Jordan Rodriguez with an 11-pound, 6-ounce largemouth bass caught at Lake Havasu in Arizona.

Some say fishing boils down to luck. Others insist it’s defined by skill. But some catches, I am convinced, are written in the stars.

This is a story about one such fish.

It began with my wife Anna suggesting a family trip to Lake Havasu. We went once before and had a great time—including a memorable day of fishing—so it wasn’t a hard sell. I immediately reached out to my friend Nick Young, who guides on Havasu each October through May.

Unfortunately, Nick was booked solid. Undeterred, I crammed an ultralight travel rod and a small box of tackle in the car and planned to explore on foot.

The day we arrived, Nick called to connect me with Greg, a local friend looking for a fishing partner. I was more than happy to accept the gig, and we arranged to take Greg’s boat out early the next morning.

As fate would have it, Nick arrived at the boat ramp just as Greg and I were launching. We proceeded to join Nick at his striped bass spot, where we spent the morning catching a stringer of stripers for dinner. Nick also tossed me a carton of nightcrawlers and gave me pointers on where to look for Havasu’s giant, elusive redear sunfish.

After a couple hours, Nick took his clients to chase redear. When the striper bite died, Greg and I motored into a quiet cove to look for bass. Within 30 minutes, we boated two nice largemouth in the shallows. But as we made our way toward the mouth of the cove, I noticed some deeper water that matched Nick’s sunfish hideout description. I hooked a whole nightcrawler on my ultralight rod and tossed it into the depths.

Within seconds, my line started moving sideways. I set the hook and immediately saw a GIANT fish dart to my left and surge toward deeper water. I loosened my drag by two full turns—whatever this fish was, it was going to take patience and finesse to land it on 6-pound line.

After making a long, powerful run, the fish unleashed a head-shaking jump. As it broke the surface, I was stunned to see an emerald green head the size of a bucket.

This fish was a LARGEMOUTH! The biggest one I’d ever seen.

We anglers spend our entire lives hoping for bites like these. When they happen, it can be difficult to sharpen your focus and stay in the moment. But I did my best to keep calm, and after several minutes of drag-burning action, it felt like the tide was turning in my favor.

But lunker bass are full of tricks. In a last-ditch effort, the fish swam a wide circle to my right and came back towards us, right along the bank. She swam through the branches of a gnarly tree, stayed hidden in its shadow for a moment, and then sauntered back out to deep water.

Now I had a problem. When the fish swam into the tree, I had opened my bail and let the line free-spool, hoping she wouldn’t have enough tension to break me off. My only move was to go in—I handed my phone to Greg and bailed out into waist-high water.

Luckily, the tree was dead, and its branches were brittle. I tore away at the labyrinth of twisted limbs that entangled my line. It was nerve-wracking work, but after a couple minutes, my line was free!

I scrambled back aboard and paused to make sure my line wasn’t caught on anything else. Sure enough, it had wrapped around my rod several times during my wrestling match with the tree. When all was (finally) free and clear, I closed my bail and started reeling.

SHE WAS STILL ATTACHED!! What a relief. Somehow, this lunker of a lifetime stayed on through all the chaos.

Greg’s net wasn’t big enough to scoop this fish, so I went for the lip grab. As I hauled the healthiest, most beautiful bass I’d ever seen over the side of the boat, I melted into a state of pure fishing euphoria.

This fish was an absolute stunner—equal parts enormous and flawless. A nearby bass boat had watched the action unfold, and they came over to get an accurate weight on their digital scale.

The scale read 11 pounds, 6 ounces, and she measured over 26 inches long—a new personal best, topping an Idaho-caught 24-incher. This bass also eclipsed the Lake Havasu record of 10.52 pounds, but making it official would have required taking her ashore to a certified scale. Greg didn’t think she would fit in his live well, and I wasn’t willing to damage her in the attempt. So, after snapping pictures, I got back in the water with my Havasu beauty queen, enjoyed one final moment together, and watched her swim back to her turquoise realm.

I will never forget my encounter with this breathtaking bass, nor the series of crazy events and generous people (especially my guy, Greg!) that helped make it possible. The whole experience—and knowing she’s still out there, living her best life—means more than having my name in a record book ever could. Tight lines!