The most miserable spring weather in a long time here in MISERY (Missouri) has everyone down, including yours truly. So, after doing a bunch of work-related chores today (and having some success for a change), I decided to start stringing up some fishin’ poles. Take note- this usually takes place in mid-to-late February, not the first of freaking April. Okay, sorry. I’ll shut up about this horrendous, cold and wet trend what we’re in the middle of (with no end, literally, in sight). I’m finished. I promise. On to the reel!
I grab an arm-load of rods I de-reeled (my story, so I can make up words if I want to), a big old box of casting and spinning reels, and some fishin’ line of various sizes and flavors. I wiped down every rod with a damp cotton rag, checked guides and reel feet, etc. Then it’s on to the actual stripping and spooling of the line. I put some Skynyrd, Hatchet, Daredevils, Tucker and George Jones (it’s how I roll) on the YouTube and went to it.
The first reel has been used this year already, and it’s one I’ve posted pictures on the Ultimate Bass forums of in the past, ‘cuz it’s pretty dear to me. It’s a battle-scarred old veteran, a 1978 model Abu Garcia 4600C I bought used in about 1981.
I strip the line off to the backing, and I see another knot a few yards in, so I go ahead and pull to the next knot. Now, I feel like I’m in a little too deep for the amount of line I like to spool, so I say, “what the heck” and continue to strip line off, probably another eighty yards or so. I’ll just put new backing under the new line and all will be good.
Then came a third blood knot, and it occurred to me – this line has been on the reel a long time! When I hit the fourth knot, I realized I was looking at the fishing line I put on this reel when I was a Junior or Senior in High School. Man…
How many bass have been cranked in over this old backing? How many miles traveled, how many lakes and rivers fished? How many heartaches and triumphs has this old line been a part of?
I’ll never claim to know precisely when and where this reel was used over the years, but I do know of a few. This old line was there the morning I caught my best five-bass string ever while throwing a spinnerbait in April (a much nicer April than this one- shut UP, Dale!)… On this morning the old reel worked as flawlessly as ever, and in less than two hours’ time reeled in five almost cookie-cutter sister bass at a little under and over six pounds apiece.
The evening before it was there when I caught what was at the time my biggest largemouth bass weighing in at 7 lbs. 15 oz. (also on a spinnerbait).
It was the reel I used on a Spook rod at the final Red Man tournament at Smithville Lake in ’94 where I finished third and secured a spot in the Regional at Kentucky Lake the next fall.
It was the only reel of three to survive (as did I) the evening I was thrown, as was the other two reels and rods, from a boat on Truman Lake as a passenger at 70 mph, in 1998…
It was the reel I used the first time I ever fished a Carolina Rig, a soft Jerk Bait, and a Jig ‘n Pig. I caught something like thirty-five keepers in a day on the Jig’n Pig, forever putting the live rubber jig in its place as one of my favorite lures.
This line was on this reel when I won my first tournament. It was on Lake of the Ozarks, and I was throwing a jerkbait.
In later years, this old backing was behind braid, more specifically 80# KEVLAR (some of the first of the new super lines, brutal on bass, and tackle). Because of its age (and I figured it was on its last legs, stupid me), the reel, along with the braid, was put on a Flippin’ Stick and took a several year stint as a workhorse reel.
It’s been in a boat with me and the likes of Jim Bitter, Tommy Biffle, Shorty Evans, Charlie Campbell, Big Jim Rogers, Basil Bacon, and of course, Guido Hibdon.
About 10-12 years ago, after I had quit fishin’, this same reel (with the same backing and same 80# braid) was used to work my fur and feather decoy while attempting to call coyotes, fox, and bobcat.
Then last year, in my first spring since starting to fish again, it was this reel (with the old fishing line deep in the spool) I tossed a frog to a small emergent weed bed and horsed in my new personal best at 8 lbs. 1 oz.
Finally, this old reel, out of the over one-hundred I own, was the first one I used this spring (what spring, you dork!), and it already has a six-pounder to its credit.
The line stunk today. It smells like old swamp water (maybe from the Atchafalaya Basin in 1987, or Lake O’ the Pines Texas in 1999). It had the color the Arkansas River gives everything it touches (but luckily the clear waters of Table Rock, Bull Shoals and Beaver helped wash some of it away), and the smell is like a whole boatload of memories. My gosh, how many different rods has this old line and reel been a part of?
I stripped all the old line off and threw it away before putting on new backing (just one knot this time). I re-strung the old warrior for yet another spring, this time with 16# Big Game. Somehow, the nice and shiny new line on my old friend made it seem not so cold outside.
I threw the old line away without much thought – the memories of all those years it represented, the bass caught and lost, the winning and losing, old friends (and now some new ones), the sun and wind burns, the sleepless nights spent worrying, plotting and thinking about the next day, the good and bad food (sometimes terrible food), motels with moisture and bugs on the cinder block walls (Stockton Lake, another April, this time 1996, and man, the bugs) and all those miles traveled. It’s those memories from a trip back in time the old backing represented, they’re what count. ‘Cuz they’re mostly some damn fine ones.
Now I’m ready to quit all this maudlin and reminiscin’ crap, get over this silly, damnable, freakish April winter weather, and go smack some good ‘uns.
Check out other great stories from Dale in his blog called The Dream, Part II