- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 18, 2001

What a week this has been. As you're reading this, I'm flying back from an all-too-brief Arkansas duck hunt that had to be cut short because of the Virginia deer hunting season that begins tomorrow at first light. Wouldn't want to miss that.
Even more importantly, wouldn't want to miss out on Jim Riley's hunters' breakfast in a cozy, warm barn on a Loudoun County farm. Riley, the farm's manager, not only is a wizard when it comes to finding the whitetails, he also is a virtuoso of the spatula, bacon, scrapple, eggs and homefried potatoes.
Only 24 hours before leaving for Arkansas, I was still deeply into fishing something that won't stop throughout the autumn and winter. Sure, there'll be enough hunting to upset animal rights folks, but hopefully our freezer chest benefits in the end, and that's what counts. Whenever possible we'll also launch the boat to search for stripers, bass, perch and whatever else might look at an artificial lure.
Yes, fall normally is a very busy time in my corner of the world.
A few days ago, a friend, John Major, came down to the house to do some bass fishing in Charles County's Nanjemoy Creek. "I don't care what we catch," he warned as he climbed into the boat, "as long as something bites."
Major is still relatively new to the vagaries of the largemouth bass so, with the recently declining water temperatures, I recommended an avocado color, 3-inch-long plastic grub. "It resembles a bull minnow," Major was told. "For a bass, nothing works better than a juicy minnow when the water chills down."
Major, who can be a wiseacre when he has a mind to, grinned and said, "I suppose we'll smear Smelly Jelly all over the grub to attract a bass?"
He knows that in our group of diehard winter anglers, the scent-laden cream we dab onto any soft-plastic lures is as important as putting a drain plug into the boat's lower transom to keep it from sinking.
Major reminds me of a reader who recently e-mailed the newspaper to ask if it was Smelly Jelly time yet. The man also wanted to know how much of a cut I received for advertising the company's product.
The reader a regular knows that I don't receive a cut. He was having a little fun. But for us, the buttery stuff in the jar has reached the indispensable stage when it comes to drawing a fish to a slow-moving lure.
Major and I soon flicked the scent-laden, flat-tailed grubs along a creek ledge. He caught a stick; I fooled a small bass. That was followed with getting stuck on myriad bottom snags and roots, which of course is part of the game. If you don't fish in the "trash," you're not fishing. Bass don't like to hang out in wide-open water. They need to hide and lie in ambush, hopefully unseen.
So it went cast after cast, snag after snag. Major soon tired of dragging the imitation food through the creek bottom. He picked up another rod to which I'd tied a quarter-ounce Frenzy Rattler, a lipless lure that is available from a variety of tackle companies and is known by such names as Rat-L-Trap, Rattlin' Rap, Rat'l Spot you name them, they all do a good job of resembling a crippled, wobbling baitfish. (We'd used such lures earlier, before sunrise, to see if a striper wouldn't slam into the fake baits around a jutting land point near the Potomac River. One did, but that was it.)
"John," I said, "that lipless crankbait has to move fast enough to keep it from hanging up, so it won't do much good on the largemouth bass in the upper parts of this creek now that the water has chilled. These days, they want to see slow-moving stuff."
! A bass of about three pounds made a liar of me in less than 60 seconds.
"Fish on," crowed Major and I scrambled for a landing net, because when the bass erupted on the water surface it looked as if one of the treble hooks was barely embedded in the fish's lower jaw edge. It only appeared that way. Major had it hooked so well he could have "played" with the fish all day and it wouldn't have been able to shake the hook.
"Well, John, you were really lucky to find a crazy bass like that, because it is highly unusual for your lure to work so well here," I told my fishing partner.
He ignored me and on the next cast bang! had another bass strike the Rattler lure.
It was time to look at my watch. "Well, look at that," I said. "John, it's getting late. We'd better head for home."
I'll show him. The upstart.

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