shocked that we pulled out this hog of a fish from Lake Whalom. It was a sight we’ve never seen. Ever.

Of course, I was fishing legally with a Massachusetts fishing license.

I also firmly belief in the fishing process of catch-and-release.

We plopped Billy back into the water, and after a few minutes of resting on the bottom of the lake after a difficult battle, he jetted to deeper water and to safety.

We hope to catch a bigger Billy again next year.

And no joke, the next cast, I pulled in at least a 4-pound bass in almost the same spot as I hooked Billy.

For one day, I was a fishing celebrity with my little guy. He called me a Bassmaster.

Despite being soaked to the bone, it’s a day I won’t ever forget. I hope Mark always remembers this, too.

While big fish are few and far between, there are some in Lake Whalom after all.

It took me roughly 15 years to find them, but I’m a believer now.

So much for being frustrated fishing at Lake Whalom anymore.

Follow Chad Garner on Twitter @CGARNER23.