- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 20, 2002

GASTONIA, N.C.
The heavy rains that fell during the dawn hours might have been manna from heaven for farmers and water plant managers, but by the time Jimmy Drumm's bass boat pulled away from Lake Wylie's South Point boat launch in Gaston County, I was already feeling the moisture penetrate a rain suit that once was advertised as being world class. Yeah, world class junk.
"It's the temperature," fishing guide Drumm said. "It's warm and pretty soon you begin to perspire in these suits, and before you know it you're as wet inside as out."
The man is a walking oracle.
But rain or not, this day on a lake that boasts a 350-mile-long shoreline couldn't turn out badly, because on the first cast that Drumm made to a rock-laden lake point, a 3-pound bass slammed into the hooks of a cigar-shaped topwater lure known as a Big B. Moments later, I had a bass of similar size crush a Frenzy Popper. Keep on raining, I prayed silently.
"What do you think now?" asked the guide, who apparently doesn't enter into any conversation without first reminding listeners that he is sponsored in tournaments and the like by Denver Marine, McKinney Chevrolet in Belmont, N.C., and Brian's Baits, the makers of the Big B (as if Washington readers could help him by just knowing that).
One thing became quickly obvious. Drumm who prefers to work on the massive waters of Wylie, which straddles both Carolinas knows so much about the inhabitants of this Catawba River impoundment that it's almost eerie.
Not long after the Gaston County native began our day's fishing, I was in complete awe of the man. Whenever he said, "Let's go over there and catch some of the bass that live there," he'd motor to yet another lake cove or point, predict precisely which type of lure the largemouth bass would look kindly upon, and bang! a fish soon would find itself on the business side of a hook.
Insiders might think he has an easy time doing such things because Wylie teems with largemouth bass, huge sunfish, crappies, catfish and a fair number of landlocked stripers. But why was it that after the rain let up for a few hours, whenever Drumm arrived in a certain area, other boaters would carefully observe him with binoculars. Did they know how skilled he was?
"Throw your shallow crankbait over there," he said in one instance. "Throw it to that sandy shore. I'll bet a bass will hang out there." The place was nondescript, the kind of spot any angler could be forgiven for ignoring. My lure landed, was retrieved perhaps two feet and, you guessed it, a bass had it in its oversized mouth, raising the devil, churning and rattling its gills.
Drumm only smiled.
But when he said, "Let's go find ourselves a school of bass," I was flabbergasted. When you spend the majority of your fishing hours on tidal water, including the Potomac below Washington, you simply don't run into entire schools of largemouths all in one place. Drumm figured that the overcast skies, the water and air temperatures, and the way the primary food supply for gamefish, the threadfin shad and blueback herring, flitted about, might be the ideal combination to provide a spectacle that few sport anglers will ever witness.
In front of a jutting point in Allison Creek, a place that rapidly dropped from extremely shallow water to 25 feet or more, we suddenly sat in the middle of a bass feeding binge. Drumm nodded this way and that, urging quiet and the quick casting of any type of lure that might resemble a crippled or fleeing baitfish. He, for example, threw a rubbery, white Zoom Fluke, quickly jerking it left, right, and left again. A bass would snatch it up before it traveled more than five feet. I fired a Mann's Baby 4-, and the same thing happened. Some of those fish weighed as little as two pounds, and some might have tipped the scale at four pounds or better. Many broke off, but enough were landed to delight us no end.
Under ordinary circumstances, this single incident of schooling bass would have been enough for anybody, but not for the man who buys his Chevrolets in Belmont, N.C. Far away from the first occurrence, Drumm found two more schools of feeding fish that popped our lures. I'm talking about actually seeing as many as 15 to 20 bass quickly swim here and there, abruptly turning, picking up a live shad or our imitations.
When the surface feeding frenzy finally stopped, Drumm handed me a 3-inch-long gold Hopkins spoon and said, "Cast it as far as you can. There's a deep trough in front of us that has a few little rises and dips on the bottom. The bass hang around these areas, but most of the other fishermen don't even think about it. They're too busy throwing lures to visible structure."
I did as ordered. The heavy spoon fell with a splash, sank to the bottom, and shortly thereafter it would be retrieved in short reel-turning spurts, then allowed to sink once more, then reeled again. Drumm hooked four or five bass that way without any problem. Some of them broke free; others were boated, admired and released. Not being familiar with this method, it took me a little longer to get the hang of it, but soon I also found action. Besides bass, one of my catches turned out to be a large crappie.
Jimmy Drumm can be reached at 704/827-3018.
Look for Gene Mueller's Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report every Thursday only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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