Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Fish Bait

Fish Bait


   Got to thinking about this tonight for the simple reason that I talked to Stanley tonight and he is sitting down on the river bank fishing right where I really wish I could be.

   Bait. It's kind of hard to catch a fish without it. Om a fishing pole I should say. I've caught lots of fish over the years without using a hook or line. I have built fish traps for every thing from perch to salmon. I've used sticks to stir up the mud in the swamp and picked the catfish up when they came to the top to breath. I've gotten lots of different fish using a speargun and even got some with dynamite.  But, tonight I'm remembering some of the weird things we've put on hooks trying to entice a fish dinner into a pan.

   We started out pretty well the same as any other kid using worms I mean, really, who hasn't? The worked great for catching most anything that swam in the water down home.


   My first move away from worms was because of my Uncle Henry. He used to take me fishing all the time when I was a kid and from the start I had to learn to fish the way he did. He lived in Arizona and would take me along to his two favorite spot, Salt River and Roosevelt Lake. The fish he was after in the lake were bass and the bait of his choice was water dogs. For those of you who have never used them, they are salamanders. Good size ones too. I have no idea where they came from other than a bait shop. I have no idea if any of them actually lived in any lakes or rivers in Ariz. but I do know the bass liked the hell out of them. the trick was to hook them through their jaws so they could swim around after you threw them in. His next choice was catching catfish and his bait of choice for them was dough balls. I have met lots of folks over the years that use dough balls and it seems like every single one of them had a different recipe for making them. I met guys in Okla. that had a special formula that would catch catfish, others that swore theirs was the best for carp and others that would only use their own blend when they were fishing for buffalo. I wish I could tell you what Uncle Henrys recipe was but I never took the time to even ask how to make much less do it. I do know that what ever it was we caught catfish as long as the bait lasted!


   Minnows are also good bait. I've used them in Okla. and Ariz, for crappie and bass, Wa. State for walleye. Minn. for northern pike, I guess just about every state I've ever been in. I've even use big shiner minnows as trot line bait for catfish.

   I'm not even going to list all the grasshoppers and assorted bugs I've stuck on a hook. Both Stanley and I always carried hooks line and sinkers with us any time went out in the woods but we seldom had bait so it was just a matter of what ever we could find. I will say that we had lots of meals by using whatever kind of bugs we could find.  


   I think my next move up was to artificial bait. I got really hooked on fishing bass tournaments for awhile and you couldn’t use any kind of live bait during one. I ended up spending lots, and I do mean LOTS of money buying artificial lures. Not that they really helped me that much. I tried every thing I could think of to make a go of those bass tournaments I drove everyone else asking questions. I bought every "hot" plug I could find. I followed other guys around the lakes to see where they were fishing I even tried to push myself into their fishing spots which is something I never would have done with any other kind of fishing. I finally had to own up to the fact that no matter how hard I tried I just wasn't as good at it as the other guys were. So what did i do? might as well come clean, I'm too old now to be lying, I cheated. Not proud of it but I was just so tired of losing! The absolute best I ever did on any tournament was 100% because I cheated. I had been out half the first day of a two day tournament. I had tried every plug I had in my tackle box in every way I could think of and hadn't even put one fish in the boat. I was sitting a hundred yards or so off the bank, dejected and feeling sorry for myself when I happened to notice a big swirl over close to the bank. I was sure what it was but since I wasn't doing anything else I kicked the trolling motor in gear and eased over that way to see what it was. I didn't have to get very close to see that it was a huge bass. I watched it for a minute and realized it had to be a female and the swirls I had seen was her using her tail to prepare a nest.

   Female bass, for the most part are bigger than the males but their harder to catch, in less their spawning! If you can find the right plug and get it close to her she will tend to attach anything that gets close to her nest. I got all excited, thinking I may have a chance at doing good but no matter what I threw at her she would not bite. I even tried moving up and down the bank because while I was casting to the first one I had noticed that there were several more preparing nests along the same shore line. I spent a couple of hours tossing everything I had at them but no matter what I did I just could not get them to bite.

   I was back to just sitting in the boat, feeling sorry for myself again when I noticed the first bass I had seen was making her nest right under a willow tree. i honestly don't know what made me think of it. maybe it because she seemed to come to the top of the water or maybe it was the way the willow limbs moved in the wind but I dug down in the bottom of my tackle box and came up with a box of dry flies.

   I didn't know for sure if it was legal to fly fish for bass. I do know I had never heard of anyone doing it. I mean, they were artificial bait so they should be legal, right? Maybe, but truthfully, I knew up front that what was going through my pea brain was NOT legal or ethical. I eased over to the willow tree and attached a monofilament line to the end of the limb. I tied a dry fly to the end at a point where it would just skim across the water when the wind moved the branch. As if that set wasn't bad enough, I put in half a dozen more of them down the bank.

   I headed back out in the lake. Close enough to be able to see my lines but far enough out so that if anyone saw me they would assume I was casting to the bank. it took less than 15 minutes before I had the first bass in the boat, 9 lbs!

   By the time check-in came around I ended up winning most lbs in the boat AND biggest fish of the day. Even with me cheating the next day I still came I third but I did win biggest bass. yes I kind of won but you know, I never fished another tournament after that. It didn't matter that no one else knew I cheated, I did.


   I also got hooked on using mud bugs (crawdads, crayfish, etc) the big ones were great for trot lines and catfish while the little ones are great for most everything else. This is another of those things where I'm not sure if I thought they were great bait because they were or just because I loved catching them and needed to justify doing it. the best way to catch them is using a seine in the ponds down home. Since I'm trying to be as truthful as possible here I have to admit that seining was my number one favorite way of fishing! there's just something really fun about dragging a seine through a pond, creek, river or lake and waiting to see what you catch. I was always more than willing to help anyone do ti even if I wasn't going to get to use ant bait we might get. You just never knew what might show up from perch to bass to snakes, it was like Christmas with every pass of the seine! The icing on  the cake was the fact that both mud bugs and minnows were great bait.


   I should be at least a little ashamed of this one, but I'm not. I used to go fishing in Arizona with my neighbor Lee. We always went to Canyon lake and the main thing we fished for was crappie. The first one I ever caught there was a little over 4 and a half pounds! if I had caught one that size in Okla. the governor would have came out to shake my hand! off to the marina we went to show everyone my record Crappie. The guy in the marina didn't seem very impressed though, he just said it was a nice fish! I tried to tell him it had to be some kind of a record! he just smiled and told me there was a freezer right behind me with a bunch of them that were bigger than mine. Talk about a let down! anyway, back to the story. We had spent a weekend up ay canyon and ended up with a couple of ice chests full of crappie that size and bigger. I don't know where our minds were but we didn't clean a single fish in those two days, we just kept dropping them in the ice chests. Guess I should get to the bait. We used floating bobbers with two crappie jigs when we fished. it wasn't uncommon to pull in to crappie at a time using that rig. that is ALL we used.

   We were headed back home on Sunday afternoon when we came up with the idea of stopping off buy the number 1 canal and clean our fish. Not sure why other than we could dump the guts in the canal instead of doing it at home. The number 1 canal runs right outside chandler and is bigger than a lot of creeks and rivers back home so it was a good place to clean the fish. Since it comes right out of the Salt river there are even fish in it even though most of it is just one big concrete ditch. The other thing it does is run by several migrant farm worker camps. Most of the workers that lived in those camps were poor Mexicans just trying to make a living. I knew that lots of them fished in the canals although I'm pretty sure they didn't do it for sport.

  This time we pulled over next to the bridge, pulled our ice chests out and started cleaning the fish. To tell the truth i didn't even notice that there were other folks by the canal until some one ask where we had caught all the fish. I looked up and there was this older Mexican guy standing there watching us and several others along the canal bank with fishing poles. Lee didn't say a world but, asshole that I am I popped off with "right here, in this canal". His eyes got real big and he started asking more questions like where, when and how. The how was the killer. I know I was being a totally dip but I went to the truck and dug through my tackle box. I came up with a 12 inch plastic worm. I'm not sure how that thing even got in there. I know I had never used one that size but I did have all kinds of strange stuff in that box. Anyway, I went off with this big story about how that canal was just full of big crappie but the only way to catch them was by using the biggest plastic worm you could get. Lee jumped right in by not only agreeing with me he also dug out some hooks and was showing the guy how to rig the worm. After Lee got it rigged we gave it to him and assured him that if he used those he would have a bucket full of fish just like ours. I didn't think he really believed us but he thanked us and wondered back to his group. As we finished cleaning our fish and got ready to leave I noticed him talking to his friends and handing the worm around. I figured they were talking about how stupid we were and having a good laugh at us. I didn't mind, Lee and I had a few chuckles over the whole thing ourselves. I had forgotten about the whole thing by the time we got home. 

   It was a couple of weeks before we got a chance to head up to the lake again but before we did, we needed to stop by the local tackle shop and stock up on some more crappie jigs. We knew all the guys who worked in the shop and we would always talk to them about fishing and where were the best places to go or what the fish were biting. As we were checking out we got in a debate over which color of crappie jig worked the best. As we were talking to the guy behind the counter one of the other guys happened to walk by and hear us "You should use plastic worms" he said "I hear they're killers on crappie." Lee and I just stared at him because we had know Idea what he was talking about. Lee finally asked what he meant and he told us the a couple of weeks before there had been a group of guys come in and buy every plastic worm they had. He shook his head and said it was odd because they only wanted the biggest ones in the store. He said he'd ask them what they were going to do with the worms and they had told him that they were the best bait for crappie fishing in the canals.

   I asked him what the group looked like and he said they were a group of Mexicans, nothing special about them. I have no doubt that I know what that group looked like. I guess they believed us more than I thought.  


   To be continued..................