'I once caught a fish this big'

Merced County resident and Cal Fire battalion chief Mark Lawson poses with the largemouth black bass he pulled from Lake McClure on Saturday.

The monster bass weighed 15 pounds, 2 ounces, measured 24 inches in girth and was 26 1/2 inches long, according to Lawson.

The fish, a personal best and just short of a lake record, was snared on an 8-pound test line near Temperance Creek.

The catch was witnessed by Al Lawson, Mark's father and photographer, and was released back into the water:

'Considering how many years it takes a fish to get that big, I just wanted it to live another day, and maybe make somebody else's day when they catch it.'