I’m a lucky guy.
Why do I say that? There’s a whole stringer full of reasons. One most certainly is that I came into the world loving to fish for bass. For the better part of a century I’ve probably had far more time and opportunity to do that than most. And that’s just for starters. I say that because writing about the sport I love so much has also provided most of the bucks I’ve used to buy my beans. How you gonna beat that kind of combo?
Another of the reasons I mention that business about being lucky is because of some of the experiences I had early on when I didn’t know an anal fin from my belly button. One of those wondrous experiences was having opportunity to develop a relationship with Jason Lucas, then the angling editor of Sports Afield magazine.
I’ve mentioned Lucas in my last couple of columns. There are a couple of other things I’d like to share about him. My gut tells me it’s timely to do so. You’re just not going to find that many bass anglers around anymore who were fortunate enough to enjoy the relationship I did with this man who left such an impact on the bass fishing world.
As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, my relationship with Lucas began about the middle of the last century. It came about when I was doing my best to learn the basics of bass fishing. Talk about luck! Getting to know Jason Lucas and to have him open the doors to a personal relationship was for me was like boating a couple of the 10-pounders I was always dreaming about.
Lucas didn’t just write about fishing, he got out there and did it. He and his wife and the family cat pulled a small house trailer to different fishing spots around the country. Those “spots” often included some of the country’s best waters that could be fished year around.
When Jason and I connected for the first time he was wintering at Boulder City, Nevada and doing his bass fishing on big Lake Mead. In those days Mead, like other new impoundments around the country always did, was in its peak period of bass production.
Lucas, as I detailed in my last column, did his Lake Mead fishing all by himself. He fished out of his 14-foot Penn Yan cartop boat. His outboard motor was 15 h.p. Evinrude. As we all did in those days before electric trolling motors, he used oars to move in and around the areas he fished.
If you’re a reader who has spent time on Lake Mead, how would you feel about fishing that huge body of water in a lightweight cartop boat with a minimum of freeboard? You can have my part of it!
Jason was well aware of the potential problems that Lake Mead presented. He carried both food and sleeping gear in his Penn Yan boat as he fished Mead. He told me what he did on those not uncommon days when the wind starts turning Mead into something that looks like the Pacific Ocean. When that happened he’d simply head for a protected area of the shoreline and stay there, overnight if necessary, instead of trying to get back to the launch area.
As I’ve mentioned, I wound up getting a chance to fish Lake Mead myself a couple of years after Lucas first told me about it. Any thoughts I might have had that Jason maybe having exaggerated a bit about the lake’s bass productivity were erased in a hurry. The fishing was some of the best I’ve ever found anywhere in the country.
I thought about my experiences as well as Jason’s when I was invited to Lake Mead decades later to participate in the first Bassmasters Classic. The fishing at the first Classic was good, but it didn’t compare to what it had been a couple of decades earlier.
I often wondered if Ray Scott and his capable crew from B.A.S.S. were aware of how fortunate we all were weather-wise at that first Classic. I was in the boat with different contestant each day of the event. Mead was about as pleasant as it gets all the time the competition was under way.
In earlier visits to Mead I’d been out there in the Flamingo Hotel’s big party boat and been glad to get off the water when the wind started howling. Those boats used in the first Classic could never have handled the kind of water Mead can throw at you some of the time.
I’ve mentioned what a lone wolf Jason Lucas was in his bass fishing. Remember now, at the time he was also the angling editor of Sports Afield magazine. That meant he constantly needed pictures to support his columns and features. My fishing partners have shot thousands of pictures for me over the years that have been published one place or another.
Lucas, being entirely on his own, didn’t have anyone to give him similar support. How did he get around that problem? Watch for my next column. I’ll share what he had to say about that in one of his letters to me.
That column starts right here on Dec. 15.