The Zara Spook landed quietly under and just past the docks’ walkway. It was as good of a presentation as I have ever made, and I grinned as I put the reel in gear and commenced “walkin’ the dog”, the retrieve method attributed to lures of this type.
The “swish, swish, swish” of the bait in its walking cadence brought it out from under the walkway, but the trip was cut short; a six-pound largemouth bass decided it didn’t care much for my perfectly-placed bait nor my textbook retrieve. The vengeance was clear- the bass had murder on its mind as it parted the surface of the lake to inhale my topwater lure. The strike seemed deafening on this calm, early May morning.
I’m a little weird. Okay, maybe a LOT weird. Let’s just get that out in front, plain and simple. In my defense, a lot of fishermen who make the pursuit of the black bass their prime consideration are a little bit weird. It comes with the territory.
I own a very small restaurant in an even smaller town in central Missouri. A mere dot on the map. We have the normal run of mostly country folks who come in for a bite to eat, and maybe set around our “Liars Table” to share the local news, gossip, and maybe BS (we call it “blowin’ smoke”). There are also a few fishermen here, mostly catfish and crappie guys, and spoonbillers when in season (paddlefish are a big deal in Missouri, want to talk about WEIRD).
And they don’t get me. At all.
First off, they see pictures of the bass I’ve caught, and released. This is rural America, with simple folk and simple ways (and I’m braggin’ here- we LIKE it simple). Releasing a fish back to the water is an unheard-of process making no sense to many of my customers, some of who were raised as poor as can be, many from the Depression Era. People just don’t release a fish that can be made into a meal. To them it’s just WEIRD.
“Besides,” they say, “why fish for bass anyway, they’re no good eatin’, everybody knows this.” See what I’m up against, first they get on me for turning a bass loose, then they’re saying they can’t be eaten anyway. But I digress. It’s just what I’m up against.
So, I try to explain to them. I try to make them understand. And I try to put it in a nutshell even simple folks like them (okay, so that WAS a dig) can understand.
I tell them it’s all about the Ka-BOOSH!
Like the big bass destroying my Zara Spook on the perfect Spring morning mentioned earlier. Crappie don’t do that. And a catfish does it so rarely some folks never catch one with topwater baits. No other fish provides the excitement a bass does. The anticipation of those strikes makes the day worthwhile, even if sometimes they don’t come. A crappie inhaling a jig is fun, no doubt, but there’s never going to be the excitement of the Ka-BOOSH! to go with it.
And it’s not just about the explosive surface strikes, although it’s most definitely my preferred way to start a bass fishing day. Bass fishing is chock-full of a variety of methods and tactics to keep things interesting. Bass can be taken on a huge variety of different lures and from different depths. It’s almost mind boggling. Anglers can catch a bass from under a walkway on a topwater plug, throw a jig under the dock the walkway is attached to, then toss a spinnerbait down the bank as they work out of the cove to the main lake point, where now there is a choice of tossing a plastic worm, or maybe a crankbait (or maybe even the Zara Spook again, Ka-BOOSH!).
Speaking of a plastic worm, anglers can throw it as a Texas Rig or a Carolina Rig; we can Split Shot it, Drop Shot it, Wacky Rig it, maybe put it on a Shaky Head. We also have the choice to pitch it, flip it, or punch it. My gosh the possibilities are endless. Meanwhile the crappie fisherman just drowned another minnow and the only “punching” a crappie fisherman does is when two boats try to share the same cedar tree, and things get a little close.
Bass fishing gives us so many options and tactics to catch our quarry. It is mind boggling. And a bass bite, the topwater deal non-withstanding, is a big deal. Sometimes they CRUSH the spinnerbait, crankbait or jig. Sometimes the bite is so subtle, the act of feeling it and dealing with it becomes almost a work of art. There’s little boredom when the bass are biting. And even when they’re not, the many methods we use to catch them helps ease the pain of those long and strike-less stretches.
And another thing, bass are one of the few fish I believe, we can actually MAKE bite a lure on a fairly consistent basis. It’s in their DNA. Call it anger, protectiveness, a territorial response, whatever; a bass can be provoked into biting. Not so much with the catfish, crappie or a tasty walleye.
Bass fishing is just a lot of fun–period.
Wait a minute, where’s everyone going? The coffee table crowd at the restaurant is leaving before I’ve started my dissertation of vertically jigging a spoon in fifty feet of water…
Oh well. I’m always gonna go back to the point. No crappie ever bit a jig with a Ka-BOOSH!, slugged it out in the lily pads, jumped in the air with its gills a-rattlin’, and broke twenty-pound test line when it got wrapped up around an old stump. It just ain’t happening.
All About the Dream,