Okay, before you start throwing things at me for even mentioning the word “bait,” give me a second to explain something. In 1972 Fishing Facts magazine came out with the first printing of Lunkers Love Nightcrawlers – a book, by the look of the title, that was all about fishing the lowly nightcrawler. It was adapted from Bill Binkelman’s books, “Nightcrawler Secrets” and “Walleyes Love Nightcrawlers,” along with additional material supplied by a number of other experts – notably George Pazik, Jim Wrolstad, Don Woodruff, Ron Lindner, Spence Petros and Carl Malz.
If there was ever a book that the old adage, “never judge a book by its cover,” was made for, it was Lunkers Love Nightcrawlers. Yes, there was a lot contained within its binder that talked about how to grow your own nightcrawlers, how to choose a bait shop, how to fish them, how to store them, yada yada yada. What the cover hid from prospective readers was that this book was one of the first comprehensive dissertations on structure fishing. In fact, at the time there may not have been a better source of information on the subject that was contained in one volume.
I was introduced to this book back in the 1978 timeframe by a close friend of mine who used to frequent the tackle shop. By that time the book was out of print but he graciously allowed me to read it – telling me to pay specific attention to chapters 19 on. As a 14-year-old kid wanting to learn everything I could about bass fishing I read the prescribed chapters, gleaned all the information out of it I could and gave it back.
Since that time I’ve utilized nearly all the tips and tricks talked about in the book but never had a copy I could call my own. Back in those days it was difficult to find out-of-print books – there was no eBay or Amazon.
About a year ago, I was perusing eBay in my constant quest for magazines and books about bass fishing when I saw a copy of the book. It was labeled to be in pristine condition and the initial bid was for something like $25. I placed a bid with a few days left in the auction and waited. By the time the book sold, the bids were up over $100 – and I lost out.
Then, about 3 months ago, I was back on eBay. There was one person selling a bundle of books – one which I was interested in – so I clicked on the picture to get a better look at it. When I zoomed in I noticed another book that had a paper-bag cover on it and on that cover was written “Fishing with Nightcrawlers.” There was no description of what the book was, no actual cover shot, but based on the “title” alone I placed a bid for all six books and got it. I didn’t even care about the original book I was interested in. A few days later I received the order, opened it up, went straight for the paper bag-covered book and voila, it was what I hoped it would be.
Since that time I’ve read the book, this time cover-to-cover and have come to the realization that top-notch research and writing never loses its place. This book is as relevant today as it was in 1972 when it was first compiled. Unfortunately, not many people are able to glean the bounty enclosed within its cover.
Although the first 18 chapters deal mostly with tips on nightcrawlers, there are some decent tips on basic fishing that can help anyone. You do have to wade through a lot of bait-centric material but even that’s fun to look at from a historical perspective since a lot of it was written by some pretty stout anglers.
Where the book really gets interesting, though, is in Chapter 19. From there on out the book deviates from a nightcrawler perspective to “how to find and fish structure” in both lakes, rivers and impoundments.
Chapter 19, “Structure is Where the Fish Are,” starts off by giving credit to E. L. (Buck) Perry as the father of structure fishing and for also coining terms such as “migration route,” “Sanctuary,” “Scatter Point,” and “Breaks.”
The chapter then heads into descriptions of each form of structure, where one is most apt to find such structure and, with the aid of a topographical map, how to find such areas on your body of water. The chapter then shows an example of a fictitious topo map with specific spots highlighted and then goes into detail where the best spots are and why they are the best.
Chapter 20 starts off with probably the best definition of what structure is that I have ever heard. They state that structure is: “That part of the lake bottom extending from deep to shallow water which has some unusual feature that distinguishes it from the surrounding bottom area.” They then go on to say, “The difference may be slight and not always easy for you to detect, at first, but the fish will detect the difference.”
Again, this chapter is all about how to find structure and one of the most important keys in being able to do this is to have a good topo map. The authors name a number of sources to find maps, many of which I expect no longer exist.
In Chapter 21 the authors then go into detail about first learning one lake. Pay attention to the major structural features such as major breaks seen on maps or weedlines, etc. From there expand your knowledge by looking for subtle breaks on these major breaks or even small structural features where there appears to be nothing. Once you learn to spot features on one lake, it becomes easier to find them on other bodies of water.
Chapter 22 is a short 3-page explanation that deals with fishing the edges of deep water and why big fish hang out in these areas. It talks about why fish use these breaks near deep water for staging areas, migration routes and weather changes. It also talks about what deep is with respect to what type of lake you’re concentrating on.
The meat of the subject really gets rolling in Chapters 23 and 24. These chapters are dedicated to the tools used in structure fishing, namely the depthfinder, temperature gauge, marker buoys and anchors. Obviously today’s GPS and trolling motors will, in most instances, replace the latter two but if you’re just starting out and don’t have the luxury of a bass boat and state-of-the-art electronics, the methods taught in this book would be a wealth of information.
Chapters 29 through 33 deal with fishing during and after a cold front along with effects of light and have important guidelines within them all anglers should pay attention to. Chapter 28, although it is titled, “Techniques of Boat Control,” is about back trolling and not really pertinent to classic bass fishing.
As stated in the beginning of this article, Lunkers Love Nightcrawlers may at first appear to be a book only for those intending to dunk worms. Again, this cannot be further from the truth. Even though the book is out of print, it was reprinted in 1988 but again went of out print shortly thereafter, copies can still be found on eBay and Amazon. If you haven’t ever read the book, I highly suggest getting a copy and checking it out. Even at the prices I’ve seen on the internet, it’s worth it.