When Jim Kleimola retired from his job at the Massachusetts Department of Correction in April he realized that there would be plenty of time for fishing and he already had the perfect spot lined up. He had previously convinced his wife that they should buy what would eventually become their retirement home within the shadow of the Bourne Bridge. Jim enjoys casting topwater plugs as well as soft plastic jigs with the 3-1/2-ounce green mackerel Savage Gear Sand Eel being his favorite bottom tool. There are many other similar types of lures on the market including RonZ, Al Gags and Hogy as well as the Bill Hurley Canal Killer, which is becoming the go-to choice for many.
July 1 began for Jim before sun-up with his usual short walk down to the Cape side of the Big Ditch. Jim worked his way down the rip rap stone bank to his fishing spot not far from the Bourne Bridge. The minus low tide at 3:29 AM exposed plenty of good spots with safe footing down next to the water. He observed that the east tide, which had turned just before 3:00 AM, was already ripping along. He clipped a small green mackerel Savage onto his leader and let a cast fly up tide to his left, which was methodically carried along in front of him by the raging current as it sank. Jim flicked some minor twitches with the tip of his 11-foot surf rod as the lure continued to fall through the depths, but didn’t really start to jig until the Savage was almost in front of him on the bottom as he explored the lowest part of the channel.
It was a busy summer night on both sides of the Canal with fishermen travelling from as far away as Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York to try their luck on the fabled fishery that has afforded angling opportunities for well over a century. There was even a truck loaded with fishing gear parked near the Sagamore Bridge bearing a Colorado registration plate!
Jim continued to cast his Savage in the same basic pattern with some occasional changes in distance and tail action at various depths. After about 25 casts the Savage suddenly stopped as a linesider inhaled the soft plastic and made a formidable run. Jim fought the fish for a while and landed a nice striped bass that weighed about 20 pounds.
He kept on casting as the Savage splashed down and then found bottom about 25 more times before he finally got the hit of his life at first light. The fish whacked the lure hard and went on a fast run. The Shimano Ultegra’s drag was buzzing like a hive of angry bees on the warpath as the 50-pound Power Pro braided line flew off the reel following the fish down tide. Jim held on as his surf rod bent over like he had never seen before as the fish swam in the same direction as the powerful current causing him to have to battle the striper and the tide. After an exhausting 10-minute workout he was finally able to turn the fish’s head and take in some line only to have the fish regain strength as it headed back for another run toward the Bourne Bridge. Through a combination of carefully cranking down on an already tight drag, and some old-fashioned finesse, Jim was able to turn her head a second time and reel some line back onto the spool. There would be one more final run as the big linesider turned her head again and bolted for freedom while taking additional line into the east bound current.
Jim was pretty tired at this point as he heard creaking noises coming from his strained equipment and wondered if it was the sound of his exhausted bones complaining as he continued to give it his all. He kept the line tight, and finally, after a lengthy battle, he brought the big girl in close enough to be seen for the first time. Even though Jim knew that he had been in the fight of his life, he was still surprised to see the enormous size of the linesider when she was about 10 yards out. This catch took the honors as the heaviest striped bass for the month of July in the Stan Gibbs Cape Cod Canal Fisherman’s Classic and ultimately won the coveted and prestigious 2019 Gibbs Cup with the fish making the Red Top digital scale register at 48.05 pounds.