Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The "Make Fun of Me, Will Ya" Bass...

Continuing with my story telling, as we sit around our virtual campfire, let me tell you about a what might have been my first bass over five pounds out of my home lake.   It's a kind of an "I'll show you" story, sort of a tale of an underdog, overcoming the odds and achieving a goal.  But for me, it turned out to be a good memory that may have shaped my approach to bass fishing altogether.

This story took place in the late 1980's, way before anyone, that I knew of, heard of blogging or the internet.  In fact, I don't think that Al Gore had even invented the internet yet!  This particular lake was one that I learned to fish on, just a couple miles from where I grew up.  This lake never really got any serious bass fishing pressure.  Most of the anglers that fished there were focused on fishing for the stocked with trout, as I had also done for several years prior to this event.

Spring was in full force.  The spring peepers had been chirping for a few weeks, forsythia bushes were in full bloom for almost as long, and eastern redbud and cherry tree flowers filled the landscape splashes of pink and purple. Other trees and shrubbery sprouted new leaves that tinted the landscape with a hint of green.  Parking was limited, because just a week earlier, the Maryland DNR  stocked several thousand rainbow trout into the lake.   As we'd come to learn, all these signs meant that big bass cruised the shallows in search of a fishy meal.
Howard sports a nice spring time bass caught on the lake that I grew up fishing.
Certain popular access points were packed with anglers that fished for the stocked trout, most of them seated on buckets that contained their tackle, bait, supplies and perhaps, lunch.  Their rods were seated between the twigs of carefully selected fork sticks that they stuck in the bank in front of them, intensely focused on their rod tips for the slightest of nibble of finicky trout.  The hot baits at the time were round globs of Velveeta Cheese or Berkeley Powerbait molded to their hook, or the commonly used and equally effective bait, a juicy fat night crawler.

Other trout seeking anglers found room  and cast out Roostertail, Mepps, or Joe's Flies spinners in search of more aggressive trout.  That day, many of those using bait or lures already had stringers with a few trout dangling in the water as they sought their limit of five trout per person per day.

One of these access points was at the upper end of the lake, where a road bridge crossed the main feeder creek.  On both sides of the bridge, trout anglers stood or sat shoulder to shoulder in pursuit of their coveted limit of trout.

The upper end of this lake also was, as we discovered, a pretty good area to find bass.  It made sense.  There was shallow water near a deeper channel, with a nice gravel point that we suspected was a spawning area.  There was plenty of debris and cover on the bottom.  On the other side of the channel, there were stumps on the flat providing nice ambush points.  Also, the upper end of the lake happened to be the Northern end of the lake, where the lake received plenty of sunshine from the Southern sky, providing the warmest water in the lake that time of year.

The incoming creek sported a good population of minnows.  Stocked trout roamed in and out of the creek.  My buddies and I always wondered if the largest bass in the lake fed on these stocked trout as opportunities arose.  Or, perhaps they kept minnows on the move into locations where largemouth could wait in ambush.

My fishing pals that day, Howard and John, joined me at the lake after work on one warm cloudy afternoon in April.  Although the vast majority of anglers that frequented this lake targeted trout, there were, at times, guys like us that liked to target crappie or bass.

On the East side of the bridge, there was a swampy area that most of the fishermen avoided walking through.  After the swampy area, there was a long, shallow point that led to the creek channel about a cast away.  There, brush piles often held good populations of panfish and bass.  The creek channel ran through the bridge, along the Eastern shore, and then turned and followed the point out into main lake.  The use of hip boots or waders allowed us to traverse the swamp like area, and provided us with more room to fish or wade out off the point, away from the crowd.

Howard and John waded out off the point, and tossed Texas rigged plastic worms fished on light spinning gear to the brushpiles, where they hooked into a few keeper sized bass.  I decided to lob a bigger lure, a half ounce white tandem spinnerbait, along the creek channel, hoping for a lunker largemouth bass.  I changed out the outer blade in favor of a huge size 7 willowleaf blade.  This spinnerbait put out a lot of flash and vibration, and I felt that it surely would call in a big bass if there was one nearby.  If that didn't work, my plan was to switch off to fishing soft plastics. 

I thoroughly worked the side of the point along the channel to the right of the brush piles, and then cast parallel to shore to my right along the creek channel.  The oversized willowleaf blade moved a lot of water, perhaps a key to tickling a big mama bucketmouth's lateral line and allow her to hone in on the beefy bait.

The spinnerbait created a loud splash on each cast, prompting the trout guys to grumble that, perhaps, I was scaring their fish.  My lure never went near anyone's lines or where they were casting, but many of the trout guys, sitting on their buckets, rather than concentrating on their rod tips, joked out loud  and made fun of me tossing such a large bait.

Why were they mocking me?  I have no idea.  Perhaps they felt that the splash of my spinnerbait chased their precious trout away.  Maybe they just didn't know that there were nice bass in this lake and trout were the only game in town.  Maybe the sight of such a large lure seemed silly to them.  I have no idea, but, they were laughing it up pretty good.  I just ignored them and kept casting.  I had a good feeling about my lure choice.

After several casts worked parallel to shore along the creek channel, a fish finally annihilated my spinnerbait.  After I set the hook, my rod doubled over, and she shot straight up out of the water and fell back with a tremendous splash.  My immediate thought was one of elation and surprise that I hooked this big bass, followed by the thought, "That outta scare the trout away!"

I fought her for a bit, and, as she tired, I was able to wade out and lip her.  I hoisted her out of the water, and showed off her massive mouth and bulging gut to my fishing pals.  This fish was at least twenty inches long, perhaps slightly longer, and may have been my first five pound or larger bass out of my home lake.  I didn't carry a tape or scale back then, or a camera, for that matter.  Heck, I was just out there for fun.
I used a white half ounce tandem spinnerbait with an oversized willowleaf blade to catch the bass mentioned in the story that was similar in size to this fat one.
As you may suspect, the laughing and mocking ceased.  At first, it was so quiet that you wouldn't know anyone was there.  The trout guys observed, jaws agape, wondering what they had witnessed.  My friends started giving me props, and it felt good.  I felt vindicated.  I was extremely thrilled by the experience, so much so, that my hands shook.  The trout guys really gasped when I released her back into the lake and watched her swim off.

After that, wouldn't you know, that some of them scrambled through their tackle boxes in search of spinnerbaits!  That was pretty funny.  As it turns out, I had the last laugh that afternoon!  But, the overall lesson for me was to confirm that, what I read about in my fishing magazines, that big lures catch big springtime bass, a lesson that I'd remember time and again throughout my angling years.

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