[Editor’s Note – this is Part Two of a three-part series on the book, Black Bass Fishing by Robert Page Lincoln. To read Part One, click here.]
In the first part of this review of the book Black Bass Fishing by Robert Page Lincoln, we delved into a little bit of Lincoln’s life and covered the first eight chapters of the book. In this second part, we’ll continue on with chapters nine through seventeen in order to give you an idea of what he saw the state of bass fishing in the late 40s and early 50s, along with his methods for catching bass and the tackle he used.
The fascinating part of these old book reviews is to see how far we’ve come in such a short time. Advances in all forms of tackle are nearly unrecognizable compared to what anglers in the early- to mid-20th Century had at hand. In fact, the advances that took place from the 40s through the 50s and 60s really showcase how technology played a part in our beloved sport.
Chapter 9 – Casting Lines and Connections
This chapter, obviously on lines and knots, really brings home the advancements in fishing tackle, not just from today’s standpoint but from the optic of the early 40s through the early 50s. So much R&D was being conducted to assist in the war effort along with other scientific discoveries, such as plastics and polymers, that some of these advancements would surely make their way to the fishing industry.
It’s easy to see why Lincoln was held in such high regard with respect to bass fishing with comments such as, “One matches his tackle to the waters that one fishes and the conditions under which the fish must be taken.”
Back then nylon “monofilament” lines were still new and many of the old guard were still using braided lines – not to be confused with today’s superlines. These lines came in three categories; soft and hard braided and Japanese silk. The problem with these lines was they needed to be taken off the reel after each day on the water and dried. Imagine tournament anglers today having to deal with that mess.
Eventually manufacturers started waterproofing their braided lines thus eliminating the need to dry the lines.
Lincoln states that the early nylon lines – although superior in strength, resistant to saltwater and with less flaws than the pure silk lines – were a bear to deal with as they tended to “spool poorly,” be “harsh on the thumb,” and “ordinary knots, safe with pure silk lines, are useless on nylon.”
The next subject Lincoln talked about was that of leaders. It is just recently, with the advent of the superlines, that anglers have gone back to the use of leaders. Back in the early 20th Century, leaders were standard – tied to the silk main lines.
Original leader materials were made of silkworm gut and had to be soaked in warm water prior to use. Shortly after the introduction of nylon, though, that material became the material used for leaders.
Even though this chapter sheds good light on the historical aspect of line there are a couple of fishing stories, one that includes Fred Arbogast, that really round out the chapter and make it an even more interesting read.
Chapter 10 – Live Bait Fishing For Bass
Live bait fishing was about as popular as fishing with artificials at the time this book was written and Lincoln gives due respect to those who wanted to learn about this tactic. He covered nearly all aspects of the art – from frogs to worms to crayfish. But since we’re more interested in the use of artificial lures these days, I’ll leave this chapter for you to decide if you want to read it.
Chapter 11 – Deep Fishing And Deep Trolling
This is an interesting chapter for a couple of reasons. One, it shows really good thought from Lincoln that as the water warms, the fish tend to go deeper and if an angler wants to catch fish, they’ll have to follow the fish out to deeper water.
This is an axiom that’s drilled into every angler’s mind from the time they become serious about bass fishing. The hotter the weather, the deeper the fish.
Lincoln put together a schedule for bass during the hotter summer months that went like this; Early Morning, Forenoon, Noon, Evening. He stated that in the early morning fish could be caught shallow but by Forenoon, they’d be moving to deep water, only to return in the evening. And, as stated above, this axiom has been sounds for years – until recently.
The advent of lures and tackle that can be managed effectively in heavy grass has proven that some bass never leave the shallows – even when the water temperature approaches the 90s. Talk to any angler well versed in frogs fishing or punching and they’ll tell you the best time of day for either of those two techniques is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. during the hottest part of the summer.
This is not to discredit Lincoln but it begs the question – do the bass actually move out to deeper water, or do the anglers move out to fish that are eating in deep water?
Lincoln also talks of trolling deep water, much like Buck Perry would become a proponent of soon after. Lincoln talks of the importance of fishing the old river channel and its bends and drops. It’s obvious that if he’d had the opportunity to use the electronics and trolling motors that became useful tools in the late 60s and early 70s, he may have found a different approach than trolling. Still, the most important aspect of deep water fishing, find the structure, was apparent to Lincoln even in the 40s.
Chapter 12 – Night Fishing For Bass
This chapter on night fishing really drives home how far advanced we are compared to only 50 or-so years ago. It’s not that we catch more fish at night today than back then, it’s what we have in the order of tools that weren’t available.
The state of the art back then was your memory of the shoreline, its trees, and anything else that may play havoc on your night-time excursion. Anglers used rowboats and didn’t venture far from their launch. They fished areas they knew and knew well so as not to get lost.
Although the techniques and tactics may not be any different than those yesteryears, the boats we use today are. It’s nothing for today’s angler to launch at night, turn on the GPS and head 10 miles down lake. Once there that GPS tells them how far from the shore they are, how deep it is and whether or not there’s any bait of fish nearby. In Lincoln’s day, they had to rely on instinct and knowledge.
Although this chapter doesn’t really give much information on the tactics used other than topwater, it is a great look back into what the night-time angler had to deal with.
Chapter 13 – The Mechanics of Bait Casting
No book about bass fishing from the early days would be complete without a section on proper casting. Today, would-be anglers can pull up videos on the internet and gain multiple instructions on how to cast the proper way. In my opinion, this is one of the downfalls of many anglers in those early years of baitcasting – there was no good way to teach it out of a book.
Lincoln had experienced this in his and others past work and, therefore, gave up with the notion of using pictures or renderings. Instead he suggested the reader get an expert caster to show them how to handle the rod.
Back in these days there were two main forms of casting – the overhand cast and the sidearm cast. The sidearm cast had been the preferred method of casting during the days of the long rods (over eight feet in length), while the overhand cast had been developed with the advent of the shorter baitcasting rods.
At the time this book was written, the overhand cast was the cast to make if you fished baitcasting equipment with sidearm casts the “hall-mark of the amateur.”
Lincoln was quick to point out that the lowly sidearm cast still had its function – namely when an angler was faced with getting a lure under overhanging trees.
Another casting technique that Lincoln talked about was developed by William Vogt and was called the Flip Cast. Here are Lincoln’s words on how he described the cast:
“The rod is held perpendicularly in front of you, rod tip pointing straight down to the ground, spool facing the chest, reel handle to the left. The tumb is pressed on the spool. The lure is flicked forward with a sharp wrist motion and when the rod assumes an angle of 30° to 40° and the lure hits water, the spool is stopped.”
Sounds similar to a modern pitch, doesn’t it? Only difference(s) being one now holds the lure in the free hand in order to load the rod and maybe not so much of a “sharp wrist motion.”
Lincoln did talk about a backhand cast but this cast was for the “backseater” to use so as not to hook the angler in the front of the boat. It’s a cast that isn’t used much these days, at least I haven’t seen it in use, and the underhand backcast has taken over generally as two anglers fish from the front deck.
I wonder what Lincoln would think of today’s anglers and their arsenal of casting techniques? I think he’d be impressed with not only the number of anglers who can handle a casting rod/reel but the number of those anglers who are considered beyond proficient.
Chapter 14 – Fly Rod Tackle For Bass
Back in the early days of bass fishing, even up through the 70s, bass fishing was never talked about without the mention of the fly rod. The reason for this being the susceptibility of bass to be taken on surface lures. Although there are those who prefer the use of the fly rod for bass, you’re hard pressed to find those anglers any day on the water.
It was always my assumption that was because fly rods were not allowed in tournament competition. Maybe that’s the case today but even Lincoln states in this book that the popularity of fly fishing for bass is nowhere as popular as with baitcasting gear.
Because of the low-interest in this form of bass fishing, I’m again going to leave it up to you to read this chapter. Overall it’s a good look back into the history of fly rodding for bass and if that’s your call, you won’t be disappointed.
Chapter 15 – The Fly and Spinner Combination
This chapter may not seem to have much to do with modern bass fishing but believe me, it does. The fly and spinner combination, what we’d call a Rooster Tail or Mepps today, was the early forerunner of the spinnerbait. What this chapter talks about is not only the advent and popularization of the inline spinner but the advent of the spinner blade itself.
It was John J. Hildebrandt who fashioned the first spinner to be fitted on a wire shaft, doing so with a worn out dime, a hammer and some time. Placing this in front of a fly created the fly and spinner combination.
Although originally designed for use with a fly rod, contemporary inline spinners still have their place in any smallmouth angler’s arsenal. I was taught this hard lesson once in a tournament in Idaho on the Snake River. The bite had been tough for a few weeks and contestants were predicting it would take maybe 9 pounds to win the event – this at a place where only a few months earlier you needed 16-plus-pound to place. I had the luck of being paired with the angler who won the event, with a spinning rod and a No. 4 Blue Fox spinner. Since that day if I’m anywhere smallmouths rule the roost, I have a stash of inline spinners.
Chapter 16 – Bass Bug Phases And Tactics
If you’re a fan of the bass bug then this chapter will definitely be of interest to you. Lincoln starts off introducing the reader to the father of the cork bass bug, E. H. Peckinpaugh, who invented the lure in 1907.
He then talks about the inventor of the humped popper hook, Cal MacCarthy and his work with Will Dilg and B. F. Wilder to produce a series of bass bugs called The Mississippi Patterns.
Lincoln’s knowledge of bass bugs is deep and he covers what seems to be the entire history of the lure. Not only that, as with nearly all the other chapters in this book, there are some great first-hand stories that break up the history. As with any fish story, old or new, they’re always great to listen to or read, and these won’t let the reader down.
Chapter 17 – The Mechanics Of Fly Casting
As with Chapter 13 – The Mechanics of Baitcasting, Lincoln goes into good detail on how to cast the fly rod. Having cast a fly rod for over 40 years, I read this chapter to see if it differed from any lessons I’ve had or given over the years. What was refreshing to me was he taught fly casting the same way I have for years – that being the rod moves from 11 to 1 instead of the normal 10 to 2.
But, because contemporary bass fishing is so far removed from fly fishing these days, I’m going to refrain from delving more into this chapter. I’m sorry to those of you who would be interested but just know, Lincoln goes into depth on casting and if you’re so inclined, you can find the book for only a few dollars on any of the online auction sites.
This end Part Two of the review. We’ll be back next week with the remaining chapters 18 through 24. In these chapters Lincoln talks about the “new” spinning gear on the market, Bass fishing in reservoirs, Predicting good times to fish, Florida bass fishing, bass boats, an Ozark float trip and conservation. We’ll finish up with a look at the appendix, which has a ton of information for the historian at heart.