May 10, 2016

FISH TALE 

By Teddy Willett

Some time ago, OK... OK!! A very, long time ago, I knew a guy named Dale and he knew of a "honey hole" for bass over near North Lake, Wisconsin. If I promised to wear a blindfold, he said he would take me fishing there. There is no way to fish it without a boat.

Fortunately, Dale had a very small, flat bottom duck skiff that we had to carry along an old, abandoned, railroad track. It was about 10 miles to this so-called "magic pond" (well, maybe a couple hundred yards). After a few stops to take a breather, we came up to the pond.

It was an abandoned stone quarry with very steep banks around the west and north sides. The east side had almost a straight drop to the water leaving no place to fish from shore. Now I could see why we needed a boat. The south side had flooded over on to a small patch of woods with dead trees protruding out of the water. It looked like a swamp from down in Louisiana. It sure looked like one heck of a bass "honey hole" to me.

We lowered the boat with all our gear into the water and jumped in. As Dale began to paddle, I flipped a small floating Rapala out. It no sooner hit the water when a big bucket mouth slammed the bait; after a few busting jumps, it was in the boat... It was about a three pounder. As we continued on, we boated seven more, all about the same size. We found that with all the submerged stumps and brush that floating baits seemed to work the best.

Over the years I lost contact with Dale, but my next door neighbor, Doug Petersen, who wanted to take up fishing, had a 12-foot aluminum boat, which I swore took on more water than the pond had to offer. After many exhausting times of hiking that boat, along with all our gear piled in it, I thought there must be an easier way to get our equipment to that pond. Then, an idea hit me.

My son, Thomas, had a tricycle that he was too old to ride. So, I cut the front wheel off at the seat, then I welded a clamp on it to fit on the transom of Doug's boat. We had a two-wheel wagon, and it worked like a champ. Now we could kart the boat, and our equipment, with very little effort to get on the water.

 After some time, Doug became pretty good at bass’n. But, I remember he had a problem. Every time he would tie into a bass and the fish would throw the hook, I virtually had to hang on, as he would slam his rod down in the boat and rant and rave, stomp his feet, then follow with a string of words that would embarrass a drill sergeant.

When we returned home, his display of anger made me a bit upset. I calmly said to him, "I am not going to fish with you anymore."

With a surprised look on his face he replied, "Why?"  I proceeded to tell him.

 “Doug, when I go fishing it is about the surroundings with nature, the serenity and relaxation. If I land a bass or lose one it doesn’t matter. It is about the thrill of being on the water, and sharing it with someone it is a big bonus."

He said he was sorry, and will watch it the next time.

Well, the next time came a few days later. He suggested we go fishing. I could not turn that down, besides he had the boat. On the pond, it was all good until he hooked into a fairly nice sized bass. After a few cranks on the reel, the bass broke water, shook his lure loose, and it slammed into Doug's chest. OH BOY! I grabbed the sides of the boat. He looked in the direction of the fish, stood up slowly, pointed his middle digit up, and softly set forth with one naughty word. As he slowly sat back down, he turned to me and said, "How was that?"

 I said, " Now that's better."

As time went by, I was getting sick of having to stop after every other cast to pick up a coffee can to bail water that had leaked in that Swiss cheese boat. It would have been nice to use "Flock-A-Seal" (you know the guy on TV), he would spray the bottom of a boat that had a screen door for a floor to show how to stop the leak. Anyway, that stuff was not invented yet. I tried duct tape, and even road tar to no avail.

One day, I stopped at a rummage sale and found a very strange looking electric 12-volt waterproof motor with very high speed. Maybe I could make it into a bilge pump. For 3 bucks... what the heck, it was worth a try.  I took it apart, went to a buddy, who had a machine shop, and made up a 3 stacked, nine-blade propeller with housing that fit 2-inch hoses.  Once I assembled and mounted it to a wooden board, I took it to my 15-foot swimming pool, put the intake end of the 2-inch hose in the pool and hit the switch. Wow! 6000 RPM's.

It really wound up! It drained the pool to about 5 inches in less than a minute! The outlet flushed the water like a fire hose. Thinking that spray might scare the fish, I added about a 50-foot, 2-inch flexible hose on the outlet with a Styrofoam float to trail behind the boat with about an 8-foot intake with a weight to lower into the water. Problem solved!

At the time, I was a manager of a print shop. A customer came in who wanted to order some printing for a new fishing lure that he had patented. The lure was a spoon type with a copper wire fixed to the eye that extended just past the tip of the single hook, which made it weedless, almost like a "Johnson Silver Minnow.” Later, when he was happy with the work, he gave me a few of them. He named them the "Miller Wobbler.”

It turned out to be the best weedless lure that I ever used. It would bring the bass out of the thickest cover. It was great on smallies, northern pike, walleye, crappies and even trout. I never lost a lure on a stump or brush off the bottom.

On a side note, a very good high school friend of mine, Ray Grenier, longtime fishing partner, Ham radio buddy, and Cole co-worker, along with our families, did a lot together. Every Memorial Day weekend, we would pack up the kids, dogs and enough stuff to survive for 10 years. We would pull our boats filled with even more stuff, up to Ray's cabin, located on Goose Lake just northwest of Oxford, Wisconsin. After everyone was settled in, Ray and I would hookup his 14-foot aluminum boat and head off to Peppermill pond for some hard bass and northern pike fishing.

On the water, I dug out, which turned out to be my last Wobbler. I flipped it into the slog, and KA-SLAM!  A big old northern pike was in the boat. After that, it was one pike and bass after another, with Ray just doing all the netting. He was unable to even have a "follow up" with his Mepps Spinner, and he even offered to buy my last Wobbler for $10. "NO WAY," was my reply.

He finally went as high as $25. Well, at that point I felt sorry for him so I let him use it, but only if he promised not to feed it to the lake, after all, it was my last one.

Previously, one evening Doug and I were back on the "honey hole." I made a long cast at a bass that I saw boil the water. When the wind caught my Wobbler and hung it up at the top of one of the big old dead tees. After line pulling, and jerking to try to free it, the line snapped and now my lure was a shiny ornament, high up in the sun-baked tree.

The following week we went to the pond, Doug had a surprise for me. He rowed over to the tree that my prize lure was up in and took out a handsaw from under the seat and proceeded to cut the tree down.  I got my Miller Wobbler back! Yes!!

Now it’s time for some serious bass'n. We were back in the thick part among the trees. I flipped the spoon out to the base of a tree. After a few twitches, ka-POW! A big old bucket mouth broke the water like a nuke missile out of a submarine, I had to work the fish around stumps and trees for about 20 minutes, when, OH NO!  The monster hung up on a tree. I didn't want him to see him go, so I yelled at Doug to pull in the outlet hose of the bilge pump and toss it over the bank as I dropped the suction end over the side and hit the switch.

In about an hour and ten minutes, the pond was drained to where I could step out of the boat. I walked over to the tree my bass was hanging in, reached up and picked my bass and lure off the tree branch, then we both pushed the boat to the deeper water and went home a smiling.

After that, Doug and I had many years on the water together, until he passed away in 2007.

Now, who said, "Bass don't grow on trees?" Just remember, bass fishing can be fun if you makeup a good tall tale to go with your story. The bass is hanging my wall, weighs in at 8.6 pounds along with a photo of the "Miller Wobbler," and my long time friend, Doug.  

 

Cast fast and cast often