Pearl River Bank Poling

During the last weekend of May I was introduced to bank poles for the first time. My good friend, Ben Tharp and his father Terry, joined me for a weekend of fishing on the Big Black River just south of Vicksburg, MS. We put out around 25 poles along the banks of the river in hopes of catching some large flatheads. The results were not what we hoped for as we ended up fighting alligators for our bait and our catfish. In the end, we had 4 hooks straightened out, 3 lines cut, two poles that were nowhere to be found, and only caught 3 fish. We decided to pull all of the poles for the second night and gig frogs, which proved way more productive. Even with the disappointment, I was hooked on bank poles. I’ve put out limb lines for catfish before but would always run into great looking spots with no limb to hang a line. The bank poles fix that problem and allow you to drop a line anywhere you choose. I returned home after the trip and began researching how to make these poles. After buying my boat it was my next project. I made 10 poles out of pvc pipe. The only thing left to do was catch bait and head to the river.

I finally got an opportunity to get on the river and try out my new poles. On my maiden pole fishing trip I was accompanied by former William Carey assistant baseball coach, Reggie Richardson and his son, Cole. Reggie played at Carey in the late 90’s and came back to coach at his alma mater for 2016-2019 and I’m grateful that he did. We had some really great teams during his time with us and a lot of that had to do with him being there. Cole is entering the 9th grade at South Jones High School in Ellisville, MS. The reason I give that information is if you are a sports fan, particularly baseball, you’re going to want to keep an eye on this young man. He’s already at least 6’3″ at the young age of 14 and shows the promise of being a really good baseball player. On top of that he is the kind of person we all want our children to be. I selfishly hope he follows in the footsteps of his dad and becomes a Crusader one day!

We arrive at the Pearl River in Columbia, MS late after catching our bait in a local pond and waiting out a severe thunderstorm moving through the area. Being in a tent on a sandbar with lightning popping everywhere was not how I wanted the evening to begin so we grabbed dinner and waited. We quickly got the boat in the water and set out to find a suitable sandbar to camp on. It didn’t take long and we had our tents set up and we started putting poles out. Darkness was quickly approaching so we didn’t have much time to scope out the best spots to put our poles. We did the best we could given our lack of knowledge of the area and my inexperience with bank poling. With the poles set out and baited we returned to camp to eat a bite and wait. Cole built a nice fire that accompanied a cool breeze very well. It was the perfect night for camping. There were no mosquitoes buzzing around and the cool night air made for a very pleasant experience. Around midnight we checked our poles and landed our first flathead of the trip. It only weighed around 4 pounds, but the excitement of the first fish made the trip. We made sure our bait was alive and headed back to camp to sleep a few hours before checking them again at daylight. It is possibly the best sleep I’ve ever gotten when camping on the river. I’m not sure if I was just that tired or if the cool conditions made me sleep better, but it was fantastic. We awakened shortly after daylight and went to check our poles again. We only had one more fish, another small flathead, and only had one hook straightened out by what I believe to have been an alligator. After pulling in our poles it was time to head back home. I was somewhat disappointed to have not caught more fish than we did, but my intrigue in running bank poles didn’t decrease, it got deeper. I want to know more about the Pearl River. I want to know more about putting my poles in the right places. I want to know more about how to keep those dang alligators from messing with my poles! As we were driving home my mind drifted to how thankful and blessed I am to have good friends and to live in a country where we are free to pursue the outdoors. This is what keeps me coming back and I can’t wait until the next adventure!

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