First bass sets us on a path to ruin; and off to the store for more lures!

Most folks come to bass fishing in their younger years.

Grandpas, dads, uncles, older brothers usually welcome both sexes to this undeniably addictive adventure.

Not here. Caught speckled trout, redfish, flounder and other saltier species long before that first largemouth surprised by inhaling a Mann’s blackberry worm. Sure this pound-and-a-half barrel of fight was supposed to do that.

Heck, this worm smelled so good that you would swear it was the forerunner of the gummy worms our grandchildren beg for every time we check out after a meal at any Cracker Barrel. You know what I mean.

It was that day that led down a path to ruin. No dyed-in-the-wool bass fisherman ever tells anyone — certainly not his significant other — about how much they spend on the pursuit of this noble sport (at least not if they desire for that significant other to remain significant for any extended period). Again, you know what I mean.

It cost how much?

There’s been a resistance to doggedly pursuing the latest and greatest rod, reel, line, et cetera, et cetera.

And, these days, what the heck can a $14.95 crankbait do that the old Tennessee shad-colored Bagley’s DB3 balsa crankbait can’t do? Spent $2.49 for them years ago, which, you’d have to guess, has ballooned to near 15 bucks now.

So now, we learned, that old Bagley’s is worth much more than the original $2.49, especially if you have it in the original package. And who on God’s green Earth would have bought a Tennessee shad Balsa B crankbait and not used it? Not I said the first Little Pig, especially when casting for bass around the piers studding False River or fishing the old highway roadbed at Toledo Bend.

Actually saw a guy catch two three pounders on that same lure on the same cast early one morning on The Bend.

Oh, and spinnerbaits! Check out those babies at the tackle shop lately? 

Guy asked if I needed the Heimlich maneuver when I choked at that latest price tag, not after spending the handsome sum of 19 cents for the first H&H double spinner to stock that first freshwater tackle box. You know, it was the one that came with a double hook you needed to attach to the lure. And the first time you did it, you betcha you put it on the wrong way.

No names, please

That leads to the first spinnerbait story: no names here because this dad has mended his ways. But years ago while fishing with beloved outdoor writer Mike Cook, we came upon a guy we knew fishing with his back-of-the-boat young son.

“How you doin’ boy?” Mike asked.

“OK, but dad’s catching all the fish,” said the boy.

“What gives? Lemme see what you’re throwin,” said Mike.

So the kid shows the spinnerbait and it was the same color as his dad’s, the same H&H double spinner.

“I’m getting hits, but I can’t catch ’em,” said the kid.

So Mike inspects the lure and finds it has no hooks, and the dad was caught.

“What?” Mike said. “That’s low.”

“Well, I didn’t want to stop every other cast and get him unhung,” said the dad.

Oh, and we knew there was a special place in fishing hell for this guy. The exchange sent the now red-faced dad into the tackle box for the double hook. And the kid caught a two pounder on the next to the next cast. Hurrah!

The most expensive lure purchased in those first bass-fishing days was a jointed Darter, a shad-colored one soon to be followed by the “Ice Cream” Darter and a yellow one with black and red polka dots, then an all black one. I have none of those left in the package, I guarantee! 

Learned how to fish ’em and knew there wasn’t a topwater plug to match it for catching big bass.

The Classic Creek Chub Jointed Darter. . . No, you can’t get it for $2.49 anymore and no, you can’t borrow it.

The answer is “no”

So, when the Lake Palestine (Texas) guide drawn for a partner for an old Ford Dealers For Bass tournament on Toledo Bend, and he outlined his plan for the next morning, the Darter was the first choice over a submerged grassbed.

The guide threw something resembling the first buzzbait, and he asked, through a smirk, about what was I going to catch on that thing. (See, he’d never cast a Darter around a cypress tree in the Atchafalaya and had his heart darned near stop on the explosion).

After a half-hour when he had boated six not-too-large bass and has maybe seven pounds on his side of the livewell, and there were four lunkers weighing twice that on my side of the livewell, he asked, and quite sheepishly, “Do you have another one of those?” to receive a polite, “NO!”

That lure went for $2.49, and it’s still in the tackle box in the back room. It’s been touched up several times and has had several hooks replaced, and sits ready to hit the water again.

And, the answer is still “NO!”

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