- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 13, 2006


What I like about the small group of fellows I fish with on a regular basis is their agreeable nature. No matter how loony a suggestion I might make, they’ll go along with it.

Take my pal Dale when I recently suggested we ought to try to hook a few bass on a day that threatened to push the mercury into the 100-degree range. He agreed immediately.

“We’ll start early and see what happens,” Dale said. “When it reaches 100 degrees we’ll pack it in, go home, and stay inside where it’s cool. Maybe we’ll have a beer.”

The man knows how make a plan.

Our fishing day began around 5:30 a.m. when the Smallwood State Park’s gate opened. Our boat was launched and, to no one’s surprise, four other boats already sat in the still dark water. By the way, the water temperature hovered around 80-plus degrees. We’re talking bathtub temperatures, friends.

Not a breath of air was stirring and the humidity instantly covered us like morning dew on a lawn. By 5:45 a.m., the first rivulets of sweat crept down my neck and back.

Dale pushed bow and stern running lights into their proper receptacles, turned the starter key of a huge outboard motor, along with the “On” buttons of a GPS unit and a depth sounder. He idled his bass boat out into the open Mattawoman Creek where his right foot pressed down a little harder on the gas pedal. (Yes, he has a gas pedal like those you find in a car, only fancier. Most of us regular boaters use hand-operated outboard accelerators.)

With daylight slowly showing itself, Dale and I stopped in a little cove that had water depths of one and two feet near shore, but seven and eight feet 20 yards away.

The heat and humidity was almost unbearable.

Dale prefers to use topwater popper lures during the early or late hours of the day, or whenever there’s a cloud cover. On the other hand, I appreciate the effectiveness of scented plastic worms, especially one that is salt-treated and smells like an Italian kitchen. It’s Strike King’s 5-inch Zero that spreads scent from here to eternity. It sinks without any added weight, but to get it to the bottom faster I usually slide a 1/16-ounce slipsinker onto the line before I tie a knot to the hook’s eyelet.

It was a little after 6 a.m., during a slow, rising sun, when I heard Dale emit a noise that sounded like, “Oooooff.” I looked over and saw his rod bend sharply as a loudly splashing bass strenuously objected some 50 feet away. “I never knew he touched the popper until I felt it pull on the line,” Dale said after he reeled in the 2-pounder, removed the hook and put the fish back into the water. Three casts later, he did it again. Only this time he saw the water bulge behind the lure before the bass slammed into it.

Meanwhile, I fed a bubble gum color Zero worm onto the hook, cast it into the shallows, dragged it out where the drop into deep water began and suddenly saw my line moving sharply against the flow created by the receding tide. I removed the slack line and stuck the hook to a well-fed largemouth bass that was released after we shot a few photos.

The sun now was up and steadily climbing along with the heat. In the distance a thick haze hung over the trees. The probe of a transom-mounted water temperature gauge sent an 83-degree reading to the depth finder’s screen.

Dale and I continued catching bass while the tide ebbed.

It was 9 a.m. when Dale said, “Doggone it. I can really feel the heat of the sun on my back.” I didn’t say anything, but chugged down an ice-cold diet soda and silently prayed this day might come to an early end.

By 9:30 a.m. we’d counted 24 largemouth bass and one huge red-breasted sunfish. We looked at each other and simultaneously nodded. It was time to throw in the towel.

We quit; gave up; chickened out.

We were cowards because we never did discover what it would feel like to fish in 100-degree temperatures.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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