Bass fishing outing yields rare experience

Bill Graves, Special to The County
17 years ago

My fishing buddy Roger Shaw and I finally got a bass fishing trip in last Saturday.  Plans had been made and cancelled three times due to a steady influx of wind, rain, and thunderstorms. Actually our outing was more of a tour since we spent most of the day and made several stops along the way. Since we planned to fish a stretch of the Penobscot River near Medway, it only made sense to visit a sports shop or two along the way and enjoy lunch at a restaurant along the route.
In Houlton we made a stop at Macs sporting goods and spent some time perusing the array of firearms and fishing gear. It’s not that either of us really needed anything in particular, but you never know what might be on sale. Just a short jaunt down the pike we exited at Smyrna and joined a growing crowd for lunch at the Brookside Restaurant.         Anticipating a strenuous afternoon and evening of fighting fish we partook generously of the wide array of home-cooked food and were so full we couldn’t do dessert. Always the smart strategist Roger got two date filled and a couple of strawberry filled sugar cookies to help rebuild our strength later in the day.
On we traveled to Medway, and of course it’s impossible to drive past Two Rivers Canoe and Tackle without checking out their inventory of canoes, guns, rods and gear. We picked up a couple of new bass plugs and even remembered to ask how the fishing had been,—as if a poor report was going to hinder us from finding out for ourselves.
With rain and wind the previous day and heavy thunderstorms promised for Sunday, Roger and I weren’t surprised to find the launch site parking lot full of trucks and empty boat trailers. Fortunately there’s a lot of river upstream and downstream from the boat ramp, all with plenty of smallmouth bass cover, so crowding is never a problem.
Using the electric motor to move the boat along shore and position us to easily cast to likely weed beds, rocks and stumps, we tossed a varied selection of poppers, buzz baits, and plastic worms. I opted for a weighted ginger-colored crayfish that hops realistically along bottom as I reel and bob the rod tip. Within 10 casts a pound and a half smallie seeking an easy meal grabbed the plastic bait and found a hidden hook.
Roger had a brand new rod and closed face spinning reel combo rigged with a top-water plug but was casting an old standby with a spinner and grub combo, but seeing my good fortune he switched rods.
I happened to be watching as with a flick of the wrist he sent his lure sailing toward a stump near the reed-lined edge of a cove. He displayed a great smile of satisfaction at the long, smooth cast, which changed to amazement and then dismay as the expensive plug kept sailing through the air and right into the woods with only a three foot piece of monofilament attached.
The other broken end of the line hung from Roger’s rod tip. Neither of us could believe a new line could be so brittle, yet when we inspected the monofilament we found it was in good condition. There must have been a nick or weak spot, we concluded, and Roger tied on a new hook, bullet weight and a green plastic worm. Less than five minutes and a dozen casts later, I heard an exclamation of displeasure from the stern of the boat. Figuring my fishing partner had missed a strike I glanced back only to find him standing there with the end of a broken line in his hand, scowling and mumbling, and looking at a set of rings in the water where his second bait had been lost.
“Perhaps the reel has a sharp edge that’s cutting your line”, I suggested, and we gave the new bait-casting rig a thorough check over inside and out. We found no problems, so a new hook and plastic bait was tied on and we kept casting, I had just released a feisty two-pound bass when another exclamation of disgust came from Roger. He had set the hook on a striking fish only to have his line break once more. That was the final straw. We stopped everything so he could strip all the factory line from his new reel, and rewind it from a spool of high quality camo line I carry in my tackle box. That had to be the answer.
Wrong answer! Not 10 minutes later after only a few casts, once again a plug went free-sailing across the water with a short tail of camo leader trailing behind. We both uttered some rather descriptive words regarding the reel, the line and the situation in general. Fortunately this plug was a floater so we motored over and retrieved it before some cruising bass could eat it adding insult to injury. “Let me see that damn rod,” I said.
Roger handed it over hesitantly, thinking perhaps I was going to either break it or toss it into the river, which I well might have if it was my own. Instead, I once again checked the reel for sharp edges and finding nothing, I slowly ran a finger over, under and around each guide eyelet. On the next to the last guide I located the problem, a piece of ceramic ring inside the eye was broken and missing, leaving a very sharp edge to rub against the line while casting or retrieving.
It just goes to show you that even new equipment can have flaws, small hard to find problems that can be very irritating and costly. We lost at least an hour of fishing time, several hooks, plastic baits and plugs, and our patience. Roger switched to his back-up rod, vowing that a certain outdoor catalog company would be getting a phone call early Monday morning and a rod and reel via return mail. Since I’d been doing more fishing than repair work I’d landed more bass than my boat buddy and I ribbed him a bit about being behind and using second rate gear.
Although Roger took my good-natured teasing in stride, I should have known that fate would take a hand for the underdog. For about half an hour the fish seemed to have lockjaw as far as my baits were concerned, yet Roger was hooking the odd fish now and again and his count was nearing mine.
While using a blue and silver Heddon Torpedo that gurgles and splashes across the surface, he had a hard strike near a large rock. I heard line going out a couple of times so I knew it had to be a good-sized fish and I put my rod down in case I needed to grab the net.
Roger had a fight on his hands, the fish really put a bend in the rod, ran out more lien and tried to dive under the boat. Once it even tried to wrap the line around the motor, but heavy rod pressure finally turned the tide and brought the bass to the surface. And that’s when I glimpsed something I’ve seen only one time before in all my years of fishing. Roger had two bass on the same lure at the same time! I netted the pair, one about a pound and the other about two pounds, and grabbed my camera for a quick photo of the rare event.
I guess I don’t need to tell you who took the verbal abuse after that,—I became humble in a hurry. Any angler who can catch two at a time can make any fishing partner look bad, and I didn’t need that much help. It was a day to remember and a lesson learned; no matter what bad luck you’re experiencing while fishing, it only takes a second to turn it around and yield an experience and memory of a lifetime. I’m still waiting for my turn at two at a time fishing.