Casey Reed was competing in a regional kayak bass fishing tournament this September when he spotted something unusual on the surface. As he paddled closer, the 39-year-old angler found a cannibalistic bass choking on another bass.
“I saw something white on the surface that looked pretty big,” Reed tells Outdoor Life. “I got closer and could see it was a bass, but it wasn’t dead. Two bass were hung up after the bigger fish tried to eat the smaller one.”
Reed recorded the video on Sept. 16 on Hyco Lake in North Carolina, which lies just south of the Virginia state line. It’s a perfect example of how a bass will eat anything that fits in its mouth—along with some things that won’t. Like other predatory fish, bigger bass will oftentimes prey on smaller ones.
In this instance, however, the bigger bass bit off more than it could chew and got the smaller bass caught in its throat. Both fish likely would have died had Reed not intervened.
“The bass are still alive, let’s see if I can help ‘em out here,” he says in the video.
Reed then picks them up and tries to separate them. He slowly works the smaller bass free, and after holding them aloft in his hands, he revives and releases both fish back into the lake. He says it took around five minutes for the bigger one to swim away.
“I tried to revive both of them,” Reed explains. “The smaller bass swam off pretty good after I worked with it a little. The bigger bass seemed more shocked than the smaller one. But I revived it, too, and it looked okay.”
Because kayak tournaments are catch, photograph, and release events, nobody would have been the wiser had Reed measured the two fish and claimed them as his own. (Nobody was around at the time to watch, he says.) Instead, he just estimated their sizes and went back to fishing the tournament.
“The bigger bass I’d guess at 17 inches long, the smaller fish at 12 inches,” he says. “I just hope they both made it. Bass are too valuable to be wasted.”