Category Archives: Fishing Ramblings – My Fishing Blog

Random thoughts and musings about fishing

Do You Have Hunting Rituals?

Hunting Rituals

If you have hunted much you probably have rituals you go through. Some, like sighting in your rifle, are critical for success. Others, like carrying a buckeye in your pocket, are more mental that critical. But even those mental ones can be important since confidence breeds success.

Being member of a deer club that has a camp each year will introduce you to many more rituals.  For years at Big Horn Hunting Club a big iron pot hung over the fire.  Not only was a fire burning constantly from camp opening until the time we all left, water was added constantly all week to keep it full for washing dishes or other hot-water needs.

Then we got a gas fired water heater that produced all we needed.  Guess what?  The kettle stayed over the fire and we still kept if full of water.

Don’t dare shoot at a deer and miss during camp. You have to admit missing when you come back to camp since others have surely heard you shoot.  And the ritual at many camps and even in non-camp groups is to cut out your shirt tail if you miss.  I’m pretty sure some guys carried an old shirt they didn’t like in their truck just so they could change if they missed a deer.

Blooding is another common ritual.  When a youth kills their first deer some blood from it is smeared on their face, usually just a finger mark down one cheek.  And the youth will not wash it off for days, it is a mark to wear proudly!

In many clubs it is a ritual to eat the liver of a deer the day you kill one.  There are some good reasons for this. It tastes good – if you like liver.  It is easy to process in the woods. All you have to do is set it aside when gutting your deer then slice it up. 

Showing respect for your kill is another ritual some of us stick with.  Most of them come down from Native Americans who depended on killing game for their survival.  From the time I shot my first bird with a BB gun I have always felt a tiny spark of regret for killing something.  So when I read about ways to show respect to the animal for giving up its spirit for your needs I liked them.

Of course the most important way to show respect is to make a good shot, killing the animal with as little suffering as possible. 

As soon as I confirm the deer is dead, as the Native Americans would do, I pause for a minute looking at the beauty of the deer and thank it for its sacrifice, remembering what it took to outsmart it in its natural habitat, or just the luck I had that day.

That makes me even more determined to use every bit of the deer I can and waste nothing. That is another way of honoring a deer or any other animal you kill.

In Europe a similar practice developed. A successful hunter would place a sprig of an evergreen into the deer’s mouth then put a spring of the plant into their cap, connecting the two.  The sprig in the deer’s mouth also honored its last meal. 

Some of my rituals bring back good memories. On my first dove shoot when I was about ten years old one of my uncles gave me an old army surplus gas mask bag for my hunting stuff.  I killed my first dove that day and to this day I carry some necessities for the hunt in my bag. It has my skinning knife, bullets, a couple of plastic garbage bags, some rope and a spool of cord and toilet paper.

I mentioned a buckeye for success earlier. When I was a kid many of us had one we carried for luck. We would cherish it and polish it often, making I shiny and bright.  It was as necessary as our pocket knives and we went nowhere without both.

Zeroing in your gun is critical, especially if you have a scope, which most of us do.  Old iron sights didn’t change much but a scope can change a lot from year to year, causing you to miss your shot.  A few shots fired at the range before season opens, and again if you drop your gun or hunt in widely changing temperatures, makes sure if you get your shirt tail cut off it is your fault, not your gun’s fault.

The Griffin Gun Club opens its range each year, usually the first Saturday in October, and members are there to help you make sure your gun hits where you aim it. They are experts at sighting in a rifle and can fine tune with just a few shots.

Get ready for hunting by going through all your pre-season rituals and zero in your gun. Then, as you hunt and experience your rituals, remember where they came from and why they are important.

Who Created Your Fishing Legacy?

Fishing Legacy

All of us that love the outdoors and hunting and fishing have someone or many people in our past that molded that passion.  It is often a parent or grandparent but sometimes its someone in our family that took us hunting and fishing growing up and instilled their love of it in us. But other times they are friends or people we met outside family.

My mother and her mother loved fishing. Both of them could sit by a pond on their lard bucket and watch a cork for hours. Some of my earliest memories are following one or both of them to a local pond with our cane poles, hoping to catch anything that would bite.

The first bass I ever caught was while fishing with mom at a local pond. We were down below the dam, fishing the pool of water at the spillway. When my cork went under and I raised my pole I expected the circling pull of a bream or the tugging toward the bottom of a catfish. Instead, a 10 inch bass jumped out of the water several times. I was instantly hooked on bass fishing.

Two of my uncles took me fishing some when I was a kid, and both of them loved bass fishing.  I spent hours with them in jon boats on local ponds, throwing “rubber” worms and topwater plugs.  They taught me where to cast and how to scull a boat, slowly easing around the bank with a paddle before I ever saw an electric trolling motor.

I moved to Griffin in 1972 and met Jim Berry. When I bought my first bass boat in 1974 he invited me to join the Spalding County Sportsman Club and my first tournament ever was with that club in April, 1974 – 42 years ago. I have not missed many tournaments since that one.

The Sportsman Club was formed in the 1950s and they did a little of everything, from having some hunting land and a dove field in Pike County to going fishing on a big lake and camping for the weekend.  And it was something of a family affair.  In our tournaments there were many father/son fishing pairs as well as long term friends and business partners.

In my first tournament we camped at Mistletoe State Park as a group.  Back then the tournament director carried two big boards and the results were written on them each day.  The next year, when I became secretary/treasurer of the club, a job I have held almost every year since then, the boards were given to me.  We had quit using them after the Clarks Hill tournament and the results of it were still on it.

I still have those boards stored in my barn. You can barely make out the writing on it.  But you can still see names like Emmett Piland, Vance Sharp, Kenneth Hattaway, Paul Varnadoe and others. They were all in “A” division. In those days we competed in two divisions based on how many tournament points we had. I was in “B” division in my first tournament.

The four people above all taught me a lot about bass fishing over the next few years. I went with Emmett a lot and he showed me places on big lakes to fish and how to catch bass on a crankbait.  Paul Varnadoe fished the professional trails and shared a lot of tips with me.

Vance Sharp owned the local jewelry store now run by his son, Tony, and Vance was an expert with a depthfinder.  Tony had built it for him from a kit before most fishermen had ever heard of depthfinders and Vance used it for many years. He could ride over a point or drop-off staring at that depthfinder and suddenly throw out a marker, and say cast right there. And we caught fish almost every time!

I remember fishing with Kenneth at Eufaula and he taught me how to make an underhand circle cast to quickly cover water with a spinnerbait. But his advice at a Top Six tournament was invaluable and I still go by it.

In that 1983 tournament on the first day I caught a lot of bass on the riprap on a 1/16 ounce slider head with a four inch worm on it.  The first day I caught more than 20 small keepers the first three hours, then ran up the river and landed a five pound kicker on a Shadrap, a plug that had just come on the market. I was in sixth place out of 540 fishermen after day one!

That night at the motel I was saying maybe I should run up the river the first thing the next day to catch bigger fish. Kenneth looked at me and said “How many bass did you catch on the riprap and how many bites did you get up the river?”

When I told him only one bite up the river in four hours he said “Boy, you stay on that riprap until you have a limit tomorrow!”

The next morning I caught three on the riprap quickly but then they quit biting. I was torn, wanting to go up the river but remembering Kenneth’s advice, I stayed on the riprap.  At noon I caught five keepers on five consecutive casts.

Those fish moved me to fourth place in the tournament. All the people that I talked with that had fished the river never got a bite.  Kenneth taught me to stay on a pattern that I working and I still fish that way.

Remember and honor the people in your past that taught you about the outdoors.  They have made us what we are.

Growing Up Southern

I am proud of Growing Up Southern

    Growing up in the south makes us different from others that did not have that privilege, and we are proud of it. Our experiences may be shared by people in other parts of the US, but we have our own special way of looking at and doing everything.

     Many kinds of fish live all over the US but in the south bass are king and we fish for crappie to eat.  In the north musky are king and they fish for walleye for food. 

    Musky fight hard and they are harder to catch than bass, but they get huge, with 40 pounders not too unusual. Bass fight hard and a ten pounder is not common, but it doesn’t take the famed 10,000 casts it takes to hook a musky to hook a bass, most days.

    Walleye taste good but I will put crappie up against them any day. On a trip to Tennessee a few years ago I took some crappie filets for the communal fish fry and a couple of guys from Michigan brought walleye filets. Everyone there said the crappie were better.

    `Deer hunting is not the same here as it is up north and in the mid West and West.  Here we hide in trees and wait on a deer while swatting mosquitoes.  Up north they freeze their feet off tracking deer through the snow. And out west where Mule Deer grow, they jump one, wait for it to run a hundred yards before turning to look back, then shoot it.

    `In cold climates they go ice skating in the winter. We go roller skating.  And they cut holes in the ice on ponds and lakes, sit there staring at a tiny pole and hope for a bite.

    Our water doesn’t get hard on top so we can fish out of our boats all winter and big bass bite best then.  Almost all my eight pound plus bass hit from December through February.  They would be too big to come through a hole in the ice.

    In other rural areas kids probably dam branches, build tree houses and camp out. But there seems to be more rural areas here where kids grew up in the woods.  Can you imagine trying to dam a sewer, build a light pole house or camping in an alley?

    We eat different wild critters here, too.  Forget grits, a staple of southern diets that will just get a puzzled look when you order them in Wisconsin, as I found out.  Many other common southern foods are not eaten in other areas.

    Crawfish are popular here and you can catch your own. Some places up north serve crawfish but not many. And alligator meat is great, and you can catch and kill your own here, too.  But up north it is a rarity and many are afraid of it.

    Squirrels, rabbits and doves are eaten often in the south and sometimes up north, but nobody in other areas of the country eat possums, and the sweet potatoes that you have to serve with them are store bought, not grown and hilled in  your garden like here.

    Greens up north and out west mean lettuce, spinach and chard.  Those are all good but you can’t be southern without loving turnip greens with roots, collards and poke salad. And you must have corn bread to eat with them and cook them with streak of lean.

    Here we sweat, in other areas without our heat and humidity they perspire. In the summer you start dripping almost as soon as you step outside.  Our summer lows are usually much higher then the high temperature in other places.

    I was surprised to find out mosquitoes can be just as bad up north as they are here, but at least they don’t have chiggers.  I get a laugh every time I see a tourist with northern license plates on their car getting Spanish moss to take home. They are taking more than the moss, and are in for an itchy surprise in a day or so.

    We are different in the south, and there is even a difference in the name for Yankees that come south for a visit and those that move here and try to make us just like them. But that is impossible!

    Although I have visited 40 of our 50 states and fished in many of them, and been to many foreign countries on five different continents, I have lived in middle Georgia all my life. There is no better place on earth!

Cleaning Reels and Guns

 know it makes me a bad person, but as much as I love to fish and hunt, I hate cleaning reels and guns.  And now, my shaky hands make it very hard to do and gives me a good excuse. 

Fortunately, I have good options. I take my reels to Big Ernie’s Tackle in Bonanza and in a few days get my reels back cleaned and any repairs made.

For years, before getting a magnetic holder that keeps my pistol handy under the dash or my truck, I kept my semiautomatic Glock in a bag at my feet.  It got very dirty and started jamming.  A gun that jams is nothing but a chunk of steel when you need protection.

I took my Glock to Neil Blalock at Mid-Georgia Gunsmithing and a couple days later had it back, clean and with an action smooth as warm butter.  I was very happy with his price and fast service.  If you have guns that need cleaning or repair, call him at 770-584-5892 or visit his web site at

Loving Warm January Weather, And It Is NOT Unprecedented

I loved the warm January weather while fishing the Flint River club tournament last Sunday at Jackson. 

Many folks are claiming this weather is unusual for January. I even heard one talking head using the most over used word in our vocabulary right now – “unprecedented.” 

On Sunday. January 21, 1967, my senior year in high school, Harold and I talked at church about how warm it was and that we needed to go water skiing.  We wanted to be the first ones to go skiing that year.  As soon as church was over, we went home, changed clothes and grabbed some extra jeans and shirts.

On the way to the lake WBBQ radio station in Augusta said it was 71 degrees and it was sunny.  We got to Raysville Boat Club where my family’s ski boat was tied under a boat shed.  As we pulled up to the lake, we saw one of our friends that had skipped church that day out of the water skiing.

Harold and I both skied, but we were not the first that year. There have been many other very warm Januaries over the years, and many very cold ones. And there will be many more as the weather changes year to year.

Winter Fishing

The last Monday in December I went to my place at Clarks Hill.  Tuesday morning drove up to Lake Russell, about 45 minutes north, to meet Trad Whaley to get information for my February Georgia Outdoor News Map of the Month article.    

Russell is a beautiful lake with no shoreline development.  Sandwiched between Lake Hartwell’s dam and the upper end of Clarks Hill on the Savannah River, it is almost always very clear.  The lake is full of standing timber and spotted bass have taken it over.   

We caught several spots on the patterns Trad showed me, and he got a nice 3.5 pound largemouth on a pattern he said works good for them after a rain.  That pattern is going to the back of creeks with some water inflow and fishing the stained, incoming water.   

Stained is a relative term.  The water we were fishing that Trad called stained was clear enough to see a crankbait down more than a foot. But it was not as clear as the rest of the lake.   

I was surprised to see a dozen trucks and bass boat trailers at the ramp, but Trad told me they were practicing for a big high school tournament that is this weakened.    Back at Clarks Hill, I fished a little the next two days.  The water around Raysville was muddy, with my plug disappearing about two inches deep.  It was very different from Russell.   

Each day on the water I saw several other fishing boats.  That is a big change there.  I spent Christmas Holidays at Clarks Hill for about 30 years starting in 1974.  I often went days without seeing another person even at the boat club, and never saw boats on the water back in the 1970s and early 80s.   

There were several reasons folks didn’t fish in the winter back in the 1970s.  Most of us did not know bass and crappie could be caught in the cold water.  Everyone I knew quit fishing when hunting seasons opened.   

We didn’t have the clothes for winter fishing.  After one winter of trying to wear the warm clothes I wore while hunting and finding them unsuitable, I ordered a snow mobile suit in 1976, maybe one of the first in Georgia. 

   There were no hybrids and stripers in our lakes.  I caught a fish the day after Christmas in the late 1970s on a crankbait and had no idea what it was. It looked a little like a white bass but was bigger and more streamline.  I found out it was a hybrid or striper that the DNR had started stocking in Clarks Hill a couple of years earlier.  They feed heavily in the winter.   

Now most of the boats on the lake are fishing for hybrids and stripers. Guides stay busy this time of year fishing live and artificial baits for them, and they catch a lot.   

When I joined the Spalding County Sportsman Club in April 1974, I was told the club had tournaments during the winter. That surprised me. But I won one in October, later than I had ever bass fished, that year.  Then in January I drew Alan White as my partner for the Jackson tournament. We still had draw tournaments back then and I agreed to go in his boat since I had no idea about winter fishing.   

We took off from Kerseys in the sleet and 30-degree temperature that morning and ran almost all the way to the 212 Bridge over the Alcovy River, a very long cold ride in Alan’s 14 foot Singfisher boat with a 40 horsepower motor and stick steering.  

  We both had the only baits we really knew to fish in the winter ready.  Both of us had chrome Hellbenders tied on and had a couple of Lazy Ikes and Countdown Rapalas ready to fish.   

Alan caught three bass and I caught one, all on the Hellbenders.  Alan’s three weighed about ten pounds and included a six-pound bass. I was surprised to see such a big bass in January.  If that was a surprised, weigh-in was a shock. There were five other bass weighing more than six pounds brought to the scales!   

Ray Lisle had one weighing over six pounds he caught on a Countdown Rapala and one other fisherman had one. But Jeff Hobbins had three over six pounds each!  He was showing everybody his plug, a new-fangled Rebel Wee R, something we had never seen before.  And it was a weird color, bone and orange, now a staple in muddy water.   

I caught a few bass at Clarks Hill the first two winters I had my bass boat, but the next year, December 1976, really showed my how well bass bite at times. I kept seeing something a foot off the bottom out on a hump that I knew had a slick bottom. It showed up as a line on my Lowrance flasher depthfinder.   

After trying a bunch of baits, including my Wee
Rs, I tied on a Little George, another new-fangled lure, and dropped it down and started jigging it up and down.  I landed 22 bass in that one spot that day and the next!   

I caught my first eight-pound bass in a 1977 January Sportsman club tournament at Jackson while fishing with Bobby Jean Pierce.  It hit a chrome Wiggle Wart plug. Two years later I landed another eight pounder at Jackson in January, this one in a Flint River Bass club tournament while fishing with Cecil Aaron. It hit a spinnerbait.   

My biggest bass ever, a nine-pound, seven-ounce fish, hit a crankbait in a February Flint River tournament in 1991 I was fishing with Larry Stubbs.  And the last eight pounder I caught hit a crankbait in a January Flint River tournament at Jackson in 2010 while fishing with Jordan McDonald.   

Fishing can be good in the winter but too many folks know it.  Don’t expect to have the lake to yourself!

Whiteoak Tree History

Joyce Kilmer said he would never see a poem as lovely as a tree, and he was right.  Did he ever consider the value of a tree beyond its beauty?  A tree’s beauty is much more than bark deep.  

Sitting on my deer stand on the ridge overlooking Buck Creek, I am near a huge whiteoak farther along the ridge. I often look at that tree as it goes through changes from early fall to winter and consider what the tree has seen over its lifetime.

The big whiteoak is about 40 inches in diameter, giving it an estimated age of 300 years.  And whiteoaks can live to be 600 years old, so it is just middle aged!  It was standing full-grown on that hillside long before I was born and could be standing there long after I am gone.

In the way back time machine of my mind, I imagine a squirrel burying an acorn on that ridge in the fall 300 years ago, then not being able to find it during the winter.  That spring, a small twig pokes out if the ground and two tiny leaves sprout from it.  It is dwarfed by the grown oaks and other trees living there.

The twig slowly grows, getting taller with the passing years.  When about 20 feet high, a bluejay builds its nest in the fork of a limb.  Many more bird and squirrel nests will decorate the limbs of this tree as it becomes the giant old man of the area over the next 200 years.

During that time, the strong limbs and trunk protect the nests in storms that the tree weathers. Although other trees on the ridge get hit by lightning and killed, somehow the big one avoids this fate.  And its spreading roots hold it in the wind and bring in enough water that it survives droughts that kill others nearby.  It lives by taking water they need, but that is nature.

When the whiteoak is 20 years old and 25 feet tall something wonderous happens in May. Small knots appear at the ends of last year’s branches while others grow at the tips of new branches.  Those knots on old branches grow into green two-inch-long fuzzy stings that produce pollen.  The female ones on the new branches become tiny eight of an inch-long greenish red flowers.

After pollination, a bud starts to grow.  By fall it is an acorn an inch long.  The tree has only a few dozen this year, but by the time it is fifty years old it is producing thousands of acorns every year.  The acorns come in three to five-year cycles, with best years producing up to 10,000 from our tree but only a few hundred at the bottom of the cycle.

Those acorns control wildlife numbers. In abundant years whitetails store up plenty of fat to survive the winter. Squirrels bury many more than they will need during the winter, and other animals and birds find and eat them.  In lean years deer starve during the winter without their fat reserves and many birds and animals do not survive.  Whiteoak acorns are the manna of the woods and many depend on it.

When the tree was young, I imagine a Native American sitting on the big rock a few feet from the tree, patiently knapping a piece of flint.  I have found some of his failed efforts by the rock. The females of his tribe gather the acorns, grind them up and boil them, making a kind of acorn meal that sustains the group.

Based on the size of the trees growing on the flat areas, about 100 years ago a farmer cleared and terraced this hillside.  The remains of his small house sit at the top of the hill, up the long gentle slope from the sharp drop on ridge at the creek.

He and his family slowly and painstakingly cut trees, dug up stumps, move rocks and flattened areas to create bands on the hillside to grow crops.  The rocks were moved to the terraces he created between the flat areas, the remains of them are piled ever fifty feet or so.  This ground was very rocky and not very fertile.  

Based on that and the size of the house remains, he was probably a poor farmer with a family that did all the work.  They managed to scratch out a living, growing most of the food they ate and a small cash crop to buy the necessities.   

And they depended on wildlife from the woods and fish from Buck Creek for much of their protein.  I imagine one of them sitting under the big oak, hoping to “bark” a squirrel with his muzzleloader or, even better, shoot one of the rare whitetails. 

The big oak survived their axes, probably because of its size and location. Smaller trees up the slope were easier to get to the fireplace, and the big one right on the ridge did not interfere with their crops.

The whiteoak continues its life cycle, taking in water, carbon dioxide and sunlight during the day to produce oxygen, acorns, leaves and wood.  The falling leaves decay and fertilize the ground around the tree for other plants. And its roots hold the soil, preventing erosion.

At some point the mighty tree will fall, its life ended by lightning, drought or old age. Its trunk lying on the ground will provide hiding places for all kinds of bugs, as well as food for them.  It will slowly rot away, leaving its final nutrients in the ground where it fell.

In the way forward time machine in my mind, I see a squirrel burying an acorn from a nearby oak, probably the offspring of the fallen giant, in the rich soil where the big oak died, starting the cycle all over again.

Walking In A Southern Winter Wonder Land

As a southerner, walking in my winter wonderland was quite different from the song.  No sleigh bells rang, but there were cows lowing, squirrels barking and crows crawing.  And almost never did snow glisten, fog and wet glittering leaves were much more common.   

 Treks in the woods were more stalking than walking since my trusty .22 semiautomatic, a gift for my 8th birthday, was always with me.  Squirrels were my usual target but just about any wild critter was fair game, if in season.   

Those trips were always learning experiences to a curious boy.  I learned to identify green briar, which we called smilac, as one of the few green vines in the gray and brown woods.  There was scattered honeysuckle, too, and later I found out how much deer depend on them for food in harsh winters.   

Often, I could smell a cedar tree before seeing it, especially after as rain. And I did seek out thick cedars as protection from a sudden shower.  I still got wet, but not as soaked as I would have without the tree over me.   

I had favorite places to sit and watch for squirrels, and I often time traveled from them.  Some of those travels were fantasy, some based on history.  Although no cave men ever lived in my part of the world, I could imagine crouching on my rock grasping a club waiting on a sabretooth tiger.  

  A little more realistic were the times I would have my bow and arrow, dressed in a loin cloth and hoping for a deer for the tribe’s dinner.  At times I could be dressed in gray, clutching my rifle hoping to spot a hated Yankee in his blue.  

  My favorite were the times I imagined my coonskin cap topping my head, with my flintlock rifle that never missed any target.  I did carry a small hatchet and pretended it was like the one the frontiersmen carried.   

The woods had moods, too.  When the sun was bright and the sky clear and cold, everything seemed to sparkle.  Even the drab browns and grays of winter seemed happier on those days. The branch gurgled louder, and everything seemed more lively.  

  On rainy days, the world was subdued.  Colors were almost nonexistent and sounds muffled.  Footsteps didn’t crunch in the leaves and even the branch seemed to sigh over limbs and rocks rather than have a happy gurgle.  

  Foggy days were different still.  Like on rainy days, everything was subdued, but familiar objects became strange.  The big white oak still looms large but seems threatening as it disappears into the gloom. That tall stump you leaned on yesterday now looks like a scary figure with the limb behind it an imagined raised arm and knife.   

In fog, everything is muffled.  I could actually move through the woods as quietly as I imagined I could as Davy Crockett. Leaves that still fell ghosted down without a crunch.  And the branch gurgles were deadened by the thick fog.   

Most winter days required a fire as some point, to either warm hands or cook a kill.  Dry days were no problem, just get some leaves and twigs to start slightly bigger sticks.    

But on foggy or rainy days, it was a challenge.  I would first find a fairly flat rock to keep my effort off the soggy dirt.  Then I would gather bark from a cedar or pine tree, peel some of it off to get to the dry under layer and carefully protect it from the wet.    Nothing on the ground was suitable since twigs and leaves were soaked. So breaking small branches off a dead tree was the option.  If I was careful enough I could get a fire started even on the worse days.   

I always wanted to start my fires the same way as the imagined people of my mind, but flint and steel never worked for me, and a bow and stick never produced even a whiff of smoke.   

To be prepared I always had some strike anywhere matches, heads carefully dipped in melted wax to seal them, with me.  They were usually in a small pill bottle in my pocket and in the bottle were some cotton balls soaked in the same melted wax.     The waxed cotton would burn hot for a few minutes and start a fire on even the wettest day.   

Some of my best meals were eaten over such a fire. I liked roasted robin, they were easy to shoot and clean.  And they tasted good, even if as tough as an old shoe after roasting on a spit to too well-done chewiness. Squirrels were also a regular feast roasted on the fire, but for some reason never tasted as good as the ones mama fried with gravy or made into squirrel and dumplings.   

Trying to find other things to cook was interesting.  I read about cooking and eating acorns but every way I tried they were so bitter they were inedible.  Later I found the acorns needed to be ground up and soaked to remove the tannin from them.   

Mushrooms popped up like magic throughout the woods after a rain, and I wanted to try them but was always afraid of them. It was drilled into me that toadstools were poison, and I never learned to be sure enough of the ones that were edible to try them.   

Fish were in the branch and I caught them regularly, but they were never big enough to cook on a fire.  A dozen of them cleaned and boiled barely made good stock for a fish stew. I never tried to cook fish in the woods.   

Try walking in a winter wonder land around here this year, and take a kid with you if possible, to enjoy the imagination of the young.

Purging Fishing Equipment

Fishermen, especially bass fishermen, can never have enough equipment. Anytime anything new hits the market, we buy it.  If we don’t have a bait a professional fisherman uses to win a big tournament, you can bet that bait will soon be in our tackle box.   

Walk into Berrys Sporting Goods and you will be dazzled by the colors and variety of bass baits. Crankbaits look like little fish but come in colors Mother Nature never dreamed possible.  Spinnerbaits look like wire contraptions with spinners on one arm, lead head and skirt on the other and do not look like anything in nature.  And many baits look like nothing on earth.   

My “tackle box” is a 20-foot bass boat with six storage compartments, several of them big enough for me to get inside and close the lid. And they are all full of rods and lures.  

  Every few years I try to simplify my fishing, taking rods, lures and worms that I have not used in a couple of years out of the boat.  Boxes of those unused lures line my garage wall after a purge, but somehow seem to make their way back into the boat over the next few months, just in case I want to try them.    

Preparing for a tournament, I usually rig about 21 rods with baits.  Up front on one side of the casting platform I have seven rigged with baits I plan to use, based on time of year we are fishing. On the other side I have seven more rigged with baits I might use.  On the back, if I do not have a partner, I have seven more just-in-case baits.   

In a typical tournament I use four or five of the ones I plan on using, usually during the first hour.  Then I settle down and stick with one or two, usually a jig and a shaky head.  Normally I never pick up any of the other rods I have ready.   

I’m trying to simplify again. I basically have two color worms I use on my shaky head, and I have a dozen 20 packs of each color so I won’t run out. I am taking out the 30 two-gallon zip loc bags filled with colors I have not used in the past year.   

With the jig and pig, I again use two colors of jigs and two colors of matching trailers.  I don’t need the 25 other colors of both!   

There are crankbaits in my boat I bought back in the 1970s and have been moved from boat to boat nine times, but probably not tied on a line in 40 years.  The two-gallon bags of “spare” spinnerbaits have been unused so long their skirts are gummy and hooks are rusty.  No point in carrying them.  

  Even after I finish getting rid of all the unnecessary junk, my boat will still be full. And no doubt things will somehow move back in to my boat during the year, never used and purged again at some future date.

Jackson Tournament and Fool On the Lake

Saturday, December 7, 17 members of the Potato Creek Bassmasters fished our last tournament of the year at Jackson.  After eight hours of casting, we brought in 38 12-inch keeper bass weighing about 54 pounds. Almost all of them were spots. There were five five-fish limits and seven fishermen didn’t have keeper.   

I won with five weighing 7.89 pounds, Mitchell Cardell placed second with five at 7.11 pounds, Raymond English was third with five at 7.01 pounds and Trent Grainger came in fourth with five weighing 6.42 pounds. Doug Acree had big fish with a 3.27 pounder.   

I started on deep rocky banks and fished them all day.  My first keeper hit a jig and pig slowly crawled down the dropping rocks at 7:30 and was a 2.98-pound spot, so I had a good start.  About an hour later I caught two more keepers on the jig on back to back cast on the end of a rocky point.   

At 9:30 I missed two bites on the jig by a log on a bluff bank, then landed my fourth keeper on a shaky head thrown to the same log.  I guess the smaller bait got in the fish’s mouth better.   

For the next three hours I tried hard but got no bites.  Then I tried to skip my bait under a dock, got hung on it and got a bad backlash.  After easing up to the dock and getting my bait, I let the boat drift against the dock while picking out the backlash.  My jig was hanging off the end of the rod, down in the water about six feet deep by the dock.   

My fifth keeper grabbed the jig and about jerked the rod out of my hand, setting the hook on itself.  It was on of those fish just meant to be caught.  I got another keeper at 1:00 on the same bank as the first one I caught that morning.   

With about an hour left to fish I was working up a long point in the middle of a wide cove. My boat was about 50 yards off the bank and pointed toward the bank as I cast to it.   

I heard a boat enter the cove behind me to my right.  He slowed way down, making a huge wake, went behind me, up the left side of the point then across it in front of me, about 20 yards off the bank.  Then he sped up and went further back in the cove.   

I don’t know whether he was an idiot, inconsiderate slob, or mad because I was fishing “his” place. He was in a bass boat, and I hate other fishermen that are so stupid.  I kept hoping he would run aground on the rocks up shallow on that point.    If you fish much, you just have to put up with fools like that.