Category Archives: Fishing Ramblings – My Fishing Blog

Random thoughts and musings about fishing

Jobs Jobs Everywhere

I get to travel all over Georgia and Alabama doing “research” for my Georgia and Alabama Outdoor News articles. Two things stand out from those trips. One I realized several years ago. Alabama lakes, in general, have better bass fishing than Georgia lakes.

There are a variety of reasons, from water fertility to current flow, that make this true.

The second thing has become obvious the last couple of months. Everywhere I go, “help wanted” and “now hiring” signs are posted on businesses from small communities to large cities. From grocery stores and fast food places to trucking and welding firms, there are a lot of jobs out there.

In my opinion, anyone that can work can find a job if they want one.

Mom’s Cooking

I miss my mother’s cooking. Mom was a great cook. She baked cakes and pies for sale during my pre-teen years, and I always got to help. She taught me to measure dry and wet ingredients and how to mix both by hand and with an electric mixer. One of my favorite things about making cakes was that I always got to lick the bowls and beaters. Mom was nice enough to turn off the mixer before I licked the beaters most of the time.

I think that early training is why I love to cook now. I even enjoy going grocery shopping, something else I did with her on our weekly shopping trips to Augusta. We delivered eggs to Winn Dixie and A&P stores and did our shopping at them. We didn’t have to buy a lot since our farm supplied so many of our needs.

We had 11,000 laying hens so eggs were very plentiful, and milk came directly from our cows. A huge garden in the summer provided all kinds of vegetables including corn, tomatoes, okra, peppers, potatoes, string and butter beans, peas, rutabagas, turnips, onions, collard greens and asparagus. Fruit trees and vines gave us figs, pears, apples and scuppernongs.

Big pecan trees in the yard gave us all the nuts we wanted and lots to sell, too. And for a special treat we would labor to pick the meat from walnuts from a tree on the edge of the field.

Mom and dad spent hours picking vegetables and fruit and mom cooked and canned all summer. We had a huge pantry filled with jars of everything the garden and fruit trees provided. More went into the freezer.

Every summer dad could tell the exact day we should pull the corn and we would get up early that morning and fill the bed of the pickup with ears of golden corn. Back at the house we would shuck and silk it and mom would put up bag after bag of cut corn. I usually got to cut it with a tool I slid the ear down and a blade cut it off in to piles in a big bowl.

We found that we could blanch whole ears of shucked and silted corn, wrap each ear in tin foil and freeze it. It was almost as good during the winter as it had been fresh. Dad would fire up his fish cooker, fill the pot with water and blanch dozens of ears at one time.

Mom could turn fresh and frozen food into fantastic meals. Nothing was real fancy. Almost all vegetables were cooked with fatback and meat was baked or fried. We always had a bunch of frozen hens from our layers that had layed out, and we raised pigs for pork. We even raised a few calves for meat.

During hunting season there was always dove, quail, squirrels and rabbits to supplement our meat. And we always had fish in the freezer. There were no deer back then in our area but most of the red meat I eat now is venison.

Although I love to cook and don’t really think of it as work, I found out how much work it can be last week. I decided to cook a turkey on my Primo grill and make dressing, giblet gravy and green bean casserole to go with it.

Holidays meant piles of food for a week. Not only did we have baked hen and dressing, there was always ham, sausage, meat balls and all kinds of vegetables. And when we went to family’s houses we carried lots of food and everyone there brought their favorites. I especially loved Aunt Zelma’s deviled eggs.

My turkey turned out just right and my dressing, although edible, was nothing like mom’s. I never seem to get enough giblet gravy, so I made a huge pot, buying extra gizzards and hearts to go in it since that makes the gravy to me.

The gravy turned out good although it was my first try. But, although I had boiled five eggs the night before and got out the egg slicer, I forgot to put them in. The gravy was even better the next night when I heated it back up, added some more broth and the eggs.

Although I cooked only four dishes it was a lot of work, and I really appreciate the work mom did to make a dozen different things, all turning out perfect and right on time.

I still want certain things together since that was the way it was growing up. With baked ham I want string beans and potato salad. A Boston Butt demands turnip greens, rutabaga, peas, cut corn, tomatoes and corn bread. BBQ chicken is like ham, with those side dishes. Chicken fried cube venison is eaten with mashed potatoes and English peas. And pepper, onion and tomato venison steaks go with fried cabbage, rice and corn bread.

Mom could fry great chicken, as does my mother-in-law Marv, but I gave up after a few attempts years ago. Mine never turns out right. Since we had fried chicken every Sunday I miss it but get my fill at bass club meetings at Bryans Buffet. Its not mom’s but its not bad.

With everything but baking mom just cooked without measuring ingredients. I can’t do that. I need a recipe to follow for most things but do usually wing it a little, adding something or leaving out something depending on past experiences.

Linda is a great cook but since I enjoy it and she does not I do most of the cooking at my house. We hardly every go out to eat since I like my own cooking too much. But fried scallops are my favorite seafood and both Sixth Street Pier and Fishtales have good ones, so that is where we go for a treat.

Tomorrow is a feast day for many of us. I hope you have your favorite foods, cooked by you and loved ones, and enjoy it and the fellowship during this special time of year.

Alligators

This gator knew to go to the boat ramp for a meal

In five days fishing Lake Eufaula, I saw no soft-shell turtles and only a couple of painted turtles. There is a good reason they are not as common there as they are at Hartwell. Another resident of the lake keeps the turtle population very low.

Alligators abound at Eufaula. During my trip, I seldom fished more than an hour without seeing one, especially when near the bank. Around shoreline grass and lily pads, as my boat eased up the bank, every few minutes a log-like body would glide toward deeper water.

Alligators and turtles have inhabited our waters since long before people were around and have adapted well to man-made waters. When we build in areas where they live, they become a problem, especially when folks feed them. They get used to hand-outs and get lazy and are no longer afraid of people.

Turtles, fish, birds and anything else that gets in the water can be food for gators. And they learn where to get easy food. A few years ago, while doing an article at Eufaula, we were fishing a point early in the morning where shad were spawning. Bass and other fish were feeding on them, as were the birds. And gators were everywhere. They were eating shad, bigger fish and birds.

At Lakepoint State Park where I stayed there are tournaments every weekend and even during the week. Many weigh-ins are held in the basin where the boat ramps are located. A few bass die in tournaments and the live ones as well as dead fish are usually “released” near the ramps.

A big gator has learned there is easy food there many mornings. I was fishing under the nearby bridge and a gator slowly sawm by me headed into the boat basin. I followed it on my trolling motor. It went straight to the corner of the basin where several dead bass were floating against the bank.

I watched from a few feet away as it eased up to one, opened its huge jaws and grabbed a dead fish. It then raised its head out of the water, chomping and swallowing the fish. That gator was at least ten feet long, half as long as my bass boat, and its head was a foot wide.

After eating a couple of dead fish it slowly swam back around and under the bridge. I am sure it has a place where boat traffic is lower than it is in the boat basin, so it can doze the day away without being disturbed.

Gators are ugly and scary. The first one I saw in the wild scared me. Kenneth Hattaway and I were fishing a Flint River Club tournament at Eufaula in March 1980 and fished back into a narrow slough up the river. A gator about eight feet long was sunning on the bank about half-way back.

As we fished by it we looked at it but it did not move and did not really bother me. But after we passed it I looked back and it had eased into the water, moved to the middle of the slough and floated there watching us. We were in a 15-foot bass boat and I got real nervous.

I told Kenneth we needed to go, and he agreed. We went by the spot where the gator had been on plane!

Another time while at Eufaula I had been watching gators for two days. My boat was in the water in the campground with the nose on the bank. My battery chargers were hooked up at the back of the boat. The battery compartment was right at the back and the lid opened forward.

I went down to unhook them before the tournament that morning in the dark. To unhook them I had to squat on the very back of the boat with part of me hanging over the water as I reached inside. As I did that, I kept remembering how silently gators moved in the water, and that they liked to feed in the dark.

It was the fastest I have ever unhooked my chargers!

Gators usually won’t bother you during the day unless you bother them, or if you get near their nest or young. And they are seldom seen near Griffin, rarely moving above the Fall Line.

What Are Soft Shell Turtles?

Forty or fifty years ago, it was rare to see soft shell turtles on our lakes. But for the past ten years or so I have been seeing more and more of them while fishing. Soft shell turtles are seldom seen out of the water, but they look very distinctive when near the surface.

Common painted turtles that we often see sunning on rocks and logs in the water have a dark shell and yellow markings. They are everywhere, and I see them so often I even named a cove at Clarks Hill “Turtle Cove” there were always so many in it.

Soft shell turtles, named Florida Softshell Turtles, are a different family from other more common turtles. They are much flatter and look brown in the water. Rather than the sharp beak-like nose of other turtles, softshells have a long hog-like nose. And they have very long necks and much bigger webbed feet.

Softshells spend most of their lives lying on shallow, muddy bottoms, blending in with the mud. They don’t move around much. Their long neck and snout allow them to stick their nose above the surface to breathe. Bigger ones can extend to the surface from more than a foot deep. They feed on fish that swim by, grabbing them in their mouth by shooting their neck out.

The first softshell I ever saw was one caught on a trotline at Clarks Hill back in the 1950s. We were camping at Germany Creek and someone else in the campground brought it in. It was as big as a #2 wash tub.

Back then folks put out a lot of hooks for catfish, and sometimes, but rarely, caught a softshell turtle. If one was caught it was cleaned and eaten, since softshells are much easier to clean than other turtles. I think that is the reason they were so rare back then. Few people run hooks for catfish now so a big threat to the turtles has been removed.

The biggest one I have ever seen, and the only one out of the water sunning they I ever saw, was lying on a log at Lake Hartwell. It was huge, at least three feet across its back. Most of the time they are very shy and spooky but this one let me get close enough to get a good look before splashing into the water.

This time of year, turtles, including softshells, crawl out of the water to lay their eggs in holes they dig on the bank. You are much more likely to see them in the shallows. At Hartwell last week, in one small sandy cove, I counted five of different sizes. The biggest was about two feet wide and the smallest about a foot across.

In the ten days I fished Hartwell I saw more than a dozen softshells. I am glad they entertained me since I didn’t see or catch many bass!

Conservation VS Preservation

If you spend much time on Facebook, you will see many videos of people rescuing animals. A recent one shows a couple in a boat picking a hawk out of the water with a paddle and easing it toward the bank where it flies off. Many show divers cutting ropes from turtles and even whales.

Several videos show people helping bucks that have gotten their antlers tangled together while fighting. One shows a man carefully cutting a small tree to free a big buck with his antlers wedged around it, probably from rubbing it in the fall.

What is it in us that makes people want to take care of animals? Most of us have that desire to help when we see injured animals. Although we may hunt the same animals and catch fish to eat, we want to do it when legal, and in a sporting manner.

Kids as well as adults have this desire, even more so. Growing up there were many times I found baby birds that had fallen from their nests, doomed to die on the ground. It took only a couple of times putting them back in the nest, only to find them dead on the ground later, to realize the mother bird would push them back out, rejecting them probably because of the human smell.

One time while cutting our field with a rotary mower I saw a rabbit run ahead of me. I stopped and looked in the grass and found her nest, with several small rabbits in it. I carefully marked it and made sure to cut around it, leaving a small island of refuge for them.

That fall we were hunting that same field and killed a couple of rabbits. I remember thinking they may have been some of the same ones I avoided killing with the mower the past spring. But I felt no guilt killing, cleaning and eating them. That is the way of nature, predators killing and eating prey. But it is only human compassion that makes us want to protect the same animals at other times.

Dearing Branch on our property had some small bream and catfish in it. During dry summers it would dry up, being reduced to a few deep pools where all the fish went for refuge from the receding water. Many times, we would get the fish out of those pools, carry them to the house and put them in wash tubs with hoses keeping them full of water.

A few times we were able to keep some of them alive until the branch filled from rains. We would then take the survivors back to the branch and release them. But when the branch was full we would fish for them and eat any we caught.

The same attitude about protecting the resource is common among hunters and fishermen. We are the real conservationists. We believe in using our resources while protecting it. Taking some fish and game to eat does not harm the population.

Some “tree huggers’” the folks that want to totally protect everything in the environment without any human interference or change, never learned the ways of nature. They demand we leave deer alone and not hunt them. But that does not work.

There are almost no deer predators, other than humans, left in nature. Many examples, like Red Top
Mountain State Park on Lake Allatoona, show the facility of that approach. Deer got so overpopulated at Red Top Mountain that they ate all available food. Even the bark was stripped from young trees as high as the deer could reach.

Deer there were starving to death. Some do-gooders wanted to feed them. Others suggested giving them birth control to control he overpopulation. But the Department of Natural Resources realized the cost and inefficiency of both of those approaches, so they opened the park to archery hunting.

Within a few years the problem was solved, at no cost. Not only did hunters take enough deer legally to reduce the population to sustainable levels, they got food for their families. That is a much better solution for deer and people than the other silly suggestions.

Also on Facebook, you will see condemnation of trophy hunters that go to Africa to take game. The do-gooders want those hunters stopped, even suggesting killing them. The taking of Cecil the Lion is a good example. They are out of touch with reality.

Those hunters are strictly controlled, taking only specified animals. They spend a lot of money, often hundreds of thousands of dollars, for their trip. That money goes to local governments and much of it is used to control poachers, local folks that kill animals for monetary gain, with no though to long term effects. They often decimate animal populations to dangerously low levels.

Not only do local governments use money from hunters to protect animal populations, any animals killed are eaten by local people, feeding them. And the money hunters spend on local supplies help those same people.

In tournaments strict rules protect bass. Any fisherman bringing in a dead bass is penalized and catch and release is almost a religion among bass fishermen. After a tournament, bass weighed in are released back into the lake, with big tournaments going to the trouble of using boats with holding tanks to release fish all over the lake rather than concentrating them in one area.

Hunters and fishermen want to protect but use resources. Our license fees go to state agencies that are tasked with that goal. And money spent on fishing and hunting supplies have a special tax that is used for protecting resources.

Don’t condemn us. Join us in helping the natural environment while enjoying the products of it.

Planting A Garden

Did you plant tomatoes of Good Friday as tradition says you should? Are they still alive?

Growing up, we always planted a garden, a big one, supplying our family with most vegetables for the year. Mom canned or froze everything possible from it, so we ate good food year round. And she could cook anything and make it taste very good.

I usually hated working in the garden, wanting to be fishing or running wild in the woods in the spring when we had to plant and during the summer during harvest time. But I surely did like eating the products of our labor.

After my brother and I got married and moved away from home mom and dad continued the big garden and we helped a little when we could be there. Every visit home meant carrying frozen and canned goods back with us to eat until our next trip.

When I bought my house in Pike County with enough land for a garden, I tried to have my own. My lot was nothing but trees, so I cut and cleared about a half-acre of it behind the house. I will never forget dad visiting soon after I got it cleared and tilled, and he commented that it looked like good dirt.

That first spring I planted squash, tomatoes, corn, butterbeans, cucumbers and several other things. I got more squash than I could eat but, as the corn and butterbeans grew, we had a dry early summer and I found my well would not supply enough water to keep then alive.

Watching things I had worked so hard to plant and weed wilt and die was terrible. So I gave up.

After a few years I decided I had to have fresh tomatoes, so I crawled under the house, cut the shower drain and ran a pipe out from under the house to a small patch I had tilled. In it I planted eight tomato plants and four bell pepper plants.

Every time we took a shower the water drained out to the plants and kept them watered. It worked great for several years then the plants started dyeing way too early. I realized I had to move the plot every few years so did that, and it worked until I ran out of places the drain pipe would reach.

A few years ago, I dug a hole at the end of the drain pipe and buried a 55 gallon drum without a bottom or top. I put a sump pump in it so when the shower drains into the can it pumps the water anywhere
I want it around the back yard. That works well and I can move my tiny tomato and pepper garden around without running out of space.

I often wait too late to plant. Growing up we always planted on time and had fresh tomatoes by
July 4th. Procrastination this year could be a good thing. Hopefully sometimes in July this year I will be eating tomato sandwiches from just picked tomatoes. Nothing is better!

Losing Patrick F. McManus

Voices from the River: Losing Patrick F. McManus
By Chris Hunt
from The Fishing Wire

Years ago, after being abruptly transplanted from the high-mountain meadows of Colorado to the hot, sticky pine forest of East Texas, I found solace in the loss of my Rocky Mountain roots in the writings of men like Bob Saile, Ed Dentry and Charlie Meyers.

And I found the spirit to laugh about my predicament—for a Colorado kid, being transported largely against his will to Texas amounts to a premature death sentence—in the words of Patrick F. McManus. There were nights, early in my Texas furlough, that I giggled through tears at the books McManus shared with the world. I read them under the covers, of course, by flashlight until the D-size batteries faded and sleep followed soon after.

Sadly, McManus died Thursday at 84.

His vivid descriptions of fishing and hunting with the characters that influenced his own upbringing in rural northern Idaho inspired me to adapt to my newfound home and make the best of it. While I didn’t have friends named Crazy Eddie, Rancid or Retch, or a sister he called the Troll, I eventually collected enough buddies an annoying little brothers to stir up enough mischief in the Sabine River bottoms to while away sticky summer days in a state my mother would have been horrified to see in person.

Pat McManus was my inspiration. In fact, he may be why I gravitated to journalism after high school and college, and why that journalism took on a serious outdoor-writing bent shortly after that.

I know I’m not alone in my adoration for the words produced by the outdoor humorist. To this day, I occasionally find myself using phrases from his books and back-page columns in Outdoor Life in conversation and giggling all over again. From his books ranging from They Shoot Canoes, Don’t They? to A Fine and Pleasant Misery (My favorite was The Night the Bear Ate Goombaw. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard), he provided a source of outdoor artistry that motivated me and many others to get outside, uncover the mysteries of the outdoors and experience life away from the television. He was, in a sense, the Mark Twain of his generation, an unassuming, gifted writer who found humor behind every tree and under every rock. We should all be so lucky.

I’ve handed his books down to my own kids, but, sadly, their magic seems to have faded a bit in the face of hand-held screens and an ever-running series of Ridiculousness videos that keep young minds sadly captivated and entranced. My daughter read his books voraciously as a youngster. My son never caught the bug.

His death has inspired me yet again—I’ll try once more to gently push his words on Cameron and see if, by chance, he’s ready to let them stick. McManus’ stories are often silly and slapstick, but from his writings about his days spent as a near-vagrant youth following tracks into the woods to his later descriptions of fatherhood and family, he has provided generations of outdoors people with true joy. I hope my son can experience that, too.

Rest in peace, Pat. Thank you for leaving behind so much inspiration. Your words have made my world better, and I know I’m not alone.

Chris Hunt is the national digital director for Trout Media. He lives and works in Idaho Falls.

McManus was one of my favorite outdoor writers. Ronnie

Some Cold Weather Fishing Memories

Some Cold Weather Fishing Memories

For some reason, the song “Baby Its Cold Outside” kept going through my head last week. Putting a heat lamp on my well and my outboard motor lower unit is a common winter job, but it seems I haven’t had to do it for a few years. As always, weather changes from year to year.

Over the years I have had some interesting, experiences in the cold, some fun, others not so much. I seem to remember many very cold winters in my preteen years, but memories are often fallible. But some of the times outdoors over the years stand out.

Dearing Branch ran near our property line through the woods and under a culvert at Iron Hill Road. Where the pipe dumped water on the downstream side of the road there was the biggest hole in the area, about ten feet in diameter. The water was a few feet deep and we caught a lot of small fish there in the summer.

Most of the winters back then were cold enough that the surface of that hole froze solid. I learned to “ice skate” on that ice, sliding and falling across it. More than one time we broke through and had a cold run the quarter mile back to the house in wet pants and boots.

The ice was usually a couple inches thick. Luckily the hole was not deep enough to really be dangerous. If we broke through the ice it would wet us only about thigh deep at worst, and there was no danger of getting trapped under the ice as can happen on bigger waters. But mama fussed a lot, anyway.

Later, after I started bass fishing in the winter, I found out how important good clothes can be. I think I was one of the first people in Georgia to ever own a snowmobile suit and boots. But even with suitable cold weather clothes, there were a few times nothing I had was enough.

One Christmas Linda and I were staying in our little camper beside my parent’s mobile home at Raysville Boat Club. We had an electric heater running and we were comfortable in the bed. During the night our dog Merlin jumped up off her usual place under the bed and got into bed with us, a very unusual happening. She never jumped into the bed.

The next morning we found the reason. Her water bowl on the floor was frozen solid. The little heater produced enough heat to keep it bearable a couple feet above the floor, but on the floor, it was freezing.

That morning the thermometer on the porch showed five degrees, and the wind was blowing hard. I tried to go out fishing anyway. After putting the boat in the water I idled out of the cove and started hitting waves. The splash from the waves hitting the boat froze before they hit me, forming sleet between the boat edge and my snowmobile suit, hit it and fell off.

I turned the boat and went back to the ramp! No fishing that day.

Bass will bite even when it is extremely cold. One Sportsman Club tournament proved that. When I went through town on the way to Sinclair, the First National Bank thermometer read 11 degrees. We had problems at the ramp, when a boat was launched the water running off the trailer as it was pulled up the ramp froze

It was a scary feeling backing down the ramp and feeling your truck slide toward the water. As soon as the back tires got to the water the ice ended and the truck would stop. But trying to go back up the icy ramp was trouble. You had to spin your tires and basically melt the ice as you went up the hill.

We didn’t catch a lot of fish, but I managed to win with seven keepers by fishing a crankbait so slow it barely moved. And every cast we had to dip our rods into the water to melt the ice in the guides. On the way home that afternoon the bank thermometer read 17 degrees, the high for the day.

My pond has frozen over several times in past years but not recently. I caught my only “ice fishing” fish one year by knocking a hole in the ice at the end of the dock and dropping a bait through it. The small bream that I landed was enough to say I caught one, so I left.

Skipping a rock across a frozen pond makes an interesting sound. I found that out years ago when I threw one out to see if it would break through the ice. It didn’t but as it skittered over the ice it made a strange ringing sound. Several more proved it was the norm. I have seen videos on Facebook that showed the same sound.

Newer boat motors crank fairly well in cold weather, but old ones used to be very hard to start. But a worse problem is frozen steering cables. At more than one tournament we have launched boats, got the motor cranked only to find they could not be steered. Several tournaments have been won by people forced to fish around the ramp using their trolling motor because of that problem.

I got a scare a few years ago at a tournament at Jackson. It had been very cold, but my motor cranked. As I ran up the lake right at daylight suddenly a loud crunching sound made me think my motor had blown up. I stopped but the motor seemed to idle fine. Then I looked around and realized there was a sheet of quarter inch ice all the way across the lake. The sound was my boat acting as an ice breaker.

I hope I don’t make any more extremely cold memories this winter!

Have You Ever Been On A Snipe Hunt?

If you grew up like I did in rural Georgia, you may have been invited to a snipe hunt. You had to go at night and one person, you, got to hold the sack while your “friends” drove the snipe into the sack. Of course, they left you “holding the bag” out in the dark while they went home.

There really are snipe around here. They live in wet area and probe the mud for worms with their long bills. When spooked they make a strange squawk and take off in irregular, darting side to side flight.

When young I was very curious about them and other birds. Like James J. Audubon, I wanted to examine them up close, so I shot them when I could. Over the years I shot everything from field larks and starlings to killdeers. If they were not good to eat, I killed one to examine and was satisfied.

One bird that was very elusive was a brown one that lived in a marshy area on our farm. I would see them every year but could not get very close, and when I did get into range I could not hit them with my trusty .410 when they flew.

I finally killed one. It was brown with a long, thin bill and I found out in my Encyclopedia Britannica, my google back then, that it was a snipe. I discovered they were related to woodcock, hard to shoot as I knew from experience, and good to eat. But that was the only one I ever killed.

Tomorrow is the last day of woodcock season in Georgia. Woodcock are popular upland game birds further north but here they are mostly limited to the north Georgia mountains. Some folks do hunt them in Georgia and they are good to eat. I think woodcock and snipe are considered the same for the season since they are closely related. And you need a shotgun and dog, not a sack, to get them!

Fishing and Hunting Traditions

Fishing and hunting have always had traditions that have been passed down generation to generation. Many of those traditions are threatened by a huge variety of forces. Will any of them survive?

In 1974 Jim Berry got me in the Spalding County
Sportsman Club and I fished my first bass tournament with him that April. Although I had never been competitive in anything, I fell in love with tournament fishing and am still fanatical about club tournaments 43 years later.

I did not play any sports in high school, never was much for games of any kind and liked solitary, contemplative activities like hunting and fishing. But something about bass tournaments changed that and made me want to compete in what had always been a different kind of recreation.

Bass tournament have grown to a huge business over the past 40 years. Top pros win millions of dollars over their careers and appear on TV and in advertising like any other pro sports figure. They are looked up to by many youth as role models.

As much as I love tournaments, I fear we have lost something. Fishing has become a media spectacle with live coverage of tournaments, interviews with pros, some of whom are cocky and showy, and way too much glorification of their skills.

Growing up I sculled wooden jon boats for my uncles, paddling quietly so they could cast their lures in farm ponds. Those were learning times for me, with quiet conversations discussing everything from fishing methods to the mysteries of life. Catching fish was fun and I loved it when I got a turn to fish, but it was about so much more.

Now bass fishing consists of screaming around a lake in a bass boat, often at 70 plus miles per hour, working hard to get a bite rather than relaxing, and showing off with everything from fist pumps to dancing around on the boat, often with exclamations that would make you think catching a bass was the same as scoring a touchdown.

It takes skill to catch bass consistently and there is no doubt good fishermen are skillful. But to listen to some fishermen when they catch a fish you would think they have achieved some great victory. It is like they overcame some huge handicap to do something no one else could do.

Tournament fishing did change something else. In the past most fish caught were eaten. Catch and release has become a religion for many bass fishermen, with anyone keeping bass to eat condemned. But some of this religion only extends to show.

One tournament trail bans nets for several reasons but one often used is that netting a bass harms it, removing the protective slime on their bodies and lowering their chances of survival when released. But in those same tournaments fishermen are shown “boat flipping” bass they hooked.

Boat flipping is getting a bass near the boat and pulling it out of the water with heavy tackle. The bass flies through the air, slams into the carpet in the bottom of the boat and thrashes around until the fisherman can pick up.

There is no way that does less damage to the fish than a net.

Most tournaments have become about money and fame. That is why I like club fishing. So far, my clubs don’t make it about money, although some want to raise entry fees and turn it in that direction, with higher payouts. There are some bragging rights in doing well in those tournaments but most of it is low key with few show-offs.

The Federation Top Six tournaments have moved in the wrong way in my opinion. When I started fishing them in 1979 there was competition, mainly for the right to move up to the regional tournament but some between clubs for bragging rights, not individual glory. At the first regional I fished with the state team in 1983 the 12 of us worked together, sharing information every night and trying to help everyone do good and finish high as a team. Our team won.

The last one I fished in 2010 it was everyone for himself, with little information sharing on the team. It was so bad that one night when I told the team of a small pattern I thought I had found another team member told me I could not fish those places, those were his fish. Our “team” finished near the bottom.

In the past you fished with someone from another club and shared the places fished during the day, with each of you having half a day to run the trolling motor. You had to qualify for the Top Six by doing well in your club the year before.

I fished the Federation Nation Top Six at Lanier this past week, after this was written. Now, with that Federation, clubs still send teams but others can “buy” in, paying to enter the tournament even if you didn’t make the club team. It a pro/am format, with the boater having control of the boat all day. Entry fees have gone up and it has become more cut-throat.

If it went the way I am afraid it will go, it will be the last one I fish.

I will continue to fish club tournaments as long as I am able. Maybe its my age, I am not keeping up with the times, but I hope I never see the changes locally I am seeing at the state level and up.

Something about fishing has been lost. There is nothing wrong with tournaments, but sometimes I miss sitting in the back of the boat, sculling for an adult while they fished and shared their life experiences and knowledge with me.