Category Archives: Fishing Ramblings – My Fishing Blog

Random thoughts and musings about fishing

Making Bows and Arrows and Stone Axes

Bows and arrows fascinated me when I was growing up. We searched woods and fields for arrowheads and were constantly on the look-out for any rock that resembled one. Most of what we found were just random pieces of rock somewhat arrowhead shaped but we were sure we had found something once used to take down game.

At six years old I really did not understand differences between kinds of rocks. Our farm had a lot of soft sandstone, a good bit of granite from chunk to boulder size, and a few flint rocks.

The sandstone would break easily and there were all kinds of shapes of stones. I now know it is easy to shape but too soft to be of much use for anything but crushing softer stuff. But we thought arrowheads could be made of that reddish rock.

It was easy to shape it by breaking off small pieces and even by rubbing it on the granite boulders. It did not flake, it just came apart as small pieces and sandy residue. And an ax head made from it would break as soon as you hit a tree with it.

Looking back its funny, but we tried to make stone axes by shaping rocks with the blunt end of our steel hatchets. Talk about going backwards! And getting a stone chunk to stay on any kind of handle was a joke. We tried the way we had seen in pictures, splitting a stick handle, putting the stone between in the split then lashing it into place with baling twine.

Little did we know you needed something much tighter than that twine could be tied. If lashed on with leather strips then soaked in water, the leather shrank as it dried and got very tight. With our home made stone axes the head often flew off the handle before the head could hit the tree and crumble.

We did make some realistic looking arrowheads from the sandstone but did not realize they would have been useless. No matter how carefully we worked the edges could never be sharp. Flint flakes into sharp edges when chipped, sandstone merely gets rounded on the edges. But we had fun making our axes and arrowheads.

Bows and arrows were interesting, too. We thought any bent stick with a string on each end would suffice but, if the stick did not break when bent back, it had no strength to spring back to propel an arrow. And baling twine was probably not the best bow string.

Any somewhat straight stick could be an arrow, but they never worked. We did not know about wetting and heating sticks and straightening them. We just used them how they grew, and sweetgum, the most common type tree on our farm, is useless for bows and arrows.

Trips to the north Georgia mountains on summer vacation introduced me to blowguns, something Cherokees used for hunting small game. The ones we bought at tourist traps were about three feet long and came with a couple of rubber tipped darts. They never worked well, having a range of just a few feet.

We tried to make them, too, with pieces of cane that grew along Dearing Branch. It did not take long to give up trying to hollow them out by boring through each joint. If daddy had made me work as hard on the farm as I did working on blowguns I would not have liked it. But again, it was fun trying to make them.

I sometimes wonder if kids have any experiences like those I had growing up. I hope so.

Getting Bait

Getting bait was always fun but sometimes we tried weird baits. Like all good fishermen, if we heard the fish were biting something we had to try it. That is why there are such huge selections of colors and types of plugs and worms at Berry’s Sporting Goods!

One time this desire to use anything we were told fish were biting taught me a lesson. Uncle Slaton and his family was visiting from Texas and we were all camping at Clarks Hill. As usual, we fished for bass, bream or crappie during the day and ran trotlines at night for catfish.

One afternoon Uncle Slaton came back to the camp from fishing and pulled out a nice catfish. He said he was fishing in a cove and found a trotline. The catfish was on it and since the line had not been checked all day he took the fish.

More important, he held up a half of a black plastic worm. He said it was on the hook the catfish was on and the rest of the line was baited with other pieces of black worms.

We immediately pulled out all our black plastic worms and started cutting them up. That night we baited all our trotlines with them. The next morning we didn’t have a fish on our lines.

I do not know how Uncle Slaton smothered his laughs. He later told us he played a trick on us, there were no plastic worms on any of the hooks where he found the catfish.

We had to go to the store and buy more black worms for our bass fishing.

One time I heard catfish would bite little chunks of Ivory Soap. That sounded like a nice clean bait to use rather than the stinky chicken guts we usually used. You washed your hands every time you baited a hook.

We cut bars of soap into half inch squares and baited a bunch of hooks – one time. We did not catch a fish. I may be slow but after one night I gave up on black plastic worms and Ivory Soap on trotlines!

Spottail minnows are one of the best baits for many game fish, no joke. Guides on Lanier and other lakes bait up places with rice to draw them in and either set out traps for them or catch them in a cast net. Spotted bass love them.

The biggest spottails I have ever seen were less than three inches long, a good size for most game fish. Last weekend Jack “Zero” Ridgeway called me about them. He had been fishing from a dock at West Point lake and had caught some spottails six inches long. He sent me a picture of one of them.

Neither of us had ever heard of spottails that big, and that would bite a bait so you could catch them on a hook. I looked them up and found out that spottails are a type of shiner minnow and their average size is two to three inches, but they can grow up to six inches long. They range from Canada as far south as the Chattahoochee River drainage in Georgia. Since West Point is on the Chattahoochee River that fits right in.

Building Tree Houses – Growing Up Wild In Georgia

Do kids still build tree houses? That was always a favorite summer activity of mine. From the one in the pecan tree in my front yard to the ones we built down in the woods, they ranged from simple platforms ten feet high to complex ones so far up we put side boards on it to keep from falling out.

The house I grew up in had five pecan trees. There was a huge one in from of the house, another big one to one side and a third in the edge of the field past mama’s flower bed. There were two more smaller trees right beside the ditch on Iron Hill Road to the same side as the flower bed.

One of those smaller trees had a big limb about ten feet from the ground that was perfect for the base of a tree house. Boards nailed to the tree trunk provided a ladder for access. Then two by fours nailed to the limb made the base, with braces going back to the trunk below them.

I rebuilt that one several times over my youth as the boards rotted and became unsafe. I spent many summer days sitting in it, cooled by any breeze that filtered through the limbs and shaded by the leaves above me. I felt completely hidden from the world watching the occasional car or truck that passed just a few feet away. And although mama knew where I was, I could not see the house from my platform.

Taking sandwiches and a drink up in the tree to eat made many summer lunches pass quickly. In the fall there were always pecans on the platform for a snack. One special place was a limb knot hole right beside the platform where I often found pecan hulls where a blue jay or wood pecker had stuck a nut in the small hole and used it as a vice to hold its lunch as it pecked away the shell and ate the meat.

The highest tree house we ever built was in a huge pine tree behind Harold’s house. My memory tells me it was way too high but it was probably no more than 30 feet from the ground, still scary enough for a 12-year-old. It was hard work hauling the boards up that high, either pulling them up with a rope or passing them hand over hand between Harold, Hal and me while we perched with one leg hooked over a limb.

The platform on this one was probably 10 feet square, sitting on a big limb parallel to the ground. Another limb below that one that ran up at more of an angle provided a great place for supports so we could build it bigger. It was cross braced and around the edges we had nailed one by eights to provide a small lip.

We actually slept up there in our sleeping bags one time but near the base of it was our camp. We made prefab walls and a roof and struggled to get them the couple of hundred yards to the site. The three sided shed was a great place to store wood for a dry fire starter and some tools we used every time we camped there.

A rock fire pit with a homemade spit, made from two forked limbs and a cross piece with the bark stripped, was used for roasting squirrels and birds. We cooked breakfast in our mess kits on that fire and also put our “camp dinners” on it. Those were the big patty of ground beef topped by potatoes, onions, carrots and butter wrapped in tinfoil.

Other tree houses ranged from not much bigger than what I now put up for a deer stand to platforms we could lay one and stretch out. We never had anything like the fancy prefab “tree” houses on posts you see in yards nowadays. They are often nowhere near a tree, usually put up by the parents, and very complex.

I can’t help but believe kids are missing something by building their own houses down in the woods, all by themselves, with no adult supervision or help, like we did.

Damming Dearing Branch

Damming Dearing Branch was always a favorite summer activity when I was growing up. The branch entered our farm in the woods that ran along the edge of our big hay field. It came under a fence at the adjoining property line and left the other side of our land, running under another fence and going into a culvert under Iron Hill Road.

The woods were about a quarter mile wide from our field to the pasture on the other side at Rodgers’ Dairy. Right where it first hit our woods it was about eight feet wide and the area around it was flat and sandy. In other sections it had cut deep and was only three or four feet wide with two feet of water in that ditch area. The sandy area was only a few inches deep unless there had been a big rain.

About 20 yards past the fence on the upper end two big trees squeezed the water into a narrow gap three feet wide. We wanted our own private swimming hole and those two trees made a perfect place for a dam.

The first time we tried we quickly found that no matter how fast we shoveled sand between the trees it just washed away with the current. I don’t know where we got the idea for sand bags, probably from reading books, but we got croaker feed sacks from the barn and filled them with sand. That worked.

We would dig sand from the bottom of the shallow area to fill the sacks and struggle to drag them to the trees. As the water rose at the gap between the trees it would start running around either side so we extended the dam out to the sides.

Our best effort was one summer when we got an old cross tie and drug it across the field and through the woods to the dam site. It took all the strength three 12-year-olds could muster but we got it there and in place. It made a great base. We then started digging sand and filling sacks.

That summer we had a pool almost four feet deep, coming about chest high on us. We could almost swim in our 20-foot-wide, 20-foot-long private pool. Since it was down in the woods we didn’t bother with bathing suites, we just wore what we were born with. Skinny dipping was so exhilarating!

Every summer our dams would wash away with the first big rain and we learned a lesson about the power of moving water. But the cross tie was such a good base it held up for a couple of months. After a very big rain it, too, washed enough to turn the cross tie sideways, moving it from the trees and destroyed out pool. But that was a memorable summer.

It took a tremendous amount of effort to make the dams. Dragging the cross tie was the worst, but just filling bags with shovels and moving them a few feet was strenuous work. If our parents had made us work that hard we probably would have been upset but our own effort was fun and worth it. That was another lesson learned, if you wanted to do something no amount of effort was really “work.”

Rose of Sharon

My mother loved flowers. Although daddy thought planting anything you could not eat was a waste of time, he made sure she had a nice flower bed that ran between our side yard and the field on the other side. It was about 200 feet long and ten feet wide and contained a huge variety of flowers, including annuals and perennials.

There were also a few blooming bushes, like the Rose of Sharon that grew right at the end of the bed closest to the house. This was her favorite and she thought it was a biblical flower. But it was really a Hibiscus syriacus, a deciduous flowering shrub native to east Asia.

I always wanted one in my yard and thanks to my mother-in-law I do. There is a big one at her house and she gave me one of the sprouts that grew up around it. I planted it near my woodshed but it had a rough life.

A big limb fell and broke it to the ground the third year it grew. But it recovered and was about six feet high when a fire in my woodshed killed the trees around it and, when they were cut down, it was again broken to the ground. But it recovered again and is now about ten feet tall and covered with blooms.

For years I had daddy’s attitude and planted only edible things. But then some of my mama came out and I started planting some flowers. I was never real serious about it, planting marigolds around my tomatoes and some impatiens in a shady bed near my carport, but I did try to have a bed similar to mama’s.

I have always liked wild flowers or flowers growing wild in ditches and old home places. When I worked as transportation director and rode all the back roads of Pike County checking bus routes I kept a shovel and bucket in my truck. If I saw a flower in the ditch I would often stop and dig it up and take it home.

I made a long, narrow bed across my back yard between the woods and yard, something like my mother had where I grew up. It contained several kinds of daffodils, many tiger lilies, another of my favorites, and one of my favorites growing up, butterfly bushes.

Mom never had butterfly bushes but they grew in ditches around my house. I’m still not sure what they are, and they may just be weeds, but some nurseries sell them. They are small and have bright orange feathery flowers. I found several to bring home.

Tiger lilies, or what we called wild lilies, grew everywhere and I had a bunch of them. These bright orange striped flowering plants can be grown from the roots or from seed and they make a great border plant.

A rare flower I saw in the woods sometimes is a pretty, white cup-shaped flower on short stem. The one flower on a plant stands out under trees. I found out they are wood anemones. I tried bringing a few home, but they are hard to find and do not transplant well, so I never had much success with them.

One plant I had way too much success with and should never be planted in your yard is wisteria. I planted a small piece of root by an eight-inch-thick oak tree by my woodshed and another in the edge of the yard. I let the one by the wood shed grow up the tree and kept the one in the yard trimmed, trying to make it umbrella shaped, with hanging bloom clusters.

Both were a big mistake. Within a few years the vine growing up the oak tree was thicker than the tree and all the trees around it were covered in vines from the roots spreading from the original. The one in the edge of the yard spread with roots just under the ground everywhere and I have to cut them away from my garage and yard light pole. They got so thick on the pole they covered the light until you could hardly tell when it came on. And it almost killed the fig bush daddy brought me to plant by the garage.

Although the grape like clusters of lavender to purple flowers are pretty, I wish I had never brought this one home!

Daffodils are pretty and easy to transplant and grow. They line the edge of my flower bed and start blooming before anything else. They are often the only color in late February when everything else is drab browns and grays. The splash of yellow reminds me spring and good fishing is close.

Daddy did like his fresh fruit. We had a huge fig bush by the side door and he planted peach, apple, pear and Japanese Persimmon. And one of my favorites was the overhead scuppernong arbor. I loved standing in the shade under it and reaching up to pick the golden fruit.

Somewhere I tasted Niagara Grapes. You cannot buy them in the store, they do not ship well, but they are delicious. I made trellises around my back yard and planted three Niagara and three Concord grape vines. Home grown Concord grapes taste better than any you can buy, like most anything else you grow.

I was warned we are too far south for those varieties to grow successfully. My vines produced abundant clusters of grapes for about five years then died. Now wisteria covers the old trellises. But they surely were good when I had them.

Fruit trees take a lot of work, and if you don’t spray them they will not produce. My plum tree gets a disease that makes the fruit rot when it first starts growing and I always forget to spray it in the winter when it is dormant. And my pear trees got what I was told was “phony pear” disease, causing the trees to grow tiny fruit like a Bradford pear.

Maybe I should stick with flowers.

One Second After and One Year After Books

In the last two weeks I have listened to two audio books. “One Second After” and its sequel “One Year After” by William R. Forstchen take place at a small North Carolina town near Ashville. The first starts with a normal day in small country town with life as normal. But suddenly every electrical device stops working.

Later you find that two of the countries that have been promising to destroy the US got their hands on enough technology to set off three Electro Magnetic Pulse bombs that cover the US and more that cover parts of Europe and Asia. Those bombs send out a strong burst something like a sunspot does and it burns out anything that uses electricity.

These doomsday books follow a retired Army Colonel that was teaching at the small local college as he and his neighbors try to survive. The author is very good with explaining the big things as well as the little details that would probably happen as civilization falls apart.

Other movies and books like these have made me want to become a survivalist, and if I was not so old I might make preparations. Other doomsday scenarios include nuclear war, epidemics, and invasion by aliens that totally disrupt out way of life. They do make you think about what would happen.

Within weeks, about half the population of the area in the book are dead. The first to go are those on life support at hospitals and nursing homes. Then the folks that depend on daily medication that is no longer available at your corner drug store. Since almost no vehicles run, out of shape people walking to find food and water or cutting wood for fires and trying to carry it home die of heart attacks. But the biggest threat to somewhat healthy people are that most deadly animal, other people.

Riots and looting start within the first day. Hording of food may give you something to eat, but it attracts hungry folks that will kill you for it. Then, when things get brought to a semblance of order, people start starving and dying of diseases like salmonella and other bacterial infections from lack of sewage processing plants. And the folks of the small town, who have tried to keep order and ration what little food they have so they can survive, have to fight off city folks by the thousands arrive wanting to “share” their scant provisions.

One thing surprised me. When folks realize their frozen and refrigerated meats, fresh fruits and vegetables are going to spoil they start gorging, eating all of it. The professor does try to salt some of his meat down with a bag of road salt he has stored for the winter.

I was amazed that no one thought of making jerky and pemmican. Those relatively simple processes will preserve meat and fresh berries for months to years.

Many of the folks in this rural area know how to hunt and do have guns. They have some outdoor skills. But, without matches, it is amazing how many can’t even build a simple fire for boiling water and cooking game. And many of the ones that manage to build a fire burn their houses and themselves since they do not have a clue about safety with an open fire.

Game starts disappearing but too many, in my mind, do not consider a lot of sources of food. The squirrels the professor kills go to his two golden retrievers rather than to his family. Of course, pet dogs become a serious problem, in several ways, when dog food runs out.

The professor does kill a couple of possums, but they don’t have a clue how to cook them. And it takes weeks for them to realize songbirds are edible. It seems the only wild plants they know is edible are dandelions.

No consideration is given to other wildlife like bugs and grubs, although the book talks of people going into grill type restaurants and scraping grease traps for something to eat. The author does know a little about surviving like people did 200 years ago, about the level society degenerates to, but misses important points.

Bullets and guns become invaluable. In one place he says five .22 bullets will buy you a rabbit or squirrel, after they finally realize tree rats are edible by humans. And higher caliber rounds are horded for protection.

Few realize the value of good boots and clothes that protect you. Many are barefoot, especially those fleeing the cities, since their shoes wear out within a few days of walking. Bathing is almost non-existent since soap would quickly run out.

In the second book the small town has survived for two years and is somewhat stable since they were able to grow some food during the two summers between books. A few small farmers and the professor realize the importance of keeping some seeds for the next year as well as keeping some breeding stock of pigs, chickens and cows rather than eating them all.

But then a bigger threat arrives, in the form of “help” from the reforming US government. Of course some bureaucrats and politicians survived in well stocked bunkers near Washington, DC and some of our military assets from other places not affected by the EMP blasts, like the middle east and South Korea, make it home. And some of our navy ships survive and return.

The problem is many of those government type officials think they have power over everyone else and want to take from them, but have no clue what it takes to survive without confiscating others supplies. Tin pot “supervisors” that become little dictators when sent to places like Ashville to establish regional government are a scourge, almost destroying what the survivors have worked to establish.

These books are interesting and make you think of what could happen, and how important basic outdoor skills can be, even if they are depressing.

Growing Up Wild In Georgia

I loved growing up wild in Georgia. Most of my happy memories are of things I did outdoors. Thank goodness video games and TV either did not exist or were so unimportant that they took very little of my time.

Many of those memories also involve wild critters. I was in a church group, the RAs, that went on camping trips every summer. One very memorable one was to a mill pond about 20 miles from Dearing. There were about ten of us kids from about ten to 14 years old, and several adult supervisors.

We put up our pup tents the afternoon we go there and went exploring. I wandered off by myself, not unusual for me, and walked along the creek below the mill pond dam, trying to catch anything that would bite my earthworm on small hook under a cork. I was in the edge of the water, for some reason I always had to wade, and looked down near my feet then jumped back to shore. There was something on the bottom I had never seen and it scared me.

That ugly mottled brown lizard shaped critter was about a foot long, with a big, wide head, long vertical flat tail and four legs. It also had what looked like red downy feathers around its neck. The thing was lying or standing in shallow clear water and not moving.

I picked up a stick and hit it and killed it. At that age it was not unusual to kill anything new, often to get a better look at it. When I gingerly picked it up its body was smooth and slimy. Taking it back to camp everyone gathered around and even the adults said they had never seen anything like it although most of them had spent most of their lives outdoors.

When I got home I went to my trusty Encyclopedia Britannica and finally found it. It was a type of salamander called a “Hellbender” and its range included some of Georgia, although more common further north. It was rare and I was sad I had killed it.

It was interesting to me when I started bass fishing a lot with artificial baits in the early 1970’s one of the most popular plugs was a “hellbender.” Another was the “waterdog,” which is another name for the hellbender salamander. Those were two of the early crankbaits and I have often wondered if they were named after the salamander. They are still available and are great for trolling.

Saturday night on the mill pond camping trip most of us were fishing near our camp right on the edge of the water. A “water moccasin” swam up to investigate and someone killed it. I’m sure it was some kind of harmless water snake but back then every snake that was near water was a dangerous, poisonous, deadly, kill-you-if-it-could, water moccasin, so it was kill or be killed.

I had my trusty pocket knife in my pocket, as did every other boy there. We would just as soon leave home without our pants as without our knives. Since I was always curious I decided to “dissect” the snake. When I cut it from head to tail, I found two surprising things.

First was a fish head. That told us why the snake was so close to us. Earlier we had cleaned some bream and thrown the heads and guts into the water, and the snake was after an easy meal. Even more surprising were the 17 yellow, marble size eggs in it. We were happy we had actually killed 18 snakes rather than just one.

After cutting the snake open I made another discovery. I threw the body on the fire, and found out how terrible a burning snake smells! The men in camp almost ran me out of camp for doing that.

A few years later I made another fire discovery. By then we had plastic milk jugs and when an empty one is put on a fire with the cap on it, it will often take off like a rocket. The air inside heats up and as soon as a tiny hole melts in the plastic it acts like a jet engine nozzle.

I discovered a painful critter when camping with my family at Clarks Hill Lake when I was about 15 years old. Daddy smoked back then. One day an hour after eating lunch I went into our big tent to change into my bathing suit. I put my hand down on the floor going in to the door and thought daddy had left a burning cigarette there.

I probably screamed and daddy came running. We got a flashlight and looked closely, and found I had put my hand down on a small brown scorpion. Although only 20 miles from our farm, where I had spent hundreds of hours exploring everything outside, I had never seen one.

For some reason they were rare in that area. But not here in Griffin. I find them every time I turn over a piece of wood in my yard, and have had them drop from the ceiling into my bed at night. I solved that problem by sealing the crack around the overhead light fixture. I now have to clean a few out of the globe on it every few months, but at least when they come from the attic along the wires they are trapped up there before they can join me in bed!

I did learn some useful things when out in the woods back then. I learned how to build a fire, patch up cuts, cook several kinds of food on an open fire to make them at least barely edible, and the importance of clearing rocks and sticks from the area you planned on putting your sleeping bag.

If you have a kid take them outside and let them learn about the real world!

Bad Fishing Luck Can Turn Into Good Luck

Sometimes bad fishing luck can turn into good luck. Last Sunday at the Sportsman Club tournament at Bartletts Ferry Sam Smith’s boat broke down before 9:00 AM a long way from the ramp. It took him almost six hours to get back to the ramp using his trolling motor and fishing as he went. He caught enough to win first place and big fish.

The first time it happened to me was in the late 1970s in a tournament at West Point, soon after it filled. Emmett Piland and I were fishing together out of my boat and we camped at Holliday Park the night before the tournament in pouring rain. The next morning my van was stuck in the soft ground at the campsite and by the time we got it out we arrived at the ramp just as it was time to go.

We checked in and finally got the boat in the water after everyone else had left. Then my motor would not crank for several minutes. When it finally cranked, it skipped and sputtered and would not get on plane so we slowly idled to the nearby bridge to fish, not where we had planned on fishing.

During that day we caught more than 100 bass off the riprap on the bridge. Many times we both had bass on at the same time. After lunch another boat in the tournament stopped as they idled under the bridge and said they had not caught a fish all day. About that time Emmett and I both set the hook and landed keepers. They just shook their heads and left.

We came in first and second in that tournament. If we had not had problems that morning we would have been running all over the lake and might not have caught a fish.

Another tournament at Bartletts Ferry a few years ago in February one of the boats would not crank in the cold. While the rest of us ran all over the lake trying to catch a fish they fished around the cove at the ramp all day, and came in first and second and one of them had big fish.

In a 2011 tournament at West Point I took off from Glass Bridge ramp and between the Highway 109 bridge and the railroad causeway my motor blew up. It took me all day to get back to the ramp but I caught enough bass to place third.

Of course, there have been many more times when bad luck with the motor just ended up being a very bad day.

How much of a good thing is too much?

How much of a good thing is too much? As of today, April 2, I have been on the lake in a bass boat nine of twelve days, from Hartwell on the Georgia/South Carolina line to West Point on the Georgia/Alabama line, then back to Hartwell, then Lay Lake in Alabama Friday and Jackson here today. Today we are fishing the Sportsman Club tournament on Oconee.

The Georgia Bass Chapter Federation Top Six was at Hartwell Monday and Tuesday, so I went over last Wed and camped two nights, fishing Hartwell Wednesday afternoon and all day Thursday. Friday morning I got up and drove to West Point, all the way across the state, right through downtown Atlanta, to practice for a Potato Creek Bassmasters Classis Saturday.

After spending the night at home Friday night I fished West Point Saturday and after that tournament Niles Murray, Raymond English and I headed cross state to Hartwell They were both on the Top Six Team.

I slept in Sunday and then went to the drawing for the tournament. After fishing the tournament Monday and Tuesday I met Martha Goodfellow, a fishing pro, and her husband on Wednesday morning and fished all day to get information for a Georgia Outdoor News article. They live near Hartwell and fish it a lot.

I drove the three hours home Thursday morning then got up Friday at 2:30 AM to drive to Lay Lake and meet Caleb Dennis to get information for the May Alabama Outdoor News article. Yesterday I got up and took my old boat to Jackson to show it on the water to a buyer. Today, the Sportsman Club is fishing our March tournament a week late due to the Top Six.

Unfortunately, I did lots more driving and riding than I did catching, except for Lay. Although I started great the first place I stopped Wednesday afternoon, landing a five pound largemouth on a spinnerbait then a keeper spot and a 12 pound striper, those were the only three bites I got.

Thursday morning started right, too. I quickly caught a three-pound largemouth on a jig head worm then a two pounder on a spinnerbait. But those were the only two for the next six hours. That was very frustrating.

Friday at West Point I thought I had found three good places to catch fish. And they all did produce fish Saturday, just not enough numbers and size. I had five weighing a little over seven pounds. Buddy Laster, fishing behind Raymond English, had five weighing over 13 pounds to win. Michael Cox had five weighing 11 pounds for second and big fish with a pretty 6.5 pounder he caught with just a few minutes left to fish. I think Niles Murray finished third with nine pounds and Ryan Edge finished fourth, but by the time of weigh-in I was not thinking totally clearly!

At Hartwell I drew Carl Logan as a partner for the first day. He is one of the best fishermen in Georgia and had made the state team many times. His club, the Marietta Bassmasters, is usually the top team in the state. Carl said he was on a good pattern to catch a limit of fish weighing at least 12 pounds so I was excited.

Of course, after seven hours of fishing each of us caught two small keepers weighing 3.5 pounds total. But the fish were where we were fishing. Carl’s practice partner, Brenden Smith, pulled up on a point we had just fished without a bite and he landed five keepers, on the same bait we were throwing! He had 13.5 pounds that day on the exact pattern we were fishing sand a similar weight the second day to finish fifth overall out of 156 competitors.

My second day partner, Fred Lisk with the 26 Bassmasters, another top club in Georgia, had 10.5 pounds the first day and his partner had almost 10 pounds, so I told him to run the boat the next day. After five hours of fishing we each had two only keepers!

At noon I told him I wanted to run to my “desperation” creek and try it. It was about ten miles away so by the time we got there we had about 1.5 hours to fish. The fist cast I made I hooked and lost a 2.5 pound largemouth then landed three keepers, filling my limit. My partner caught two so we had five keepers in 90 minutes, more than the seven hours the day before and the five that morning put together.

That just shows how decisions make a difference. I wish now I had insisted on my half of each day in that creek, but I did not. Raymond English was fishing there when I got there and he said he lost a four pounder in there, so there were some good fish in it. That’s fishing!

Raymond had about ten pounds each day to finish with ten keepers weighing just over 20 pounds total to place first on the Spalding County Sportsman Club team in 34th place overall. I was dead last on the team with seven keepers, placing 124th.

Friday at Lay I landed three keepers, one about three pounds, all on a spinnerbait while 19-year-old Caleb showed me how to fish, landing about ten keepers with the five biggest weighing about 16 pounds. He caught them on a little of everything.

If my luck holds the buyer changed his mind about buying my boat yesterday and today at Oconee I will get in a lot of casting practice with little catching.

Roughing It At A KOA Campground

I just got back from “camping” for four nights at the KOA campground near Lake Hartwell. Camping isn’t what it used to be!

When growing up camping meant a pup tent or canvas stretched between two trees, a sleeping bag on the hard ground or if fancy, a lounge chair with a bar that hurt your back all night. We cooked on an open fire and food was either somewhat raw or burned. The only sounds were those of nature and our voices.

Now, folks pull in to a campground and park their motor home or trailer, usually about as big as a small house, on a concrete pad. They get out and hook up the power cord, water hose and cable TV cord, go back inside and turn on the air conditioner or heat. After two nights and three days of “camping” they reappear, unhook everything and drive off into the sunset.

Some, especially with kids, do rough it. Rather than disappear inside they get set up then pull out an awning, set up their big screen TV under it, and sit and watch it until time to go to bed at night. They even get the “nature” experience by putting a microwave on the picnic table and cook and eat outside.

One family pulled up beside me, did the above but also set up a small portable fence about three feet high around the table and door so their little yapping dog would not run off. The KOA had a small fenced in pet exercise area where they could walk their dog on a lease 100 feet to it so it could run free.

I started to go to the office and tell them they forgot to issue me my little yapping dog when I checked in. I thought one must be required since it seemed everyone had one but me!

A few folks ventured so far into nature they built a campfire. That consisted of trying to find enough twigs to put in a metal fire pit and dosing it with lighter food to start their bundle of bought fire wood. The KOA office sold firewood, ice and other necessities like shampoo, KOA tee shirts and toys for kids.

There was a nice shower room and I was almost always using it alone since most of the big campers were self-contained. As the folks left after their experience with nature they stopped at the dump station and emptied their sewage.

Sitting outside there were few natural sounds. Only air conditioners running, little dogs yapping and highway traffic. But I was there to fish so it was convenient to sleep in my van and drive the few miles to the ramp. I did not have to worry about my boat and tackle like I would at a motel and could cook my own food and go to bed as soon as the sun set!