Talkin' Outdoors

Molido Creek ran cool and clear, meandering beneath the beeches and ancient oaks half a mile below our house. Come summertime, I’d shuck my shoes, grab my fishing gear and head to Molido to lob a Hawaiian Wiggler next to cypress roots, hoping a bass would be fooled. I usually only caught jackfish, ugly as sin and outfitted with fierce teeth and most times when one bit, the sorry rascal would sever my fishing line and swim off with my lure.

Then one day it happened. I got a strike, set the hook expecting to see a slimy sharp-toothed jackfish on the other end when to my surprise and delight, a half-pound bass floundered on the surface. This was the very first bass I ever caught and I grabbed the bass, threw down my rod, took off barefoot for home to show my mama.

The gear I used to waylay the bass was an old Pfleuger reel spooled with black braided line and mounted on a steel True Temper rod. The lure was a Hawaiian Wiggler.

That was about the extent of my fishing gear back in the day and my tackle box, which was actually a paper sack, held my lures including an extra Hawaiian Wiggler, a River Runt and Dalton Special. The reason there were no plastic worms in my bag was simple; they hadn’t been invented yet.

Memories of my introduction to bass fishing long ago were triggered when the mail this week contained a copy of the “2014 Summer Angler” fishing catalog. Thumbing through the pages, not a Hawaiian Wiggler, River Runt or Dalton Special was to be found. What I did find, however, let me know just how far — or far out — the bass fishing industry has come since Ray Scott founded the Bass Angler’s Sportsman’s Society (BASS) nearly a half century ago.

Modern bass boats cost several times more than the first new house I bought. Powered with engines in the 200-300 horsepower class, some of these boats, rigged out, can cost in excess of $60,000. Add to that the vehicle needed to pull such a rig, upwards of $40,000 and tackle costing at least another $10,000, you’re looking at over a hundred grand.

The fishing boat I used was a hand-made boat my dad had that was propelled by a hand-hewn wooden paddle. The first outboard motor dad bought second hand was a three hp job that you cranked with a length of rope and folks knew where we were headed by following the cloud of blue smoke the sputtering little engine emitted. If I wanted to know the depth of the water, I tied an old spark plug to a length of fishing line and lowered it to the bottom.

The most intriguing thing that caught my eye was the color and patterns of today’s fishing lures, particularly soft plastics. From electric chicken to watermelon to watermelon seed to root beer to chocolate to brown sugar to road kill to avocado to PB&J to puke….PUKE? Yep, I found where you can purchase a tube jig in the “throw-up” pattern. Personally, I think a less offensive name like “barf”, maybe, would be a bit more appealing.

The catalog contained the photo of a fishing reel for $270 and a rod for an unbelievable $460! Power pole anchors go for $2,000, and you need a pair of these. Don’t get me started on electronics. I saw one particular fish finder sonar unit that listed for a cool $800. An electric troll motor was on sale for over $1,500.

I’m not knocking the high end equipment some anglers purchase today. If you can afford it and if it makes you a better angler, go for it. As for me, I think I’ll just remember what it was like when that first little bass sucked up my Hawaiian Wiggler and gave me one of my greatest fishing thrills ever.