This time of year produces weather that I hate. For most of my life lightning and tornados have terrified me and both are way too common in March.
When I was 12 years old a couple of us boys “camped out” on our big screened in porch. During the night a big thunderstorm hit and produced constant, bright flashes. Although I was completely safe, it scared me badly. Since that night my heart beats faster and I want to find a safe place in storms.
Last Friday I drove to Anderson, South Carolina to meet a Clemson Bass Team fisherman on Saturday to do an article on Hartwell. Sunday, I left and drove I-85 to Montgomery to meet an Auburn Bass Team fisherman to do article on the Alabama River on Monday.
Passing through Atlanta around noon I hit rain. It was not bad and did not slow me down much. But it got worse the further I went. The rain was so bad in places it was hard to see, and many drivers stupidly drove less than 30 miles per hour with their emergency flashers on, even in the far-left lane. Others pulled to the side of the road trying to wait for better weather.
About 20 miles from Montgomery, just after passing Talledega, brake lights ahead warned me traffic was stopped. All lanes came to a complete stop. Suddenly, my cell phone screeched with a weather alert. When it looked it was a tornado warning.
The rain was pouring, and the wind started rocking the truck. My concentration went to the ditches on both sides of the highway. I was looking for the safest place to hide.
Traffic started crawling along, and I gradually got to the wreck blocking the left lane. Several law enforcement vehicles with blue lights flashing sat in that lane. As I went around it, I wondered if a faster moving car had come up on one barely moving in the left lane. More that two cars were involved.
Although the wind and rain continued, I made it to Montgomery without any other problems. The next morning, I saw the news about the tornado that killed so many people less than 20 miles from where I had been sitting on the interstate.
My heart still beats fast when I remember the wind and how close I was to the death and destruction.
The fishing trips were not very successful. It was a pretty day on Hartwell, but there was a big high school tournament with about 200 boats in it that Saturday. They were everywhere, fishing places we wanted to put on the map for the article. We saw a couple of them catch bass while we were near them.
We fished a couple of places and caught some small spotted bass, but that was it. I was impressed the college fisherman would not get close to them. He was polite and courteous, which is unfortunately rare for many younger fishermen.
I was warned the Alabama River was running high and muddy, and fishing would be tough. But it was worse than expected. The water was eight feet high and the current so strong the boat at idle speed pointing upstream would actually go backwards downstream.
We tried to fish a couple of places but if the largemouth were shallow they were so far back in the woods we could not get a bait to them. And on the main river the spotted bass were probably hunkered down deep behind a break in the current and our baits swept by over them. Even with a heavy jig, the current swept it away too fast.
The wind and cold made it miserable to be on the water, too. We did not stay out long.
The warm weather we had in February worried me. If it warms up fast, it seems we have violent weather in March. That has been the pattern during my life. This weekend is supposed to be very warm, but thunderstorms are predicted. The Flint River Bass Club is on Sinclair Sunday and I expect to spend at least part of my day hiding under bridges and docks.
This year reminds me of 1975. It was the first spring after I bought my first bass boat and the last two weeks of February that year were very warm. I had ordered two plugs, Deep Wee Rs, that had just been introduced. Linda and I went to Clarks Hill the last weekend in February.
In two days, we landed 78 bass, including one over six pounds and another just under five pounds, on those two plugs. We found them feeding on three points near our place at Raysville Boat Club. On one of them, a hard clay point, Linda caught most of the fish on her brown crawfish plug.
On another, my chartreuse plug caught most of the fish. It was covered in white gravel and I think shad were the main food the bass were eating. On the third, a combination of rocks and clay, we caught about the same numbers.
Catching all those fish was fun. It got to the point we could call our bites. If we cast across the point at the right angle, as soon as the plug bumped the bottom we would get a bite. We would say “There’s the bottom, and there’s the fish,” each time we made the right cast.
Fish were constantly reloading those points that weekend. We would go to one, catch four or five then go to the next one and catch four or five. We rotated through them constantly all day both days.
I have caught a few fish on those points over the years but never those kinds of numbers again. Maybe someday.