Monday, August 1, 2011

A Night Fishing Trip to Remember

When I started this blog, I wasn't sure what direction I wanted to go with it.  After a few posts, I opted to not produce the ho hum fishing reports that I normally post on the fishing forums that I frequent, but rather try to put together something that might actually be beneficial to someone while at the same time relating some of my past experiences in some meaningful fashion.  So, something changed last night, an event that I'll never forget.  So, if you'll forgive me this time, I'm going to report on that fishing experience.  In the future, I'll try and only post something extraordinary.

Last night was one of those nights to remember, a buzzbait nighttime experience similar to what I spoke about in my last fishing post,  It was quite hot yesterday, so my buddy Howard and I opted to fish the evening bite at one of our favorite shore fishing spots with the intention of hurling buzzbaits at potential beefy largemouth bass well into the darkness.  Our previous trip, and the trip prior to that, the weather was really hot and the water was crystal clear.  The bigger buzzers didn't produce much but Howard scaled down to the smaller 1/8 oz. size and has really been nailing good numbers of bass.  Last week, while it was still light, I followed behind him picking up fish that missed his lure but wouldn't strike it the second time.  I also sight fished and it was one of those nights when they were tight to the bank and cruising, so if I could see them, I knew that pitching a finesse plastic worm would provoke strikes, and it did.  I finished with 18 chunky bass in three hours of daylight, and added one more on the buzzer.  Howard started buzzing earlier and finished with slightly more than me with the majority of those fish on the small buzzbait.  OK, that's a pretty normal, boring fishing report.  But, it sets the stage for last night.

Howard landed this nice four pounder on a finess worm.
I caught two fourteen inch bass on my first two casts with my finesse worm, and Howard started out with a fat four pounder with shoulders.  He saw it moving in and out of a weed patch in search of prey, and he provided the menu special of the day on a silver platter to that bass.  Next thing I heard was him hollering at me, hauling that bass along with a good portion of salad up the bank.  That was the last fish that either of us actually saw, much different than the previous trip.  I spent a lot of time searching for the visual clues of fish only to come up empty.  The fish were hunkered down in the weeds and on the wood.  If you found both together, then you had a potential hot spot.  The only other variable that made up this pattern was current.  If you could find moving water, the fish were there.  Also, they seemed to prefer the shallow shady spots.  After working the worm for a while, Howard began his 1/8 oz. buzzer pattern with some success, but more strikes than fish landed.  The fish seemed to be slurping at the lure early rather than the explosions that happened in trips least during the late afternoon while it was still hot.  I trailed behind him working my worm, and for those missed hits on his end, the vast majority of them were landed by me on the follow up.  We tag teamed them.  He found them for me, and I caught 'em!  It's easy fishing, when others do the searching for you.  All you have to do is execute with a well placed cast and jig the lure a few times.
Howard found this one for me, all I had to do was cast and
catch, the easy part.

So after a while, the worm was following up landing fish, and the buzzer was finding the slurping ones for me, but landing one here and there.  But, as we approached the magic hour, that time when every animal in the woods and water has to sound off and vocalize their existence, bringing the wild to life.  I love everything about that magic hour, except mosquitos.  Anyway, Howard began to get those explosive strikes.  Even the small keeper sized ones were annihilating that little buzzer.  I kept to the worm, but as that magic hour came to be, my worming luck was running out.  Howard wasn't leaving me much to follow with, and the fish seemed a bit disinterested too.  So, I put the finesse stuff away and pulled out one of my favorite buzzers, and in-line version that always works well with the slurpers.  It's long and big, and has a nice profile, but a gentle plopping noise from the bell shaped brass blade.  I wound up catching one fish on it all night with only two more hits. Howard beefed up to a bigger bait as well, a noisy Strike King triple bladed buzzer and that lure was money.  By the time that we worked our way back to the fish holding waters that we found earlier, darkness had settled in.  As we walked to our spot, there was a nice weed patch about ten feet from the bank, and I said that there had to be a bass on it.  He placed a perfect cast beyond the cover, brining the buzzer past the weeds and the water erupted.  This time, I found a bass for him!  Or, so I claimed... Hey, I have to take some credit for something once in a while!

Howard with a nice nighttime bucketmouth.  The bass hit so
hard it was almost a crime scene!
No more slurping on this night, at least for his bass.  A fat four of five pound bucketmouth engulfed that buzzbait.  It wasn't just feeding, that was revenge.  That bass hated whatever Howard's lure tried to imitate.  If that bass was human, she'd be on the most wanted list today.  The hit was criminal, and Howard was the police.  He landed the fat bass, gave her a warning, and let her go. Softie!

Howard was having success using his big noisy buzzer, and I've only had two hits, so I went noisy.  I chose one of those home made traditional style ones that had a smaller blade inside a cut out larger blade.  They don't get much nosier than than without a clacker.

OK, Howard let me lead.  "It's your turn now to hit some prime spots.  I've made my day already, so anything else is gravy".  So, I obliged and went forward, working my buzzer across the weed beds, knowing that they were there but unable to see anything.  It was darker on this night than it was last time.  The bass didn't seem to mind, however. 

This nice bass hammered my buzzbait, leaving my nerves
frazzled but with a grin on my face from ear to ear.
I came upon and area where a shallow weed bed with moving water met deep slower water just upstream.  I told Howard that if I was a bass, this is where I'd hold and ambush anything that came my way.  I placed a cast up and out from the weeds into open water, bringing my noisemaker back through an opening between two weed beds, where I'd hide if I was a bass.  When the lure passed the weeds about ten feet away from me, the water exploded.  I didn't outwardly react, but inside I felt like I jumped ten feet in the air.  Howard thought it was a beaver slapping his tail in disgust of our presence.  But, it was a big ol' largemouth taking it out on my noise machine.  That bass thrashed about on the surface so much it looked like when I was a boy trying to learn how to swim the butterfly stroke (I still swim like that).  I finally brought the fish to the bank and eased it up on the grassy shore, hoisted it up with all my might putting a bend on my St. Croix Avid baitcasting rod and lipping the fish clean.  The fish felt like it was going to break my rod.  I lipped that bass and had Howard take a picture for me.  That fish made my night.

But the night wasn't over yet.  We had to work our way back to our starting point, and I knew that there was one more prime area between us and quitting time.  It was Howards turn to take the lead, and he did, working his buzzbait parallel to shore and around every weed bed that he could see or remember was there.  Meanwhile, I trailed behind, blindly casting out and cranking back aimlessly, hoping that his lure would wake them up for me and I'd get that next hit if they snubbed his offering.  After about fifteen minutes of doing this, we reached the next prime area. It had all of the same features as the other place, so it had to produce.  Just give us one more good bass each before we call it a night.

After about ten casts each, I placed a cast straight out from the bank and worked it back, oblivious to any cover that might be out there and working the lure from memory and a tiny bit of ambient light.  I couldn't see my lure, but I could see the wake and hear the churning of the blades coming to me.  When my buzzer was about half way back, the water erupted, sounding like the giant extinct ten foot long beaver from the Eocene epoch forty million years ago.  Well, maybe not quite that big, but it was a bigger top water hit than any I've had in years.  More than that, this fish was going ballistic on me, thrashing and splashing and I wasn't gaining any line on him yet.  My fifteen pound line was being pushed to the limit.  Howard was sure this time that I'd snagged a beaver.  But I assured him it was a fish.  Was it a bass?  A musky?  A huge catfish?  It was massive, and seemed like it was in the twenty four inch range.  I fought the fish for a couple minutes and eased it to the bank.  I hoisted the fish up on the grass with one huge lift, and I could hardly lift the behemoth.  I looked down and saw it was a largemouth, with a mouth the size of a childs beach bucket.  Heck, both Howard's and my two fists would have fit inside!  I kept the line tight, and with the massive bass subdued, I started to bend down and climb down the bank to lip it.  It was too big to hoist up, so I had to get down to his level (or her level, I should say).  As I did that, the fish rolled and my lure popped free.  Just like that.  I scrambled down the bank in terror as the bass flipped once, twice, and kersploosh.  She was gone.  I was heartbroken.  I felt betrayed.  I felt embarrassed.  Howard saw it all.  He stood there, mouth agape, not believing what he just witnessed.

For the next hour, I kept questioning myself, as if I had done something wrong.  Heck, I dreamt about it and replayed that moment over and over in my head all night long.  That was the biggest bass that I'd ever hooked, and beached no less.  It was twice the size of the one that I hoisted out earlier, at least!  My guess is that it was in the eight to ten pound class.  For a fish in Maryland, that's a beast.  There just aren't that many of them around here.  My personal best is seven and a half pounds from the Lower Potomac, another twenty four inch bass.  And this bass felt bigger.  I and I felt dumber.  I did manage to catch one more small keeper size bass to ease my pain a bit.  They're all fun.

Howard consoled me, stating that hey, I landed it technically.  So what if I didn't get a picture?  I lost the fish though.  It won, fair and square.  I would have liked to hold it and get a picture, but if you don't touch it, it's not caught.  We aren't tarpon fishing in the keys using quick release methods.  But, he's right.  I had a chance to fight the bass of a lifetime.  And you know what?  I know where she lives now.  She was there because of the hot weather, because of the easy meals available to her there, and because of the cover that makes her feel comfortable.  I'll get her next time.  She's like the massive racked buck that the bowhunter scouts and hunts all year round for.  She's my trophy, and if Howard doesn't catch her first, I will.

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