This week I had a revelation of sorts, and it came about by accident.
When I say "accident," I mean that literally.
If you read my column with any frequency then you probably recognize the name Will Thompson (aka "Catfish"), who is part of the crew I regularly fish with -- along with Don McCarthy and Harry Morales -- aboard the Manatee Mac. Does his name ring a bell now?
Even if it doesn't, Will was in a pretty bad car accident a couple of months ago and is just now starting to heal enough to get antsy about fishing. The problem is this: His doctor forbade him from setting foot on a boat for six months, which for an avid fisherman like Catfish is hard, real hard. Having been there myself when I broke my back in a car accident in 2005, I know the frustration that goes along with being housebound and even worse, not being able to wet a line. It was his predicament that led to my revelation.
I was getting ready to go over to his house to see him but because it was chilly outside, I opened my closet to get a jacket and sitting there on the shelf next to my coat was a purple plastic worm. I know that is a strange thing to have in a clothes closet but in my house it's actually fairly common. Heck, my wife finds fishing hooks in my pockets all the time and when she does it's usually accompanied by a scream of pain. Anyway, that worm started a chorus of voices in my head, and they were all saying, "Take Will freshwater fishing, stupid."
It was definitely a V8 vegetable juice moment.
Along with my nephew, Byron Sewell, we drove over and picked up Catfish. Our covert mission was to go freshwater bass fishing on Hilton Head Island, something none of us had done in years. As we drove to some ponds I knew, we agreed we would all use plastic worms only and have a friendly fishing contest. There was quite a bit of good-humored smack talk going on and as soon as we parked the car it was game on.
Byron was the first to hook up to a really nice bass and that 4-pounder gave us all quite a show with headshakes and long runs. It was at that moment I began to wonder why I never freshwater fished anymore. I guess I had simply forgotten just how much fun it is to hook into a lunker bass.
Shortly after Byron got his fish I heard Catfish hollering, and though I was about 100 yards from him, I could see he had a big bass on, but after its second jump, it threw the hook. Catfish was crushed. This little tournament was getting downright exciting.
I had caught two or three small bass but nothing to get too excited about when I felt this hard "thump!" on the end of my line. Not wanting to set the hook too soon, I watched my line swimming away and after a count of three, hauled back and set the hook. Almost instantly, this pig of a bass came flying out of the water not once but three times. Being that I was the old man of this group, the pressure was on -- it was "old school" vs. "new school."
As hard as that bass tried to get away, I finally got him in, and it beat Byron's bass by a pound or so. He was crushed. We fished for a while longer before leaving to get a bite of lunch and as we sat there eating, we all agreed we needed to start doing more freshwater fishing. Why? Because it was an absolute hoot, plus it is so easy and accessible to just about anyone.
Just so you know, the ponds on Hilton Head and in Bluffton hold some huge bass, crappie and bream. My largest bass, caught in Hilton Head Plantation, was just shy of 14 pounds, and my largest crappie, caught in Sea Pines, weighed just under 5 pounds.
My favorite lures are: the Rebel Teeny Pop-R, Rapala's Shallow Running Shad Rap and Gary Yamamoto's Purple Flake Senko Worm with a 1/16-ounce bullet weight. These three lures are all you need to get 'er done with big bass.
By the way, I still have a couple of spots open for my two-part fishing seminars at the Waddell Mariculture Center from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Feb. 13 and 20. Seminars are by reservation only. I will cover inshore and near shore fishing, rigs, baits, what to look for, how tides affect different species as well as answer any and all questions you might have -- no matter what type of fishing it concerns. Want to learn how to throw a cast net? No problem! I might even divulge a few of my fishing hot spots. To reserve your spot or for additional information, call me at 843-816-6608 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
God does not subtract from the allotted span of a man's life the hours spent in fishing. Columnist Collins Doughtie, a graphic designer by trade and fishing guide by choice, sure hopes that's true.