NEVER ABANDON A PROVEN WINNER
“I don’t know about Rayburn, but the spawn is definitely winding down
here on T-Bend,” said James Hughes.If anyone would know it would be
Hughes, a part time guide that worked the lake more than most full-time
guides for years, but now guides only the grandkids.
“I think that the fact that they have been pulling the lake so hard
contributed to some fish getting it done early and some of them never
even moving shallow,” he added.“I am already seeing small bream hustling
the vacant beds and I can assure you they aren’t early.”
“How many double digit bass do you think we’d have caught back in the
day when you were still guiding with me on T-Bend,” he asked in a tone
more akin to a jab than an honest inquiry.“We’ll never know,” I
replied,” because those kind of bass weren’t even swimming around in
Hughes’ strong suit was catching bass when they were transitioning from
the spawn back to normal life.Rather than work at it, the rest of us
would start hustling crappie and stripers or praying the bream would bed
James, however, just continued catching bass like they had never slowed
down and his well-guarded secret for years was finesse fishing. While
the rest of us grappled with what to do with the invasion of hydrilla
that was quickly covering our best structure areas, he was using the
weird new grass to limit on both bass and crappie nearly every day.
Because he wasn’t guiding out of a marina, he was able to keep his
technique under wraps for years.He eventually let me in on the secret
out of pity and several years later he would be the first person I told
about the Whacky worm.
James would switch his six foot Fenwick and Garcia 5000C for a Mitchell
308 spinning reel taped on the handle of a six and a half foot spinning
rod.The reel was filled with eight pound monofilament. He would wear out
two or three bail springs every year before discovering that he could
remove the bail altogether.
The magic in all of this, however was the small jig he tied on the
business end of his line.It was a one eighth ounce maribou crappie jig
that had no chenille body.He would thread the last two inches of a
Mann’s four inch curl tail worm on the small hook and it was “game on.”
The strands of maribou would pulse when jerked free from the hydrilla
and the tail on the Mann’s worm gave it just enough profile to attract
bass as well as crappie.Most of the major soft plastic companies have a
host of multi-colored crappie bodies in their line-ups today, but while
they are dynamite strolled or vertically fished over a brush pile, none
of them could match the maribou jig for this application.
We eventually had to tie our own as they were difficult to find after
Walter Chamel got out of the Wholesale Tackle business.The ball head jig
with a gold hook was easy to find, but we had to order the maribou from
a fly fishing outfit.
The most accommodating aspect was the fact that we needed only one
color.We tried both chartreuse and white, but only black would fool both
crappie and bass.The little Mann’s worm is history anyway, but I can’t
even imagine sitting down and tying three or four dozen jigs at a time!
James said he could probably scare up a hundred or so hidden away in his
storage building should we experience a “senior moment”, but that kind
of fishing does not interest his Grandkids.They prefer to drink sodas
and drop their line over the side of the pontoon boat. “If I can get it
done with shiners and tiny Assassin bodies, why abandon a good thing?”
Make no mistake about it, the realistic expectations of a great trip on
Toledo Bend are far better now than they were back in the “Good old
days”, but I frequently question how well a Fuzzy Wuzzy waked across a
shallow flat or a Fliptail Lizard free-floated through a submerged bush
would still work.
Only yesterday I asked a very skilled young bass fisherman if he caught
any bass during the spawn jerking a Rogue down over the grass.His
unexpected answer was, “What the heck is a Rogue?”
“He had never heard of a Drive-in movie either so I am good for a few