Let’s Look Back – Part 10

Living right on the shore of one of Washington State's best bass lakes provided a wonderful opportunity to study the lake's largemouth.  Part of that study involved learning how to use the lures that provided the best chances for putting those bass in the boat.  The Heddon Basser was one such. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

Living right on the shore of one of Washington State’s best bass lakes provided a wonderful opportunity to study the lake’s largemouth. Part of that study involved learning how to use the lures that provided the best chances for putting those bass in the boat. The Heddon Basser was one such. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

My early bass fishing experience with the old Heddon Basser lure I’ve been writing about recently eventually provided me with a bunch of bass fishing truths.

As I’ve mentioned, one of those truths is that you rarely go wrong using lures and lure colors that match the forage in the waters you’re fishing.   If you’ve been reading these columns you’ll recall the only Basser I had in the beginning was a rainbow colored job I had picked up at a second hand store.

I caught a few fish on that lure just casting it out there and reeling back in.  A truth that soon emerged was that a Basser in a yellow perch finish was by far more effective.

And that figured.  Yellow perch, you see, were the primary forage fish for largemouth in Silver Lake.  As far as I know, they still are.  I killed my share of Silver Lake bass in the early days before pressure built to where catch-and-release became so important.

When I did keep bass and cleaned them I often checked their stomach contents.  I’d find remains of an occasional bluegill or catfish, but what those bass had been eating by far the most were yellow perch.

Along the way I also had opportunity on occasion to watch how a wounded yellow perch acted when it was fluttering around on the surface.  I watched this as closely as I could because it provided some of the clues as to what I needed to do with my lures.

I’ve still got a couple of the old perch finished Heddon Bassers I started with.  I suppose there are those who won’t want to believe it when I say they catch fish about as well as they ever did.  They do, that is, when they are properly fished in lakes where yellow perch are the primary forage of the bass.

I’ve never found these remarkable old lures as effective in other spots where yellow perch weren’t as abundant.  The fact of the matter is I’ve never found another spot where the lure produced quite like it did at Silver Lake period.

She's scratched and beat up but the old Heddon Basser you see here has caught way more than her share of largemouth bass.  What she get for it?  She got dropped by the large company that had brought her to market in the first place. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

She’s scratched and beat up but the old Heddon Basser you see here has caught way more than her share of largemouth bass. What she get for it? She got dropped by the large company that had brought her to market in the first place. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

But there is no question that largemouth won’t clobber yellow perch where they find them.  Any doubts I may have had about that in the beginning were erased by a friend who was a biologist for the Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife.  This biologist was in charge of an operation at a lake near Vancouver.  The lake had an over abundance of carp.  It also contained bass and panfish. The lake was to be poisoned out and replanted.

My biologist friend came to our home on Silver Lake in the evening of the same day he’d finished the project at the lake near Vancouver.  He showed me two nice bass.  One of them was a 5-pounder.  The second fish weighed more than 6-pounds.

It wasn’t the size of those fish that was impressive.  I can tell you what was.  As the biologist showed me both of those bass were completely stuffed with yellow perch they had eaten.  I don’t know how many perch each contained.  I do know you could see dozens of their tails still sticking out of the opening to the stomach of those bass like so many tiny fans.

The biologist, and he was a good one, told me the smaller fish like those yellow perch were the first fish affected when the rotenone poison was applied to the lake’s water.  When it hit them they started flopping around on the surface.  The poison eventually got the bass too but before it happened they went on a feeding binge that must have been something to see.

The Basser and the Lucky 13 were both in the Heddon catalog for a time when I first started fishing Silver Lake.  Then the Basser was dropped.  The Lucky 13 is still there.  No company is likely to keep making a lure that’s not selling well.  Evidently the Basser wasn’t.

I was surprised by that.  I caught six times more fish on the Basser than I did on the Lucky 13 at Silver Lake.  So did the other experienced bass anglers who knew what they were doing.  That anglers in other parts of the country who had access to perch filled lakes weren’t doing the same thing was hard to believe.

Keep what you’ve read in mind if you ever have opportunity to fish shallow and weed filled lakes where yellow perch are the primary forage fish.  I’ve got to believe the old Basser will do the same thing for you that it did for me over the many decades I was to throw it.

You won’t find these old lures easy to come by.  If you set out to do so stick with it until you find one with a good yellow perch finish.  It probably won’t come cheap, but from where I sit there’s a good chance that old lure is going to be worth whatever bucks you have to part with to get it.

There are a couple of other final thoughts and memories I want to share where the Heddon Basser is concerned.  I’ll get to them in my next Let’s Look Back column.