With trailers available nearly a year before the film was available for purchase, BASS: THE MOVIE was indeed one of the most hyped fishing films in recent times. Jamie Howard of Howard Films made this movie in recognition of anglers' love for the largemouth bass. Given the success of Howard's previous bonefish and tarpon flyfishing films, anticipation was running high and many advance purchases of the DVD were made.
So when we get right down to it, does BASS: THE MOVIE live up to the hype? My short answer is that it depends on what you want from the film. If you are looking for a pure flyfishing movie, this is not it. If you are looking for a detailed equipment and technique driven movie, this is not it. What this work does do is detail the rich history of bass fishing in America and provides a high level overview of many techniques to catch trophy sized fish. Howard accomplishes this through excellent narration, steady camera work, and a cast of bass-crazed fishermen who are willing to work together in pursuit of monster fish.
The historical perspective touches on several areas, not the least of which is the story of George Perry's all time record fish. Howard also gets unique perspectives on the sport from several notable professional bass tournament fishermen, including Bill Dance, Mike Iaconelli, and Kevin VanDam. But the story of the film centers on California Highway 1, the road that cuts through SoCal and runs past some of the absolute best water in the world for growing record sized largemouth bass. Raymond Easley, the current IGFA world record holder for eight pound test line (21 lb 3 oz), describes the fertile waters of the areas lakes and how these behemoth fish grow to such enormous sizes by feeding on shad at younger ages and stocked rainbow trout later in life. The bellies on some of these fish are truly out of proportion with the rest of their bodies.
Enter three anglers: John Sherman, a journeyman fly angler who is always looking for the next best challenge; Larry Kurosaki, the current IGFA world record holder for fly caught largemouth (16 lb Â¾ oz) and a man who spends as much time as anyone on the SoCal lakes; and Bobby Barrack, a professional conventional gear bass angler who knows the California delta fishery like the back of his hand. Although there are a few other colorful characters in this film, these three men are at the heart of it.
BASS: THE MOVIE focuses so much on the pursuit of giant fish in California that it almost loses sight of what bass fishing means to American anglers. Not everybody fishes for records, not everybody fishes deep clear lakes, and not everybody fishes river deltas. It would have been nice to see a representation of bass fishing in other parts of the country, like southern swamps, Midwest reservoirs, and maybe even the Great Lakes. That being said, this film takes its limited geographical focus and does an excellent job of highlighting just how fun bass fishing can be, including a spirit of cooperation between conventional gear and flyfishing. That's right, after Barrack spends some time early on teasing the fly guys, he becomes invested in seeing them catch as many fish as he does, up to and including putting his own rod down and coaching. This synergy is one of the more entertaining aspects of the movie.
Kurosaki is a prime example of what time on the water can accomplish. In addition to his IGFA record, he has probably caught more bass over ten pounds on a fly than anyone else. He is relaxed, insightful, and most importantly has a great time when fishing. His mentorship of Sherman on the clear deep lakes exemplifies his love of what he does on a regular basis, namely fooling big largemouth bass on the long rod.
The DVD extras include an extended interview with Bill Dance, some additional fishing footage, and a few pointers by Barrack regarding conventional gear techniques. Unlike Howard's earlier tarpon films, there are no extras regarding fly gear or flies. This type of information would have been a good supplement to the film, and its absence is notable.
I will leave it to the individual viewer to determine whether or not this film lives up to the hype. I can say conclusively that it is very entertaining, but perhaps not for the reasons that many fly anglers would originally think. Entertainment value is in the eye of the beholder, and for me the experience was satisfying.