“Sweet Home Alabama”

The other afternoon while I was enjoying some quiet time at the office, I decided to jump on Ultimate Bass to check for any new fishing reports.  As I was scrolling down through all of the different sections, I came upon the Alabama fishing report and my mind went into flash back mode.  Even though I have spent the last eight or nine years living and fishing in the Sportsman Paradise dream here in Louisiana, my heart is still in Alabama waters.  You know the old saying, “you can take the boy out of the state, but you can’t take the state out of the boy”.

For over thirty years, I have enjoyed fishing the many lakes & rivers that Alabama has to offer.  While the state has many fine lakes to fish, it was the mighty river system where I learned to fish.  In fact, the Alabama River has played the home host to many major bass tournaments and has also played home base for Ray Scott’s “BASS” in Montgomery.  Just in the last few years both BASS & FLW have held both their Super Bowls of bass fishing in Alabama waters near Birmingham.  Birmingham was also voted by the fans of BASS as the Bass City of the USA, beating out many other top cities.  This coming February, Birmingham will host the 2007 Bassmaster Classic.  So mark your calendars!

Many of my fond memories take me back into time when I was fishing the Mobile/Tensaw Delta area of southern Alabama.  The delta area is made up of many creeks, rivers, and bays that flow into the gulf waters of Mobile Bay.  The Alabama, Mobile, Tombigbee, and Tensaw Rivers made up a vast waterway that is full of bass catching experiences.  There is nothing better in life than taking a lazy Saturday morning fishing trip down the Tensaw River waterways.  As I sit here in dream mode, I can recall so many memories of chasing Mr. Bass while fishing in southern Alabama.

One of my humble beginnings was on the Tensaw River many years ago while fishing my very first bass tournament with the Atmore Bassmaster Club.  Everyone had told me that Buddy knew the river like the back of his hand and that I should really enjoy my trip.  After we launched that cold morning in October, it didn’t take long before we were sitting in the main river channel fishing an old tree top while all the other guys were racing up and down the river.  Once the water would calm down from the boat traffic, old Buddy would ease the boat up to this tree top and slowly drop his worm into the limbs of the top while shaking the worm.  It wasn’t long before the water exploded with a big bass on his line as I scrambled to get the net for him.  We repeated these steps during the entire day until we both had our limit of bass.  I could not believe that we had caught our limit while my fellow club members were running around all over the lake looking for fish.  I bet we didn’t burn 2 gallons of gas all day on our fishing trip.  Like the guys had told me about Buddy, he knows his stuff and how true this was.  This was one of my first attempts of flipping worms back then and as the tree top would explode with a good bass, my heart would beat twice as fast.  I caught one of my largest bass to date from that single tree top in Tensaw Lake with Buddy.  As I sit here thinking about it, it feels just like it was yesterday instead of 28 years ago.  Man, how times passes by when you are having fun.  By the way, we won that tournament that day as Buddy came in first & I came in second.  It was a wonderful day that put that bass fever into my blood for life.

Another time I was fishing with Buddy when we came along this canal opening and entered into it.  I’m pretty sure Buddy knew of it, but he didn’t say a word as if to give me the credit for finding it.  As we moved down the narrow path, the canal opened up into a small lake that was full of nice size bass.  We had a field day with the 1 and 2 pound fish in this small lake.  What I didn’t realize was that the water was slowly falling out of the lake due to the tides.  Before we knew it, there was no water left in the canal to float us back to the main river.  We were stuck in the canal.  Now to this day, I’m sure that old Buddy knew this was happening and that he was letting me get some good river experience.  All he would have had to say was, hey dummy, the water is leaving or falling out due to low tide!  I think he let me learn a good lesson that day on watching and knowing what the tide is doing at all times.  We did win the little tournament that day because he caught a ride with one of the other club members while I got to stay with the boat until way after mid-night when the tide starting moving back in.  I did learn something from that trip for sure because it got very cold and very dark that night before the tide came up, so I could escape to the main river to get to the boat landing and load up to head home.

Once while fishing in Miffin Lake just off of the Tensaw River with my ex-brother-in-law Howard ((who was & still is a great fisherman), we had the most unusual thing happen to us.  It was early morning fishing before day break & we were using black lights to see as we threw top water baits toward the bank.  There’s something so special about fishing top water baits in the dark, where you can hear the splash and feel the tow on your line without even seeing the fish hit.  For me that’s a good thing because I always seem to get nervous & pull the bait away from the bass too early if I see the hit.  This morning I was throwing a white devil’s horse as we worked our way down the bank line.  We had picked up a few small bass that morning and were hoping for a few bigger ones before the morning bite was gone.  While fishing that morning in the dark, there was one special cast that we will never forget about as long as we live.  I had cast that white devil’s horse toward the bank but there was no splash to be heard and then my line went wild on my reel as line was ripped off of it.  Then, there was the scream that would make the hair on the back of your neck stand straight up as it echoed through our ears.  I set the hook on whatever it was that had my devil’s horse while we tried to regain our wits about us.  Then my line started pulling toward the sky instead of the water.  With puzzled looks on what was going on, there was yet another high pitched scream that sent chill bumps up and down our bodies.  What we had was a very pissed off owl on the other end of my line that wanted my devil’s horse for breakfast.  I really didn’t want to give up my devil’s horse to him, but Howard saw things in a different way that morning. Before I could reel in much line Howard had reached over to cut the line on my reel to set the owl free screaming dummy.  Before I could even start fussing, he gave me one of his devil’s horses saying that he would much rather fuss and fight with me than that pissed off owl with the 4-foot wide wing span with claws grapping everything in its path.  I guess he was right too, because that was one big, mean, pissed off owl after he found out that his breakfast had hooks in it.  Every time I see or hear an Owl I think of the morning on Miffin Lake with the pissed off owl, and how close we came to being breakfast for him.

Another time, I had taken my wife and daughter out with me as I pre-fished for an upcoming tournament.  That day we also did a lot of boat riding to keep everyone happy in the boat as the day got longer and the morning bite had ended.  There was a big sandy island called Gravine Island in the Tensaw River where most of the boaters would gather to party and play around with their skis and tubes.  This island would be a nice place to have a good sack lunch and take a break from the boat.  After a nice picnic on the sandy beach we headed back to my fishing area for the afternoon bite.  This is where I learned another valuable lesson in life with little girls.  My lesson today was if you are going to tell kids to do something, make sure of what you say and be very clear of it!  Like all kids I guess, once we left the sandy beach where the opportunity to use the restroom was over, my daughter decided that she needed to use the bathroom real bad.  We had always kept a small emergency milk jug in the boat for those types of things so it was no big deal. As I slowed down so she could do her thing without spilling it all over her & dad’s boat, she asked what to do with it?  Now, like most fathers, all I could say was well baby, just throw it over the side!  Please let me be the first to tell you that running 40 or 45 miles per hour down the lake and having a half gallon of little girl pee thrown over board isn’t the right thing to do!  Also let me tell you that what seemed to be a half a gallon of salty water will go a very long way too!  It was like dad had just run through a rain shower of salty water.  Jessica is now 21 and after 17 years we still laugh about old dad getting wet and she still claims that she was doing exactly what she was told to do.  I just wish it had been on her mom’s side of the boat for crying out loud; now that would have been much funnier for me!

As my quiet time comes to a rude awakening due to the phone ringing at my desk, I answer it with a big smile on my face.  Boy, those were the good ole days in life!  You know, sometimes our little sons and daughters grow up a lot faster than we like.  They become young men and ladies who slowly drift away from us as they start their own journey in life.  So every chance you get hug your children and spend time with them, tell them that you love them very much.  That way you will always have a little special memory to go back to and laugh about later in life.  I sure wish I had more of them to remember, but then I thank God for the ones that I do have, for these are the very special ones!  We need to live life to the fullness every day of our lives, for no one knows what tomorrow might bring.  Yesterday’s fond memories might be all we have to share later on in life.  Let’s try and make every day count for those front pouch, rocking chair days to come!

I guess it’s true what they say; you can take the boy out of the state, but you can’t take the state out of the boy!  I will always have a soft spot in my Heart for my “Sweet Home Alabama”.  As they say back home; “WAR EAGLE!”, or is it “ROLL TIDE”!  I sometimes get them mixed up, especially on game day!  I would like to dedicate this article to my daughter Jessica, for all the love & memories she has brought into my life.  Love you sweetheart!

Until next time, May God Bless you & keep you and your family safe.  As always, please take a child fishing or into the outdoors when you can.  Maybe later on in life, they may be the ones that take you fishing or outdoors!  Also please remember our Troops that are fighting for our “Freedom”.  Without them, we would not have this great Free Nation of Ours!  God Bless our Troops & the USA!

Ricky Ingram is a staff writer for UltimateBass.com.

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