Thanksgiving is a special time of year. It is the time we should all stop and think of all the things we have in our lives that make us happy. We really should do that all the time, but this week is a good time to focus on how good we have it.
Most of my thankful things involve the outdoors. Very little makes me as happy as spending time fishing or hunting. That has been true all my life and almost all my Thanksgiving memories have something to do with spending time outdoors. So hunting, fishing and Thanksgiving go together in my life.
Almost every Thanksgiving while I was growing up meant big meals with family and friends. My mother’s brothers were older than her and all but one lived near us, and they all had big families. We would always eat with at least one of my uncle’s families and all the cousins on Thanksgiving Day.
Most of those days also involved a quail hunting trip after lunch. Several of the uncles had land and most of them had bird dogs, as we did, so hunting quail was a tradition. Back then there were a lot more quail since farming was still more compatible with quail habitat.
My career in education always meant a four day weekend for Thanksgiving. Since I got my first bass boat my second year out of college, almost all my Thanksgivings after I moved to Griffin involved going to my place at Raysville Boat Club on Clarks Hill for the long weekend.
Most years I would go over after work on Wednesday, fish Thursday morning then go to my parent’s house in town for the afternoon for the meal. Then I would head back to the lake for fishing the next three days.
One year my mom decided to have the big Thanksgiving meal at the lake. I know she did it that way so I could fish longer. That morning as I got ready to go out at daylight she reminded me to be in for dinner. My brother and his family and a couple of uncles and their families were coming there for the meal. I assured her I would come in early enough to get cleaned up before eating.
I will never forget that day since I landed a big bass, weighed it at seven pounds one ounce, put it back in the water and looked at my watch. It was 12:02 pm and I was thankful my mother had planned dinner at the lake. Most years I would have had to head in before the time I caught the fish.
That was the only time my mother ever got mad at me for fishing, and one of the very few times Linda has. When I went in at 3:00 pm to get cleaned up for dinner I found out she meant dinner at noon, not at dark. We always called the noon meal dinner while I was growing up but after going to college I got used to calling the noon meal lunch and the night meal dinner.
By the time I came in all my family had gone home. The only thing colder than the stares of my wife and my mother that day was the cold turkey sandwich I got for my Thanksgiving “dinner.” But I did catch a seven pound bass that day!
There were many Thanksgiving weekends that it was just me and my dog Merlin in the boat all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I would often stay later than I should on Sunday and get back to Griffin well after dark and have to unload and get some sleep before going to school Monday morning. But there were a lot of great memories.
Back then it seemed much easier to catch bass. I would often leave my boat under the boat sheds at the lake, get up at daylight and start fishing. I didn’t need to run anywhere, just put the trolling motor in the water and start casting a crankbait to the points and banks around the boat club.
There was no reason to leave Germany Creek. I got to know every stump, rock, clay bank and point that way. There was one small cove with an old sunken wooden boat back in it. I could count on catching a bass beside it every time I fished it with a crankbait. Learning little keys like that has always been important to me.
I also learned to fish a jig and pig one Thanksgiving at Clarks Hill. On Thursday morning I had caught a lot of fish on a crankbait but kept thinking about a bait I had never caught a fish on, the jig and pig.
Friday morning I tied one on and vowed to fish nothing but it all day. At 2:00 pm I was disgusted, I had not had a bite on it. The day before I had landed about 15 bass up to two pounds in four hours of fishing.
At 2:00 I was going down a bank where I had put out a brush pile. I cast the jig and pig to the right side of it and caught a three pound bass. Then I cast to the left side and caught a 3.5 pound bass. That gave me enough confidence to go to a deeper brush pile, where I caught a 6.5 pound bass. Every since that day back in the late 1970s I keep a jig and pig tied on and fish them a lot!
Spend your Thanksgiving wisely – and be thankful you have the freedom to make the choices you make for the day.