Let’s Look Back – Part Eight

As you can see from the background in this picture, Washington's Silver Lake was filled with pad cover during the time I lived there.  It was also loaded with yellow perch.  The Heddon Basser was one of the best lures you could tie on to catch the lake's largemouth.  Provided, that is, you had it in the right finish and knew how it had to be handled.

As you can see from the background in this picture, Washington’s Silver Lake was filled with pad cover during the time I lived there. It was also loaded with yellow perch. The Heddon Basser was one of the best lures you could tie on to catch the lake’s largemouth. Provided, that is, you had it in the right finish and knew how it had to be handled. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

My love affair with one of the bass lures the Heddon Tackle Company used to market was undoubtedly impacted by the habitat and forage of the lake I lived on for more than 35 years.

When my family moved from North Dakota to Washington State in 1936 we settled in the city of Longview.  Longview is located in the southwest part of the Evergreen State 50 miles down the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon.

Longview sets right on the Columbia.  As I’ve pointed out in my recent Let’s Look Back columns, I cut my bass fishing molars fishing the Columbia River’s backwater sloughs.  These sloughs were often used for log storage for the city’s big lumber mills.

What I didn’t mention was that Longview was also located just 20 miles from Silver Lake, considered by most experienced bassin’ men to offer the best largemouth fishing prospects for any body of water located in Western Washington.  For that matter, Silver Lake is often generally called one of the best bets the Evergreen State has to offer for largemouth bass period.

That’s how it was when I first fished there more than 70 years ago.  From what I hear from knowledgeable bass anglers that’s how it still is today.  If you read my last column you’ll know that a lure called the Heddon Basser was one of the first I used to put many of that lake’s fish in my boat.  That lure, as the hand full of old timers who have one know, still gets more than its share of the lake’s bass.  It will, that is, if it’s at the end of the line of someone who knows what to do with it.

If you’ve read my previous columns you’re aware I thought it was a major mistake for Heddon to drop the Basser from its inventory.  It was a terrific lure for Silver Lake bass.  I know I could go there tomorrow and catch fish with it.  I’ll grant you that’s a selfish viewpoint.  Evidently it was a sentiment not shared by anglers elsewhere around the country.

The finish on these old Heddon Bassers changed a bit during the time they were still being made.  I expect the bass were happy to see them disappear from the market.  I'm sure there is still a scattering of old timers around the country like me who sure as heck weren't. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

The finish on these old Heddon Bassers changed a bit during the time they were still being made. I expect the bass were happy to see them disappear from the market. I’m sure there is still a scattering of old timers around the country like me who sure as heck weren’t. Photo Stan Fagerstrom.

That comment isn’t just wishful thinking.  It’s based on years, lots of years, of actual fishing experience.  I returned home to Longview after World War II.  As soon as I managed to get enough bucks to by a car I started fishing Silver Lake just as often as I could and undoubtedly more than I should have.

But it didn’t end there.  Eventually I was given opportunity to purchase a beautiful piece of property that was right on the shore of the lake.  We built a cabin there for starters, then eventually sold our home in Longview and moved lock, stock and bass plugs to the home we had constructed on the lake’s shore.  We were to live there—with my bass boat in the water in the year around about 60-feet from our front door—for more than 35 years.

It doesn’t stretch the imagination to realize what being that close to some of a state’s best bass fishing prospects meant to somebody with a terminal case of the bass fishing fits.  Be assured I took full advantage of it—once again just as often as I could and undoubtedly again more than I should.

I’m providing this bit of personal history because I think it lends credence to what I have to say about that beautiful old lure called a Heddon Basser.  I know darn well I probably fished it at Silver Lake more than anybody for decades.  When I say something about it, my comments aren’t wishful thinking they come from countless hours of actual fishing.

I had only a handful of lures when I first started fishing at Silver Lake while still in high school.  One of those lures was a Heddon Basser in a rainbow color.  I caught fish on that lure, but as I was to learn as I gained in experience, that rainbow colored job wasn’t what those Silver Lake fish really wanted.

The truth was that a Basser in a yellow perch finish was by far the most effective.  And that figured.  Yellow perch, you see, were the primary forage fish for largemouth in Silver Lake.  They still are.  I killed my share of Silver Lake bass in the early days before pressure built to where catch-and-release became so important.  I often checked stomach contents of the fish I cleaned.  I’d occasionally find remains of a bluegill or catfish, but what those bass had been eating by far the most were yellow perch.

Even as big a bass fishing dummy as I was early on soon comes to recognize the importance of matching the forage.  That truth applies to largemouth bass as well as to the other species of sports fish.  But even when you’ve got the right lure you’ve got to learn to give it the right action to get the fish to show consistent interest.

I eventually got a solid handle on what I had to do to get those Silver Lake bass to smash my Basser.  Years later I even got to show my friend Homer Circle how I did it right there on Silver Lake.

I’ll be sharing that experience with you here in my future Let’s Look Back columns.

  • Lisa McDowell Snuggs

    I love reading your stories, Stan. Keep up the good work!

    • And we really appreciate having Stan as part of the BFA team Lisa! 🙂

  • Stan Fagerstrom

    Dear Lisa: Thank you, special lady. I continue to miss not having opportunity to see you anymore. Stan