September 26th, 2005

Are Black Bass Dumb?
By James Castwell

Could be. I hope not though as I have fished for the spinney-rays for years and felt good about myself when I happened to outsmart one. If you were able to search the back records of the Traverse City, Michigan 'Record-Eagle' newspaper you may find a picture of a kid standing in front of the brick exterior of the papers main office, holding up two bass still hooked to the top water plug they both had hit at the same time. Not a big deal I suppose, just a couple of two pounders but it impressed a nine year old kid, my mom and the photographer who took my picture. I spend many pleasant evenings with a Johnson Silver minnow probing the under pilings of the docks lining the small northern lake we lived on.

Those were mostly my 'bait-casting' years. Some fly, but not often. I did troll a floating deer hair mouse with some success from a old wooden boat I would row just outside of the weed beds and old broken skeletons of docks and busted down boathouses. It was cast one, bail the boat two, cast another one, bail two more. The boat never did swell up enough to quit leaking. I remember the day we built a fire on the beach and burned that up all to you know what.

It was only by chance my sport fishing turned toward the soft-ray fishes and bass fell to a back-burner situation. Nothing against bass, just not a fish that swam into my cross-hairs. So it was rather a unique situation this last Friday which prompts this column.

By now you must know I live very near one of our sponsors, namely, Sage. In fact, I have lived here before they did, at least before they were called that. I remember when they made the move about half a mile and built the big modern plant on Day road, with a pond behind the plant. Now, I have to tell you, I am partial to companies that do that, build plants on ponds. Scientific Anglers came close enough to impress me with the big moat thing that is right in front of theirs. You cross it to get into the building.

Meanwhile back to Sage. It was Thursday afternoon, the 22nd of September, 2005. I was on a mission, get the casting analyzer from them for the Fish-In and try to understand how to run the thing. Now, I am a bit computer literate, but I am algo seventy, and learning new stuff can take a long slow curve, almost a flat line.

I will say this, Ned Hobson at Sage is a real sweetheart. He could not have been more gentle and patient as I struggled to comprehend all of the sophisticated nuances of the palm-pilot and the software of the analyzers program. But, I am getting ahead of myself, forgive me.

Two thirty, bright sun, seventy-four degrees, great fall day. Ned and I went down the dozen or so steps to the short dock which extends a short distance into the kidney-bean shaped pond. A real pond, edges, brush, trees, weeds in it, some anchored, floating hula-hoops, and fish.

Yes, fish, bass. Some big ones too. So far, in all my trips to 'the dock at Sage' I had not seen one. As we neared the main part of the dock, in other words, 'the dock at Sage,' Ned pointed out a bass.

Now, as bass go, Black Bass, by the way, it was not a big one. Not more than a foot I suppose. But there he was, all of him sticking out from under a weed, only his tail hidden. Maybe he figured we couldn't see him, who knows. Anyway, Ned had the rod with the gyro on it and the reel, line, leader and a little tuft of red yarn tied on the end of the leader.

As the rig is left assembled all the time for testing and instruction at the plant, the little tuft of red yarn was right at the tip of the rod. The leader then about rod length almost reached the reel. For absolutely no valid reason, as he mentions the bass to me, he somewhat points to it with the rod tip. In fact he pokes the tip into the water. Now Mr. Bass, with this red tuft being thrust almost into his skull goes on the attack.

Whether by reflex, instinct, pure orneryness, or just old fashioned Black Bass behavior, he nailed that hunk of rag with a vengeance. I don't mean he took it, he didn't bite it, he didn't rise to hit, he smashed the crap out of it. Big time. And he would not let go. So much for presentation.

Ned had him at least two feet in the air before Mr. Bass decided that water was a better medium for him and beat a hasty retreat. You might say, "he was out of his element." Well, then again, you probably wouldn't, neither would I. But, he was out of it on a tuft of red rag that he hit not for food, not for fun, not out of meanness but in self defense.

Now, I ask you, just how bright can a bass be? ~ JC

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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