Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hook encounters!

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It was looking to be a beautiful Sunday in late spring. With my mother in law convinced to watch the kiddies, I convinced my wife and Josh's fiance Emily, to accompany us on a "day on the water." Of course, day on the water is loosely translated from the word "to fish without the women realizing it". So, with two beautiful ladies and a slow Stratos in tow, we headed off to Guntersville. As soon as the sun was out, out came the bikinis. We didn't argue!

It was early enough in the spring that a cold snap could push the fish off their prespawn and spawning areas, but keep them close enough that they would come out after the water warmed.This was evident to us, as we didn't have a hit the first hour or so. Slowly, as the sun rose in the sky, the fish rose from the deep, coming back to their shallow spawning flats. We picked off a few small fish at a time, and with a little success, the competition began.

Josh and I swapped the lead back and forth. I was yo-yoing an Xcaliber XR-75 One Knocker off the shell beds, ripping it through grass on my fiberglass crankin' stick. Fiberglass rods don't get near the use they used to, as alot of people stick with just graphite. However, I love fiberglass rods, especially for crank baits. They allow the fish to hook themselves because of their superior flexibility. The flexibility also aids in keeping the fish hooked.

I started picking up fish consistently, and as I worked closer to the "hot zone", the size started picking up. I was skipping it across the shell beds, occasionally hooking shells and grass. You then rip it through the water to free the bait from the obstruction. Usually, the bass can't stand this and you get reaction strikes. I brought the bait through some grass, picked up a few blades, ripped it hard, and as it fell, it felt like a ran across a stump! My fiberglass rod doubled over. The fight was on! The fish bulldogged me and I realized it was certainly a keeper. In fact, the fish fought so hard, that one of the guides on the rod busted off and I began to wonder if I would land the fish. But I did.....

Don't get jealous, ladies....I know it's hard!
After easing big momma back in the water, I got back to work. Cast. Yo-yo. Drag. Rip the bait through grass. Yo-yo. Rip the bait through grass. Ripping probably doesn't sound very intimidating, but believe me, you are essentially pulling as hard and as fast as you can on the rod. On one of my rips, the bait was a LITTLE close to the surface. So instead of fighting against the water, it came out and whipped past my head. I watched it in slow motion, like it was from "The Matrix."

Now is the point that I want to talk about Josh. See, Josh USED to be a fighter. He was undefeated in the Southern Fighting Alliance and held the belts for both Alabama and Mississippi in mixed martial arts caged combat.

But, here is the catch: Josh can't deal with blood. Well, not his own, anyway. Which is precisely what he saw. All I heard was a THUNK! And "Oh. Oh no." I had just enough time to turn around and spring to the front of the boat before he went over. The problem is, he is about 225 and I am out of shape. So, I eased him to the carpet. "Get me a Gatorade and give me a minute." Was all he could muster. 

Since I replace all the hooks on my crank baits with heavy gauge #2s, there was no cutting the barb off. We tried a variety of methods of getting the hook out. We tried covering the barb. We just dulling it. we did NOT try to rip it out. Eventually it became obvious what we had to do. we numbed the skin and, with a very dull knife, sliced the skin so that the hook could come out. I'd love to tell you that I was upset, but I wasn't. Maybe it was the humor in a 6 foot 225 pound dude with bricks for fists who could lay out anyone, but couldn't take the site of a few drops of his own blood. Maybe it is because I am a masochist. Who knows.

About a month later, frog season was in full swing. I have explained frog fishing, but if you are new, it is an art form or top water fishing. forgive me for the copy and paste:

One of our FAVORITE fishing methods is frog fishing. That is, casting a plastic frog out onto the lily pads or the matted milfoil, and bouncing it around. The bass hit the frog viciously. It takes a special kind of rod and set up to accomplish this. The rod and line must be able to provide a massive hook set through the grass, and a quick retrieve to keep the fish from coming loose in the grass. That’s hard to do with 30 pounds of grass and (hopefully) 5 or more pounds of fish. You use a frog rod. A Rod that is long enough to make incredibly long casts, has enough backbone to provide the hook set, and a line (braid, in this case) that is castable and able to withstand all the effort. It is one of the most infuriating, yet rewarding methods of bass fishing, both in part to the low hook up rate and the incredible acrobatics that you will see. See, the fish can’t see you, and you can’t see them. You can be reeling in the frog and they could blow through the somp 50 yards away just as easily as they can 5 feet…and it often happens…so imagine the adrenaline rush! It’s loud. It’s viscous. It takes a really big rod.  It’s a man’s way of bass fishing.  So, when the somp grows…Zach and Josh will show.
Anyway. The problem with missing fish is this: you have to deliver vicious hook sets because the fish is under a bunch of grass and you have to transfer a LOT of energy. But when you miss, Ole Newton takes over, and that frog is going somewhere.
I am usually not Gung Ho on hook sets, but Josh is. A fish blew up and he give it the old heave ho., but missed. I was out in left field somewhere, minding my own, when this 3/4 ounce ball bearing in a plastic frog cover smacked me in the forehead. I stumbled a few steps, and was staring down the drink....bracing for a man over bored operation. Without missing a beat, he turned to face me.
"Now we are even."