Let’s Look Back – Part 31

It's my contention that bass, especially the big old ones, are more inclined to show interest in lures they've not seen before.  They've probably seen more spinnerbaits like the one I have in my right hand than you and I have.  That's not going to be true of the Bomber Waterdog and its pork rind strip trailer I'm holding in my left hand. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

It’s my contention that bass, especially the big old ones, are more inclined to show interest in lures they’ve not seen before. They’ve probably seen more spinnerbaits like the one I have in my right hand than you and I have. That’s not going to be true of the Bomber Waterdog and its pork rind strip trailer I’m holding in my left hand. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

I wouldn’t have bet you a cold bottle of Bud I’d ever get a bass to look twice at the goofy looking rig I was fixin’ to fish with.

If you’ve read my previous columns here at Let’s Look Back you know the “goofy looking rig” I’m talking about was a diving Bomber Waterdog bass plug with a 5-inch strip of white Uncle Josh pork rind attached to its hind end.

I’d been surprised how bass reacted to pork strips and chunks attached to a variety of lures in the past and used with different presentations. I suppose that’s why I eventually removed the teensy little spinner that came attached to the rear of the Waterdog and replaced it with a pork rind strip.

Today our youngest son is a middle-aged adult.  He was just a kid when he saw what that lure he's holding would occasionally do to the big bass in the lake his family lived on at the time this picture was taken. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

Today our youngest son is a middle-aged adult. He was just a kid when he saw what that lure he’s holding would occasionally do to the big bass in the lake his family lived on at the time this picture was taken. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

But when I got that rind attached and held the lure and rind up to look it over I still remember the first couple of questions that were tumbling around in my head. “Stan,” those thoughts said, “what in hell are you thinking? Ain’t no bass dumb enough to get within six feet of that damn thing! For one thing it’s a full 9-inches long.”

I found myself almost agreeing with that negative thinking. I remember even starting to unhook the rind and preparing to put in the Uncle Josh bottle I’d removed it from. Then the other part of my scrambled thought processes surfaced. “C’mon,” they said, “what have you got to lose? The fish haven’t been hitting all that much anyhow. Let ‘em have a look at that thing.”

And that, of course, is just what I wound up doing. If you’ve been reading my columns here you know that I was living right on the shore of what I regarded as my state’s best largemouth bass lake.

When I wasn’t actually using it my bass boat was tied up about 60 feet from my front door. If I’d been out at daylight and hadn’t done much, I’d come back in and have a bit of breakfast and then go back out again and often experiment with approaches I’d not tried before.

That’s how, I suppose, I ever got around to hooking that rind to the hind end of the Waterdog. All this transpired fairly early in a bass fishing career that now isn’t all that far from having gone on for a big chunk of a full century.

But while the experience I’m talking about happened years ago, I’d already learned to accept some bass fishing truths. The most important of all was that the same dude who reaches a point where he’ll tell you he knows all about bass fishing will be the same barefaced bleep-bleep producing knucklehead who’ll tell you he knows all about women!

Decades ago I used to spend a good bit of time working with my varied selection of pork rind baits.  For many years now most of those lures I loved so much (so did the bass!) are no longer even available. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

Decades ago I used to spend a good bit of time working with my varied selection of pork rind baits. For many years now most of those lures I loved so much (so did the bass!) are no longer even available. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

Another of the truths I was willing to accept early on and that my hours of plug pitching had confirmed was that there was no place for the word “always” when it comes to this business of putting bass in the boat. I found there was a place for “usually” or “often” in predicting or expecting how bass might react but I’d tossed “always” in the trash bin labeled “useless.”

All these thoughts were playing tag in my thought processes when I finally got around to showing those fish in my home lake that Bomber Waterdog and pork rind trailer. One of them was that the big bass I’d nailed here before “usually” (there’s that word again) came from cover located close to deep water.

That deeper water, I figured, always gave old Mama Bass an escape route if she screwed up and got herself in trouble. I wound up running out to some pilings in a stretch of water I had scored on now and then before.

My home lake wasn’t really deep anywhere. The deepest spot I’d ever found was around 15 feet. The pilings I was planning to fish were located in about 12-feet of water.

When I’d caught good fish here in the past it had usually been with a sinking plastic worm or jig. I’d cast right up next to the piling and let the lure fall to the bottom. I’d leave it alone for as long as I could force myself and then just twitch it along for a couple of feet before reeling on in and casting again.

I figured I’d have to get that Waterdog & rind combo down close to the bottom because that’s where I’d found good fish before. It didn’t take more than a half dozen casts to figure out the only way I was going to get that lure down where it needed to be. The best approach was to cast well beyond the piling and then crank to beat heck so the lure & rind combo was down close to the bottom as it came to where the fish should be holding.

You're not going to see a lot of bass this size on Pacific Northwest bass lakes I don't care what you show 'em.  My Bomber Waterdog with it pork rind trailer did get a few of them.  Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

You’re not going to see a lot of bass this size on Pacific Northwest bass lakes I don’t care what you show ’em. My Bomber Waterdog with it pork rind trailer did get a few of them. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

I didn’t keep a written record but my memory tells me I’d probably hit a dozen pilings with this approach without so much as a swirl of interest. It was probably my running out of ideas of new things to try and getting ready to quit that finally got results.

I’d made my usual cast beyond the piling, but instead of continuing to reel once it got down and close to the target I just quit reeling. The floating lure with the trailing rind began to rise slowly. I let it get up a couple of feet, stopped for a heartbeat or two, and then started to reel again – WHAM!

The big old female that grabbed my lure & rind came powerful close to jerking the rod out of my hands. When I finally got her on a scale she weighed a few ounces more than 8-pounds. That size bass on my home lake were few and far between. You can say the same thing for any of the other Pacific Northwest bass lakes I’ve ever had the good fortune to fish.

As I mentioned in a previous column, I think that old girl probably smashed my lure because she’d never seen anything like it before. Even then she didn’t latch onto it right off. I think she undoubtedly spotted it as I reeled it down near the base of the piling. She trailed along behind as it simply began floating up and then came slashing in when the Waterdog and rind stopped and then seemingly came to life again.

I wish I could tell you I’ve really clobbered lots of other big fish on the same plug and rind combination. I haven’t. I have caught some and when I have it has usually been with the tactics similar to what got that first one. And they’ve all been way over what I’d consider average size from the waters they came from.

I’ve seen a heap of changes in this business of bass fishing since I wrote my first bass fishing column way back in 1946. I’ve liked some of those changes and there are others I don’t like at all.

I’m just as convinced today as I was 60 years ago that baits fashioned from the pork of a pig are some of the best bass catchers ever created. Unfortunately some of the best ever made have been unavailable now for years. Maybe they’ll all be gone on down the line a ways.

I think that’s a huge mistake and I’ll bet there are a bunch of other old timers out there who share my sentiments.

  • Andy Williamson

    Stan,
    Thanks for the pork articles. I, too, am a porkaholic. It disappoints me that several Uncle Josh baits have been discontinued. One of my favorites was the 900 Spring Lizard Waterdog in white or white with green spots. I seem to always favor the white and lighter colors in any of their baits, not necessarily because of the color , but because the lighter colors usually have more of what I call “flopability”. They are more flexible and not as stiff as the darker colors. It is interesting to see you with an awl to create or enlarge the hole in the bait. I do the same thing with the tine of a fork. I also split the 2 legs of every frog, making it a 4-legged frog, and I split them all the way up to the body.
    I am always thinking if Uncle Josh ever goes out of business, I guess I will have to cut my strips out of a piece of bacon rind, like you did back in the mid 1930’s.
    Take care.

    • Terry Battisti

      Andy, I don’t know if you ever tried this or not but I used to soften my pork baits by putting them in a rock tumbler for a day or so. Worked great to soften them up but it also took a bit of the color away. It always seemed to me that I caught more fish on the worn baits better than ones fresh out of the jar.

    • Andy Williamson

      The foreshadowed day of doom finally came for me (and many others I’m sure), when on Dec. 31, 2016 Uncle Josh quit making pork baits. So sad.