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Thursday, February 4, 2010

JJ: Bassing

My family probably started bass fishing before they moved to Montana, as the South has a plentiful supply of Largemouth. Some of my earliest memories were of Grampa Streit and Uncle Bill and the strings of bass they brought home from the slough. Uncle Rudy selected my first fishing pole, a Shakespeare spin-cast rig. Actually he got me my second rod too, after I snapped the first one off in the car door a couple of days after I got it. Mom paid for them but had Rudy buy them. Rudy was an avid fisherman, and for many years towed an old Herter's fiberglass boat with an Evinrude 18hp outboard around the valley. He used that boat till the day it shifted on the trailer and the tire wore a hole in it, then upgraded to a newer aluminum boat. The bass in the slough spawned in the ponds -- potholes -- on Louden's island, and would congregate just off the entrances in the spring waiting for the water to get high enough for them to swim into the spawning grounds. Rudy discovered that trolling a small fluorescent orange spoon was the best method for catching them then, and Mom and Aunt Minnie and I followed his lead. We caught a lot of bass. A little later in the spring, I used to love fishing for them with a topwater plug called a popper. Cast it out, let it sit for a couple of minutes, then twitch it. When the ripples died out, reel it in a bit and twitch it again. Repeat, till the lure was back at the boat or a fish struck it. When a bass would hit the plug it would go airborn instantly, and continue to jump and fight till it was in the boat. Sometimes they wouldn't bite the lure, but would bat it with their tails. In either case, it gave me an instant adrenaline hit that I never got from trolling or fishing other lures. After the spawning season I used to go out in the evening and putt along in the boat parallel to the shore and cast a plug in. Once in a while I would misjudge the distance and the lure would go over a limb, and once in a while a bass would see the lure danging in the air and come clear out of the water to grab it. I rarely landed one that struck that way, but I had a lot of fun trying. The bass used to lay in the shadowed water under those low limbs waiting for prey, and I suspect they got more than one bird that way. When the water was at its warmest, the bass would congregate in the entrance to the slough, taking advantage of the colder river water there. They were extremely shy then, and it took real sneaking/stalking to get up close enough to drop a lure in without spooking them away. Rudy often used a rubber worm in the weeds when the water was low and warm, but I never had much luck with that method of fishing. In late grade school and through the high school years I spent every available minute out on the slough. The flood of 1964 ended the great bass fishing for quite some time, and work and the military kept me off the water for a number of years. By the time the bass population recovered I'd lost interest in fishing. TBC (Me)