HEFLIN — Up until recently Heflin angler Marcel Baker was on a lifelong mission to catch a bass over eight pounds. He also wanted to qualify for a bass tournament in Oklahoma next month.
A hot day in July found Baker, 28, fishing a private lake near Trickum Valley with his mentor and grandfather, James Baker, when he cast his line in the deepest part of the lake — and then thought his lure got snagged on a tree below.
“I can remember letting it fall and setting the hook just because I thought I felt something and said, ‘I’ve got a tree,’” Baker said. For a moment he was resigned to losing an expensive lure called a Rattletrap, but then what he called a little “divine intervention” played its part.
The sun was glaring on the water, he said, and “my line was in front of me — by the time you blinked my line was over here. Trees don’t move.”
Baker “set the hook” three to four times and proceeded to reel in the the huge bass which officially weighed 10.23 pounds and qualified him to represent the state of Alabama in the upcoming tournament.
“It was one of those borderline cry moments — when you invest everything that you have from working 12-hour shifts to fishing for eight hours — staying up 48 hours sometimes to fish, and you do that for three, four, five, six years and finally get to the point where it pays off,” Baker said.
Baker’s prize fish is mounted above the fireplace in his living room where everyone can appreciate its size.
Baker has been fishing all his life but has been fishing exclusively for bass for the last six years because, he said, it’s more competitive than catching catfish.
“To be able to trick a bass, that is very smart. Bass are very extremly, extremly smart fish,” Baker said while sitting in his “fish cave,” two rooms he’s devoted to his fishing gear, photos and other fishy memorabilia.
Baker said that he often goes 48 hours without sleep to fish. Baker works a 12-hour second shift at Ruskin Packaging in Heflin and gets off at 3:30 a.m. and is on the water by 5 a.m. four to five times each week. Baker said he gets home about 10 or 11 a.m. and gets three hours of sleep before returning to work at 3:30 p.m.
The tournament Baker will compete in is the Lucky Tackle Box Big Bass World Championship, which includes one angler from each state who has landed the biggest bass. The grand prize is a new boat and trailer and up to $75,000 in prize money.
Baker was ecstatic when he found out he qualified for the tournament.
“Blessed, very blessed. It’s the only way you can explain it. Fishing is such an uncertain thing, it’s a matter of the right place at the right time with the right lure,” Baker said.
To prepare for the tournament Baker reached out to famed angler Bill Dance, who sent him a message, “Don’t overcomplicate it, just fish, all bass speak the same.”
Baker said he doesn't want to be a millionaire and prefers a simple life.
“All I want to do is to take care of my family and fish,” Baker said.