Last week I received a picture from a grandfather in Colorado of his 5 year old grandson and the first bass he caught. This picture was posted to my website and his comments “Remember when? Look at his smile.” got me to thinking about my first bass.
I really don’t remember the first fish I ever caught. I am sure it was with my mom or grandmother since most of my early fishing was with one of them. I would follow them to local ponds and fish with them all day. We would sometimes get rides from dad but if he could not drop us off, we would walk to nearby ponds. A mile or two walk was not too far to go fishing.
Both mom and grandmother had 5 gallon lard buckets they kept all their fishing tackle in. Hooks, sinkers, corks, an old pair of pliers, stringer, extra line, towel for wiping hands and anything else we might need was in there. Our cane poles were the only thing that did not fit, and these were carried over our shoulder or stuck out the back window of the car. The lard bucket was good for carrying tackle as well as a place to sit while fishing.
We kept everything we caught, no matter how small, since even the tiny bream would “make the grease smell.” Picking around bones was a normal problem while eating fish back then, we had no idea of filleting fish. And I can still taste the crispy tails of the fish fried to perfection. I miss that part of the catch while eating filleted fish.
One place we liked to fish was Usury’s Pond, a big watershed lake about 5 miles from the house. It had a concrete dam and fishing for catfish and bream was often good near it, but the place I liked best was the pool and creek below the dam. Where the water came over the top of the dam and fell to the creek bed it hollowed out a nice pool. And the creek draining from it was deep enough to hold catfish and bream.
I would often walk the creek dropping my bait into holes along the creek. My bait was a gob of red wigglers I dug behind our chicken houses and they were put on a #6 hook suspended about two inches below a split shot. A couple of feet up the line was a cork – a real cork, not a plastic or Styrofoam kind you see now.
One day I was below the dam, sitting on the sandbar and letting my worms drift with the current. Suddenly my cork popped under the water, much quicker than what I was used to seeing. When I raised the tip of my cane a fish went crazy, pulling, running and jumping. It was the first fish I had ever hooked that jumped, and I was hooked, too.
That little bass was probably no more than 10 inches long but it fought harder than anything else I had ever caught, except for some catfish. And it jumped, clearing the water in thrilling splashes. I loved that! I knew then I had to catch more bass.
Over the next few years I got my first spin cast reel, a Zebco 33, and learned to cast lures with it. Then “rubber worms” hit the market. Back then when they first came out you had two choices of colors. Creme worms came in either red or black and they were in plastic bags three to the pack. They were so stiff they kept the curve from the package even after being removed from it.
You could also buy pre-rigged plastic worms that had a two or three hook harness in it, with a spinner blade and some beads in the front. We cast them like a lure and worked them back with a steady action much like a lure. If they sunk to the bottom they would get hung up.
Eventually we learned to use a single hook and rig the worm with the hook buried in the worm. We used split shots in front of the worm for many years until bullet worm weights got popular. We even fished them with no weight, much like floating worms are fished today.
Back then when we felt a bite we let the bass run off with the worm, waiting for it to swallow the hook. I don’t know where we thought the bass had the worm, it had to be in its mouth since they don’t have any hands! Now we know to set the hook quickly before the bass spits the worm out. Back then we would let the bass run till it stopped, then set the hook.
Do you remember your first bass? Share that experience with your children this summer. Tell them about yours, and help them catch their first bass if they have not already done so.