Outdoors with Forda Birds—By John Andreoni
The other night I got an invite to go bass fishing on Lake St. Marys. For some odd reason I accepted although I haven’t caught a decent bass from the lake in ages. Bass fishing just hasn’t been a priority of mine, especially since most of my time on the water is spent fishing for other species. Back in the day, I did belong to a bass club and fished club tournaments and an occasional open, but since I wasn’t a boat owner, that got old in a few years. Fishing out of the back of a bass boat can become more than boring. That’s also why I became a decent dead-stick fisherman. Dead-sticking by definition is the act of presenting a soft plastic lure either by casting or a vertical drop and allowing the bait to remain motionless for an extended period time before retrieval. How long generally depends on the size of your sandwich or the length of a catnap. An occasional jerk or a series of twitches starts the process over again. What’s interesting is that I caught a lot of bass using this tactic.
Regardless, it was a slow evening and I had more than enough time to mull over my previous bass fishing experiences and what I have learn about the sport over the years. First, when the crank baits and chatter baits didn’t produce, we switched to plastic worms. I rigged mine Texas style since it’s my favorite, and my partner came up with his favorite, a wacky rig. A wacky rigged worm is hooked through the middle which allows both ends of the worm to vibrate, gyrate, and wiggle wacky…thus the name. Of course, I commented to my partner that the wacky worm rig originated in Japan, but that information was quite likely false. Some fishing “authorities” say that the Jersey Rig and the Wacky Rig are one in the same. Whatever is correct is insignificant since a wacky rigged worm catches a lot of fish. One thing for sure, the wacky rig is fairly new and didn’t exist until Nick Crème developed the plastic worm in the late 1940s.
Speaking of plastic worms, there are other ways to rig them that have been around for years. I always tell people I was one of the first to use a Texas rigged worm in this neck of the woods. I learned to fish a worm like that in Texas in the spring of 1964. Before that, I used worm hooks with a wire weed guard as did everyone else who used plastic worms. Crème Lures really took off with the “invention” of the Texas Rig in 1962 and during that phase moved their operation from Akron to Tyler, Texas. Lake Tyler, a small lake 100 miles or so southeast of Dallas is where the Texas Rig supposedly originated. By 1964, the word was spreading fast about the new weedless worm rig, and when I arrived there, local bass fishermen were more than willing to share the secret.
I really haven’t kept up with bass fishing and the current changes in tackle preferences and tactics. However, tactics don’t change very much; they just get updated or reinvented from time to time. For example, there are some uncommon regional practices and tactics that bass fishermen might reconsider. Many bass are being caught more than once a year since some fishermen think it’s politically incorrect to eat one. Consequently, presenting a bait in a new way might be the edge needed to win or lose a tournament. Skittering is very effective in heavy weed cover such as lily pads. The secret is using a very stiff long rod keeping a relatively short line. A small weedless spoon is skittered or skipped across any open water in the pad bed with a jerky or vibrating motion. The long rod allows the fisherman more access to the pads without the boat spooking fish. Rods of 16 feet or more are used for this tactic. I don’t know of any skittering rods currently on the market, but if the demand was there, I’m sure some would appear.
Bobbing was a tactic quite popular down south. It’s not as classy as skittering, but many times is more effective. Again, this practice allows fishermen greater access to pad beds without spooking fish. As in skittering, a long rod is needed and the line is kept extremely short, less than two feet in many cases. A “bob”, is a large treble hook tied and covered with a combination of various animal hair, fur, feathers, and other colored materials. The construction of the “bob” is based on fisherman preference and confidence. Some “bobs” can be almost as large as a man’s fist. Again, “bobs” are not commonly found on the market and must be custom made. “Bob” fishing is unusual in that the bait seldom touches the water. The fishermen swings the bait forward and backward just above the surface only occasionally letting it touch. Once a fish hits and is hooked, it is immediately pulled to the boat using the heavy gear to keep the fish from burying itself in the heavy cover.
I’m not sure if bobbing for bass will ever regain its popularity, but if it produces fish, there might be a niche for it. William Bartram wrote about this fishing tactic learned during his travels through Florida in 1764. Dr. J.A. Henshall states that the tactic was just as effective when he wrote “Book of the Black Bass” published in 1881. I know it has been over 125 years since Henshall talked about “skittering” and “bobbing”, but it seems that the only difference between them and pitching a spinnerbait, shooting a wacky worm or flipping a drop-shot is the length of the pole. Is there a 16-foot flipping stick lurking in the future? If the bass tournament fraternity is willing to change the rules, that’s a remote possibility. There’s already a 10-footer out there.