Lunkers in the Spring

There is so much to do in the spring time that you just can’t keep up with all of it. Between baseball season, trying to go turkey hunting, watching my kids play ball, I forget that this is the best time of the year to go bass fishing. In recent years, I’ve also done less bass fishing and more fishing for catfish on the river, so it’s easy for me to miss it some years. However, I was recently in Montgomery, Alabama and was introduced to some guys fishing in a tournament on the Alabama River. While they were fishing for crappie and not bass, it reminded me that, “hey, this is the best time of the year to catch a lunker.”

While grabbing a quick bite to eat on Friday night in Millbrook, Alabama I met two guys in town fishing the 2021 Crappie National Championship. Michael Pelsor and Wendell Heath made the trip down to Alabama from Indiana in hopes of winning a championship later this week. This is the first time that I’d even heard of such. A national crappie fishing circuit? It blew my mind to find out that was even a thing. Of course, I blew their mind when the conversation somehow turned to alligators and I showed them pictures of some gators we’ve killed over the years. We swapped hunting and fishing stories for a bit before heading different directions, but it got me thinking. Why in the heck haven’t I been bass fishing yet? Now, Wendell made it clear of his disdain for bass fishermen, but I’ve never been much of a crappie fisherman, so bass it is.

Growing up in Mississippi, you learn how to bass fish about the same time you learn how to tie your shoes, maybe even before. My dad was always a big bass fisherman when I was a kid and I can remember standing in our front yard learning how to cast with a practice plug. I remember starting out with an old Zebco 33 reel and practicing in the yard for hours. After that, I graduated to tossing one of Dad’s Abu Garcia bait cast reels. Between getting yelled at for doing it wrong and having to untangle multiple “bird nests” I figured out how to cast with the reel pretty quick to avoid both. However, the first “big bass” that I ever caught was with that old Zebco.

I’ll never forget catching that fish. I was only four years old and it was in the middle of the summer. I’d just gotten a cast off of my leg that I had broken a few months earlier when a large mirror fell on top of me in the dressing room at JC Penney in Laurel. We lived outside of Laurel, at the time, in the Myrick community. Behind our house was an old pond, that probably wasn’t much bigger than a half-acre, and I would fish in it regularly. Dad was at work and Mom was cutting the yard so I grabbed my rod and headed down to the pond. Equipped with a plastic purple worm, I tossed my lure into the pond. As soon as the worm hit the water, the fish gulped it down. The bite was so strong I doubt I even had to set the hook. I can vividly remember just hanging on trying not to lose my rod as the fish pulled. My mother noticed me struggling with a fish on the line and hopped off the mower to come help. By the time she got there I pretty much had the fish to the bank.

We weighed the fish at just over 5 pounds. Not too shabby for a 4 year old alone in the backyard! We took the fish to a man down the road that did taxidermy work and had my catch immortalized. It still hangs in my home office today, along with another 5 pound bass. The other 5 pounder is a fish my oldest daughter caught when she was 4 years old, as well. She caught it in a local pond here in Oak Grove while bream fishing with some friends of ours. She likes to brag that she caught hers on a Barbie rod with a cricket, somehow making her the better fisherman. To my wife’s disdain, we also had her fish mounted to hang next to Dad’s.

That’s the great thing about bass fishing. It’s a great family activity and you can do it almost anywhere in Mississippi. It doesn’t have to be expensive, although it can get that way in the event you want to mount your catch. I love to watch my kids wrestle a bass to the shore. It’s fun to watch their eyes light up as if they have accomplished something spectacular. Another good thing is bass are pretty darned good to eat. They are less “boney” than bream, and to me, just plain taste better, which also reminds me, it’s time to fill up the freezer.

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