Monday, February 22, 2010
A Classic To Remember
I backed out of the garage, headed down the driveway, over the curb and turned right. My blue Stingray beneath me, and the sound of the knobby tires contacting the asphalt below. A fishing pole in my left hand and a tackle box in the right, gripping the handle bars, and pedaling as fast as I could. About three blocks up the road, turn left, down the valley, towards the creek. It was there I'd pause for a minute or so, check the condition of the trail, before descending down the dirt hill towards my destination. Holding on tight I'd hit the trail, bounce off a few branches, dodge a few puddles and if I was lucky, build up enough speed to make it up the other side. More often then not I wouldn't make it, sliding in reverse until I would gain control, walking the bike the rest of the way. At the top I'd pause again, check to see if any cars were coming, and quickly cross the road, ditch the bike in the weeds, and quietly step my way on to the drain pipe. "Good it looks like nobody is here", I quietly whispered to myself.
Windemere was a private subdivision of beautiful homes with a long pond right in the center. The pond was about two thirds surrounded with properties and the other third was grown over with trees and brush. Dotted amongst this part were a few openings here and there, and it was here that I fell in love with Bass fishing. A Johnson century reel, a Zebco fiberglass rod, some clear blue Stren line and a Beetle spin. It was all that I needed to be content, on a warm spring afternoon. Standing on top of the drain pipe and listening to nature around me, deciding where to place that first cast. Watching intently to the splash of the lure, the wake of the spinner and hoping to feel that first bump of a largemouth on my line. If I was having a good day, I'd get that chance, to see a bass leap out of the water with my white beetle spin in it's mouth, or make a long powerful run from one side to the other. On most afternoons I'd be lucky to catch a small one, but occasionally I would hook into a good one of 12 to 14 inches. Sometimes bringing it home, placing it in a bucket of water and trying to keep it alive until my father and family could see it. I learned more from Windemere pond about bass behavior and my deep appreciation for nature, than anywhere else that I have had the pleasure of fishing.
As with most things in life, eventually Windemere came to an end. I grew up and the residents didn't like a teenager trespassing on private property. The few remaining properties were bought up and the trees were cleared to make way for more homes. I'm sure there are still some nice bass in that pond and I am fortunate enough to have experienced one of those giant bass for myself.
It was a cool day in early April and I made my way to the pond as I always did except this time I drove my car, parked before the trail, and walked the rest of the way. Upon entering one of the clearings, I saw a floating log in the water that was rolling. "That has to be a fish or a beaver moving under that log", I thought to myself. Preparing to make a cast, I grabbed my bait caster, flipped a white spinner bait just on top of the log and it slid right down into the water. The water erupted into a boil and I waited until I felt the weight of the fish before setting the hook hard. The bass showed herself quickly and she tail danced for a few seconds before I reeled feverishly to keep tension on the line. It was all over too fast and I soon stood on the bank of Windemere pond with a 21.5 inch largemouth pinched between my thumb and forefinger. Now what to do? Release her? No one would believe me. I decided that I would mount this one, and I quickly ran to the car, held the bass above my lap, and drove the three blocks to the house. Busting through the front door of your house with a wiggling bass is not an everyday occurrence, especially while your mother is in the middle of giving a piano lesson to one of her students. "Get a load of this one" I shouted. The look on my sister's and future brother in law's faces when I showed them that fish was priceless. That bass will be one of my all-time classic memories of bass fishing, and the fact that I caught it three blocks from home, makes it even better.
This past week I watched, along with many other fans, the best bass fishermen in the world, at the top of their game, competing for the Bassmaster Classic Championship. I can appreciate the struggles that some of them faced throught this year's event. Colder than average temperatures, snow, high muddy water, broken down equipment to name a few. There were some who went a whole day without a bite, or a fish or two. We saw the first woman catch a limit of bass faster than anyone else. Changing the sport forever, for the better. We also witnessed a master at his craft, systematically eliminating his opponents one by one, and proving to all of us again why he is the best bass fisherman in the world. Congratulations to Kevin VanDam on winning the 2010 Bassmaster Classic!
A tournament on Lay Lake or a casual trip to Windemere pond. There is something in it for all of us who love bass fishing. There is nothing like the feel of a good bass picking up a four inch tube bait from the center of a spawning bed, or the sound of a buzzbait being hammered as it passes by a protruding tree stump. We who fish, for sport or fun, understand this unique relationship between angler and bass. A study and understanding that is never completed, a challenge that is constantly changing, and stories that are forever unfolding. I can't wait until I place my next perfect cast. I hope it will be a classic!