Let’s Look Back – Part 14

We weren't practicing catch and release back when I first got into bass fishing.  With the light pressure that then existed it wasn't really necessary.  Once tournament fishing caught on big time that situation changed in a hurry. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

We weren’t practicing catch and release back when I first got into bass fishing. With the light pressure that then existed it wasn’t really necessary. Once tournament fishing caught on big time that situation changed in a hurry. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

The lure might be the best you’ve ever tied on – provided you know how to use it so the fish find it of interest.

If you read my last couple of columns you know I’ve been writing about an old lure called the Al Foss Shimmy Wiggler.  I’ve also said I planned to tell more about the great guy who was to show me what I had to do with it to get the kind of results I was after.

As I’ve detailed, we were about to make our first trip together on Silver Lake in Southwest Washington State.  This lake, about 40 miles as the crow flies west of Mount St. Helens, is one of the best bass and panfish lakes in the Pacific Northwest.

Though I didn’t know it when I fished with Tex, I would eventually build a home right on the shore of this beautiful lake and spend decades making life just as miserable as I could for its crappies and bluegill and especially the bass.

It’s easy to recall what Tex told me our plan of attack was to be when we were to be on the water before daylight on our first trip.  Remember now, this was a long time before electric motors came to the bass fishing scene.

Tex explained that we’d take turns fishing from the front of the boat.  When he was up front I was to be on the oars and asked to keep our rowboat in position 20- to 30-feet away from the outside edge of the lake’s huge lily pad fields where we’d be fishing.

After an hour or so we were to swap spots in the boat.  The one who was on the oars could also fish but the guy up front got first crack at ‘em.  The first responsibility of whoever was on the oars was to keep the boat in position and moving along slowly if the fish weren’t responding.

It’s easy to recall my excitement when we shoved away from the dock at Sunset Ranch that morning.  I watched with keen interest as Tex told me where he wanted the boat and fired his first cast a few feet back into the pad field.

I recall my surprise when I watched Tex make his first couple of casts.  “Holy cats!” I thought, “they must have given this old guy a casting rod when he was a kid instead of a stuffed toy.”  And his rod handling ability was just the first of the surprises that were in store for me.

The second was what he was doing with the Arbogast Hawaiian Wiggler he had attached to his line.  Remember now, I was a newcomer to bass fishing at the time.  If my memory is giving me the proper information it was in the late ‘40s or early ‘50s.

I have reason to believe the bass in Silver Lake at that time weren’t any more familiar with the approach Tex was taking with his weedless Hawaiian Wiggler than I was.

Pad cover like that you see here was a great spot for the old Al Foss Shimmy Wiggler.  The best approach was to keep your boat a short distance off the edge of the pads, then cast the Shimmy a few feet back into the cover.  As soon as the lure touched down the key was to bring it racing back and raising as big a ruckus in the cover as you could in the process.  Strikes often came just as the lure reached open water. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

Pad cover like that you see here was a great spot for the old Al Foss Shimmy Wiggler. The best approach was to keep your boat a short distance off the edge of the pads, then cast the Shimmy a few feet back into the cover. As soon as the lure touched down the key was to bring it racing back and raising as big a ruckus in the cover as you could in the process. Strikes often came just as the lure reached open water. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

And what was that approach?  There was no mystery about it.  Tex, a veteran bassin’ man who’d fished largemouth all over the country, fired his Wiggler into open pockets a few feet back in the pad field we were 20-feet outside of.  Then, and without letting it sink an inch, he brought his lure back just as fast as he could turn his reel handle.

My jaw must have dropped another inch or so when in less than a half dozen casts a bass came busting through the pad cover to blast Reeder’s Hawaiian Wiggler like it had been waiting for it all summer.

And that fish was no dink.  We didn’t weigh it but I know it was close to 4 pounds.  That, as anyone familiar with the average size of bass in Pacific Northwest waters knows, is a good sized largemouth for that region.

What I had watched Tex do wasn’t to be a one-time thing.  Before I’d moved the boat 20-feet another good fish came sizzling out of the cover to give us a repeat performance.

I didn’t have a Hawaiian Wiggler in my limited tackle collection.  I did have that ancient Al Foss Shimmy Wiggler I’ve been talking about in my last couple of columns.  I’d used it a bit here and there but I had never fished it in the fashion Tex was using his Hawaiian Wigglers.

I found myself wondering if my Shimmy Wiggler might get results if I fished it the same way.  After Tex had made a couple more casts into the area where his second fish had came from, I got back on the oars and moved the boat another 20-feet along the outside edge of the pad fields we were fishing.

Then I picked up my rod and fired my Shimmy Wiggler into the pad area Tex had already fished.  What happened?  One of the results was opening the door to some bass fishing truths I’ve been using ever since.  I’ll provide the details in my next column.  You’ll find it here Oct. 15.

  • Ralph Manns

    While Stan’s assessment, “lightly pressured,” may be accurate for the northwestern waters he fished, it is important to know that by the early 1960s, largemouth bass populations all over the USA were already being fished-down. Although pressure increased so much that by the 1970s only the new reservoirs were still productive, the damage of over-harvest was already evident. It just wasn’t acknowledge yet by the state fisheries agencies.

    It took the the research of the Missouri biologists led by Dr. R. O. Anderson to demonstrate that over-harvest was significantly reducing bassing quality . This was followed in the 1980s by an effort to actually employ scientifically trained state fisheries workers in Texas and a few other states, and efforts by B.A.S.S., In-Fisherman, and other concerned anglers to sell the fishing public the idea that “fish IN the water create good fishing.” Harvest of the larger , top-end of fish populations is counter-productive for key predators like bass and muskies (maybe walleyes) or any other game species that isn’t sustained by put-and-take stockings. Those big stringers, in the 1960s and 1970s, —I did it too, sorry— were a mistake.