- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 16, 2001

Oh, how I wished "Wild Bill" Temples could have been there. He would have enjoyed it immensely. There were his old friends, fishing guides Andy Andrzejewski along with pro guide Dale Knupp jerking sassy crappies from among the rocks and stumps near the Potomac River's Fox Ferry Point as if anybody else could do it as easily as those two fishing phenoms.
"This one's for you, Wild Bill," one of them said. The rest of a fair number of fellows who could be seen standing on the decks of their bass boats in the Wilson Bridge's noisy construction area would have agreed could they have heard the dedication.
William Carroll Temples, a structural steel painter from Waldorf who preferred to be called plain Bill, or Wild Bill, Sweet Willie anything but his real name, William Carroll had only recently lost a long battle with cancer. If I were asked to name someone who could have matched the two professionals when it came to crawling, slithering, popping and hopping a plastic grub to cajole crappies and bass into biting, Bill Temples would have gotten my vote. He was that good.
On a bright, sunny morning the three of us enjoyed a busman's holiday, reminiscing about a pal who, sadly, didn't make it past age 50.
For once we ignored the largemouth bass that normally draw cash-carrying customers to my companions. As long as we were able to spend unhurried hours on the river, disturbed only by an occasional incoming or departing plane at Reagan National Airport, we didn't complain.
The tidal Potomac, you see, is highly underrated when it comes to America's Public Panfish No. 1 the speckled, calico-patterned crappie a delightfully cooperative creature for anglers of every walk of life.
Our trio, however, refuses to use live bait minnows that at least 80 percent of the country's crappie hunters prefer over artificials. No, we find the flecked critters among rocks, sunken brush, boat docks and fallen trees by simply casting rubbery, beaver-tailed or curly-tailed grubs into the worst-looking river "junk" imaginable, lifting the plastic baitfish imitations, then dropping them back into possible snags, and once in a while see a silver-and-black fish attached to it. Just like that.
During our crappie outing Andrzejewski and Knupp used 3-inch-long Mann's Sting Ray grubs in avocado color, attached to 1/4-ounce, ball-head jig hooks. To see which lure worked quickest, I chose a chartreuse, 2-inch curly-tailed Berkley grub on a 1/8-eighth-ounce jig hook, fished without a bobber although it's possible to do so if you're in shallow enough water. In our situation, the water ranged from three and four feet to eight feet or more not suitable for using corks above a lure.
After we dabbed creamy fish attractant onto the plastic baits and flicked the offerings into a maze of stones and rotting wood pilings, we'd either get hung up on the obstacles or a crappie would inhale it, occasionally even follow it back to the boat and snatch it up as it came close to being lifted from the water. It didn't seem to matter. And, yes, once in a while, a pesky, fat bass would beat the speckled fish to the make-believe food.
In the case of snagged jig hooks, thanks to strong, miracle-fiber 12- and 20 pound-test FireLine, the hooks could be straightened enough to free the lures with a strong pull. Once back in the boat, the hooks were re-bent into proper shape with a pair of needlenose pliers, and, when needed, tips were sharpened with a flat-file. Moments later, the plastic baits that apparently do a fine imitation of a bull minnow or some kind of other live bait were cast back into the fish-rich bottom structure. (By the way, the 12-pound-strong FireLine has the thickness of 4-pound-test monofilament; the 20-pound line is as thin as 8-pound monofilament.)
Several dozen well-fed crappies were pulled from the water; a similar number freed themselves before we could get a good hook-setting on them. Some of the fish were kept to provide a sumptuous dinner of pan-fried, battered fillets served with a salad, maybe a bit of garlic toast and a cool bottle of German beer.
Bill Temples would have approved of the whole deal. In his booming baritone voice, he might have said, "Boys, what else could a man ask for than hooking beautiful fish in the company of people you truly like?"
Right on, Wild Bill.

Look for Gene Mueller's Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report every Friday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]

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