Let’s Look Back – Part 35

Two time Bass Classic winner Bobby Murray gets his share of fish on a Zara Spook.  And he didn't have to have quiet water to do it. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

Two time Bass Classic winner Bobby Murray gets his share of fish on a Zara Spook. And he didn’t have to have quiet water to do it. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

America’s most popular sports fish doesn’t “always” do anything.

If you’ve read some of the millions of words I’ve written about largemouth bass over most of the past century you’ve undoubtedly seen me make that comment before. It’s my contention an angler can count on “usually” and “often” in their approach to this business of bass fishing. But stuff your “always” thinking where the sun don’t shine!

I’ve reached these sentiments after almost three quarters of a century of trying to put bass in the boat myself or watching and then writing about others trying to do the same. I hate to admit the number of times I’ve had things all figured out and then had those big mouthed buggers kick me and some of my bass fishing “facts” clear down to “Helen Gone’s” barn.

The 10th annual Bassmasters Classic staged at Alexandria Bay in the Thousand Island area of upper New York State provided an excellent example of what I’m talking about. I mentioned this in my previous column.

In that column I told how I was the writer paired with Bobby Murray, on one day of the Alexandria Bay contest. Murray had already won the first Classic in 1971 and a second Classic Crown in 1978. If anybody in the bass fishing world had a proven track record it was Bobby.

That’s why I was so bloody surprised when I saw the first lure Bobby decided to show those New York State bass the day I went out with him. As I also mentioned previously, the weather conditions that morning were miserable. The howling wind and the resulting rough water had held up the launch for more than an hour. It was still nasty when we finally did get out.

Remember what I’ve already said about “always”? I wasn’t new to bass fishing when I took part in that 10th Classic. I’d already fished a lot of different areas. I’d certainly been around long enough to determine the approach I’d take depending on the different water conditions I’d be facing and the lures I’d select to handle them each time out.

At one time the Zara Spook was available in all of the sizes and styles you see here. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

At one time the Zara Spook was available in all of the sizes and styles you see here. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

In those earlier years I sure knew what kind of water conditions I wanted before I started fishing the Heddon Zara Spook, one of my most favorite surface baits. In fact, the Spook was “always” one of the lures I’d select when I was out early or late and the water was nice and quiet. Once I’d finally got a handle on just how I had to make a Spook perform its favored “Dog Walker” dance I’d made some nice catches using this approach.

That’s why I almost fell overboard when the first rod I watched Bobby Murray use to throw his lure right up into where the waves were pounding a rocky point was rigged with a Zara Spook! I just knew, you see, that the kind of water we were on was no place for Spook fishing. Surely, I thought, this guy I’ve heard so much about and who has already won a couple of Classics, knows you “always” are going to do best with a Zara Spook when the water is at least fairly quiet.

At least I thought I “knew” that. I hadn’t completely recovered from the surprise at seeing what Bobby was using in that rough water when I got kicked in the butt with surprise number two. And like I’ve already indicated, this surprise was one of the reasons I feel as do now about the planks I pick when building my own bass fishing platform.

Surprise number two came before Bobby had made a dozen casts. This surprise was produced by a nice bass between 3 and 4-pounds that smashed Murray’s Spook like it had been out there just waiting for it all morning. And when it smashed that Spook it fractured all of the nonsense involved in one of my own pet theories about the water conditions required for using that lure.

After seeing what I had that morning I could hardly wait to ask Bobby for some of his thoughts regarding Spook fishing. When the action slowed enough for me to do so I mentioned my surprise at seeing him use a Spook in such rough water. I’ll never forget his response.

You didn't see much catch and release way back when I first started throwing a Spook.  Note the short handles on these casting rods.  I love 'em for making the Spook do its thing. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

You didn’t see much catch and release way back when I first started throwing a Spook. Note the short handles on these casting rods. I love ’em for making the Spook do its thing. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

“Don’t let rough water keep you from trying a Spook,” Bobby said. “You just never know. My brother Billy will tell you that one of the best days he’s ever had with a Spook came in rougher water than we were on this morning.”

Now how does that grab you? It sure as hell eliminated my thinking that quiet water is “always” a necessity for successful Spook fishing. I got out of the boat that day more convinced than ever that a bass doesn’t “always” do anything. It also made it very apparent why a guy named Bobby Murray had walked away winner of a couple of previous Bassmasters Classics.

And if my memory isn’t playing tricks on me, the rod Bobby used along with his Zara Spook that day wasn’t one of those longer jobs that were then becoming increasingly popular. My recollection is that it was short enough so he could get the tip down as he “walked” his Spook back to the boat.

My recollection is that his rod handle was on the short side. If I ever get a chance to visit with that likeable prize winning Arkansan again I’ll ask him.

  • Ralph Manns

    Wow, another great article. If we could, I’d have Doug Stange re-run it in IF.
    Your point about “always” can be further explained. The science upon which we base our fishing opinions, and the generalizations of pro and amateur anglers, have one thing in common. If they have any validity, they are based on averages. If they are based on single occurrences or isolated incidents they can be based on outliers, rare events, that are not often repeatable In science or experience. The so-called temperature, pH, water quality, behavioral, and habitat preferences provided by science and valid Pro observations are all statistical or mentally derived averages.

    Outliers are such things as bass spawning in fall or eating prey nearly as long as themselves. Some bass may do so. Spawning in deep water out of sunlight is another rarity that has been reported. Apparently this happens in newly filling or significantly rising reservoirs where rising water has covered long-used spawning grounds, Apparently the habitual use of a spawning area can override any instinct to seek shallower, but unfamiliar, water for some, not all, bass.

    You’re right: never always.