The first bass I ever caught was one that made the mistake of grabbing a piece of pork rind attached to a small Indiana style spinner. There’s a whole lot more to the story.
The time was 1936. My family had moved to Washington State from North Dakota earlier that year. Mom and dad had lost what little they ever had after 19 years of blood, sweat and tears on their little Dakota wheat farm.
They were victims of the great drought that accompanied the great depression of those years. They put what little they could stuff into the rumble seat of a beat up old Model A, stuck me in with it and headed West.
We wound up in Longview. At the time Longview was a town of about 12,000. It’s located in the southwest part of the Evergreen State and about 50 miles down the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon.
The only fishing I’d done in North Dakota was when my dad found time to take me to a couple of small ponds that contained bullhead catfish. I loved it!
You’ve probably read about somebody having once used a bent safety pin as a fishing hook. I actually did. My dad couldn’t afford to buy fishing gear. He cut a willow tree branch I used for a rod and attached some grocery cord as a line.
The bait we used was live grasshoppers. I remember my dad poking some holes into an empty old Prince Albert tobacco can and telling me if I wanted to go fishing I had to first get that can filled with hoppers. In those days they weren’t all hard to find.
I suppose that brief experience I’d had with catfish was why I was so pleased to find when we got there that Longview had a lake, its name was Lake Sacajawea, right smack in the middle of town. It didn’t take long to also find that though the lake was loaded with carp that it also contained a scattering of bass and panfish.
As I’ve said, I’d never caught a bass but I’d sure read about them. I doubt there have been many 12 year-olds more interested and eager to catch one that I was. One of the first things I did was to take a beat up old guitar I’d never learned to play to a second hand store. I swapped it for a metal fishing pole and a casting reel that already had a line on it.
The reading I’d done about bass often extolled the virtues of using pork rind for catching bass. This was long before any of today’s plastic versions of pork were on the tackle market. Trouble was I didn’t have the bucks to buy any.
My mother often bought a slab of bacon with the rind still attached. She let me have some with the fat still in place and it wasn’t long before I was able to carve out a double tailed piece of pork that had a reasonably close resemblance to what I’d seen in the fishing magazines.
I’d managed to come by a few hooks and a couple of dime sized spinners. Just as soon as I got that chunk of pork on the hook I’d attached to a spinner I headed for Lake Sacajawea.
The first discovery I made was, trying to cast with that beat up old casting reel I had on my metal rod was next to impossible. For starters, this small metal reel had no level wind. You had to be really careful to get the line on the spool evenly when you reeled in.
When I did get the line on it properly I still had to leave a couple of feet of line hanging out so I could wind up and heave the spinner/pork combo out into the water. When things went halfway right, which didn’t happen often, I’d get it out maybe 10 or 12-feet from shore.
I’ve always felt it might have been my early experience with that awful excuse for a casting outfit that helped got me into giving casting exhibitions over a sizeable section of the world later in life.
But something else happened on that first trip to the Longview Lake. I fell head over heels in love with fishing with the pork from a pig. I say that, you see, because as bad as my casting was and as miserable as might have been my hand carved bait – it got results.
About a half hour after I started, I’d made one of my hammer throw heaves and just started to reel in when a bass smashed into that piece of pork trailing along behind my spinner. I finally got that bass on the bank.
That fish weighed just about a pound and half. I was as excited as if it was a 10-pounder. It was my first bass. I’d been dreaming about the darn things ever since I’d first read about them.
I was all alone. I still remember wishing someone was there to share it with. My heart was hammering like I’d just finished a 100 yard dash when I ran all the way home to show my mother that fish.
I soon got a job delivering the daily newspaper I was eventually to start writing for. The few bucks I made delivering papers let me start buying my first Uncle Josh pork rind baits.
Pork rind baits no longer share the place of importance they did way back there when I first started fishing. As far as I know some of the best ever made are no longer even available. And that, as far as I’m concerned, is one helluva big mistake.
Keep an eye out for my next column. I’ll endeavor to explain why I feel as I do. It will start right here August 1.