The Catch:

The house has been overrun with girls this past week so I decided Caden (my 4 almost 5 year old son) and I should find a way to use up a little bit of our “guy time”. Being Saturday afternoon, and having just finished cutting the yard, I was ready to get out of the house.

The house has been overrun with girls this past week so I decided Caden (my 4 almost 5 year old son) and I should find a way to use up a little bit of our “guy time”. Being Saturday afternoon, and having just finished cutting the yard, I was ready to get out of the house. I recently acquired some ZOOM Horny toads, and have been ITCHING to give them a try in my shallow, weed infested, ox-bow lake. A week ago I caught a nice bowfin fish out of a different lake with this Horny Toad (HT) lure, and so I knew the lure was worth investing some more time in. After thinking about my honey hole ox-bow lake, I had no doubts that it should/would produce out there as well, and what better thing to do then spend some quality time fishing with your son.

We get to the little ox-bow lake, unload the john boat and paddles, and ease her gently into the water on the back side of the lake, struggling to keep the noise down and the wake at a minimum. Feel free to kindly insert a picture of 4 year old clamoring about in an aluminum boat with paddles bigger than he is in each hand, hehe. After raising the dead and scaring the living, we get settled in and “quietly” make our way to the designated area. I like this place. It’s quiet, rarely a breeze because the trees around us block the wind sufficiently, and it’s just darn pretty. The area is long and narrow, maybe 125-150 feet at its widest part, with a fallen pine tree that stretches 3/4 of the way across this section of the narrow lake, weeds that cover everything but the top foot of water, and weeds/lilly pads that line the banks. Once there, I drop the cinderblock anchor (yes, you read that correctly haha) in the 4-5 feet of water, and get the rods and reels ready for action.

I hook a minnow through the lips for Caden, put a bobber about a foot high from the minnow’s point of attachment, and tell Caden to get ready. The smile is already on his face as he knows what’s coming next. I cast the deliciously decadent fish entree out to where I know some pan fish are awaiting there main course, and then hand the rod and real over to Caden so he can do the rest. I pick up my rod, reel, and attached Horny Toad, and give it a good once-over to make sure everything is proper. As I reach back to cast, I see the sun glistening off of the water, smooth as glass, then look at my boy, and smile. How much better can it get?…… we would soon find out :). I finish reaching back, press lightly against the thumb bar until I feel, almost sense, the click beneath my thumb, then let loose the fury of the H&H rod gripped loosely in my right hand.

I cast from bank to bank, lilly pad to lilly pad, searching for my next spot to cast before my Horny Toad even lands at it’s intended location. The fishing is slow, real slow, and I’m not sure what the reasoning is, maybe we made too much noise getting to our spot, or maybe the fish dined earlier in the evening, I’m just not sure and I’m getting ready to move locations if I don’t get anything in the next few casts. There is one more spot to try in this little area though, a gap between the fallen tree and an area of lilly pads that cover the water to the right of the tree. I cast the Horny Toad into the tree and start my retrieve through the small gap. While watching the lure during the retrieve, I notice the water around it getting busy, a little too busy, and the next thing I know, the water burps and its Game On! The fish made the first move, but now it’s my turn to counter and I’m looking for a T.K.O. I set the hook and start reeling him in. It’s a nice little fight and it’s working out well for me. About 10 feet from the boat my line goes slack and I instantly know what happened….my counter move wasn’t the decisive blow that I hoped for and my rival got the best of me and spit out the lure. Touché’ oh’ liberator of the lure.

Fish 1, Fisherman 0

But WAIT! Caden’s bobber disappeared beneath the surface and has plunged into the depths of weedy mayhem where the reclusive large mouth bass resides when not trying to embarrass fishermen. After getting Caden to notice that his bobber has taken refuge beneath the water’s surface, I quickly jump into spectator mode and start my cheering: “Get em’ Bubba, Get em’, you got him good, reel that bad boy in, you got him man-handled, he ain’t goin’ nowhere, you got him good, NO, NO, NO, don’t look at me, look at the line, No, don’t quit reeling, keep reeling, keep reeling, look at your line and keep reeling, there you go, just like that, you got him good, alright, put him in the boat, good job, Caden, really good job!”

Whew, I don’t know how much energy he put into boating that fish, but I was plumb worn out!

His line got pretty tore up so I cut his line, replaced the hook, loaded another minnow up for departure, and sent him flying towards his destination at the lilly pads.

Caden’s catch happened so quickly after mine that I didn’t have a chance to cast again, so I picked up my rod and reel, checked the HT to make sure it was still in presentable fashion, and started casting again. I was so preoccupied with Caden’s fishing adventure that it took me a minute or two to remember getting a bite by the tree just seconds prior his catch. So, I reeled in the lure from where I just cast, looked at the tree in the distance and tried to decide where to cast next.

A brief departure from the story is necessary to understand my logic on this next cast: A classic (old wore out piece of crap) Bass Master’s book I have mentions throwing weedless lizards and frogs into trees and letting them fall out of the trees and into the water to mimic a frog or lizard that has lost its footing and fallen to the water’s surface. Tree-check, Water-Check, Frog-Check, lets give it a try.

So I cast the weedless frog to the top of the tree, hit it a little lower than expected, and wind up in the tree about 2 feet up from the water. I let the frog hang from one of the branches with the front of the lure resting against a branch, with the back half dangling in the air. I wiggled him in place a little bit, and then dragged him over the branch of the fallen tree, and into the water. I immediately start to twitch the frog hoping for the best. I don’t get but one twitch in before the water boiled into a rage then exploded with the energy of an atom smasher. As if on queue, dark, looming clouds converged upon our location, thunder rolled, 20 mph winds howled at my nerves, and the world stopped revolving, all to signify the start of an epic battle between man and bass.

After the viscous attack of my lure, I must admit that I actually paused and surrendered myself to a brief moment of hesitation. Was this one for the history books, one to pass on to the grandchildren as a bed time story, or was this gonna be the “One that Got Away”? It wasn’t long before I snapped out of my coma and man’d up to the challenge. If that bass wants my lure, that’s fine, he doesn’t know what’s in store for him though, ‘cause It’s on Like Donkey Kong now!

I yanked back on my rod with all the forces possibly contained within one man, and I sent that hook home where it belonged. I thought to myself, “he’s gonna be poopin’ sideways for a month after a hook set like that”. No worries though, the fish was firmly attached to one end of the fishing line, and I was firmly attached to the other, now it was a battle for survival. The fish took off to the left like a raped ape and I held on for dear life. There was no under water structure to the left other than weeds and I wasn’t worried about getting snagged, so I just let him run without reeling him in, just to let himself wear out a little before starting my retrieval process. However, using his telepathy (we all know the big ones can read our minds) he interpreted what I was thinking, made an abrupt 180 and made a run for it to the underwater tree. DANG! I held the tip high with all my might, and started reeling for all I was worth. I reeled in just enough, just in time, to keep him a few feet away from the tree brush and buy myself a little time. He had other thoughts though, and he wasn’t done with me yet. He charged my john boat with every ounce of his blistering bass speed, trying to get enough slack in the line to spit out what he mistakenly took for a delicious morsel of toad. But I knew his game, I knew his strategy, I knew it ‘oh too well, and it wasn’t gonna work for him this time. I was in control of this match and I wasn’t gonna play Gilligan to his Skipper. I reeled in my line with such voracity that it would make Terrell Owens envious. Mr. Bass quickly understood the error of his ways and tried to regroup his thoughts, but I wasn’t having any of it today, he was mine, and he knew it. But wait, what’s he doing now, I’ve seen this before, but not to this extent, OH NO!!!!! I look out across the water and see this majestic giant of a bass shoot straight up out of the water with every bit of the water effects that go along with Old Faithful’s clockwork eruption, and watch hopelessly as Mr. Bass thrashes about in mid air, disparagingly tossing about as he uses his last trump card to rid himself of this burden. Even with all his cunning ability and brute strength, he falls short of his goal. Gravity pulls the rocket bass back to earth and into the water with the lure still securely attached to its post, and with one less ounce of “oomph” within the bass’ body.

The fight continues for a while longer, but not with the epic proportions that it originated with, and slowly but surely the bass is brought to the boat and put on the stringer with the bass that Caden caught earlier. The war was waged, the battle fought, and the victor declared. Sensing the tide of war was ebbing, the winds die down, the clouds depart, and the thunder is no where to be heard. The water surface has returned to its original glass like smooth surface without a ripple to be seen, and the crickets start to sing their songs. I lean back as far as I can without tipping the john boat, look up at the sky, and smile. There’s nothing better than father and son fishing.

Aaron Zeamer

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