By the time you read this, I will have already caught a bunch of great big smallmouth and largemouth bass, and released them all.
But I’ll be fishing in a Missouri Ozark river where the bass season is closed. The idea is to wrestle them around awhile, strain the line a bit and get some good pictures, get the fish to admit he is whipped and then brag to my fishing buddies about how big he was.
On this trip I will be fishing with three of my old fishing friends in two river johnboats, and the purpose of this trip is to see who catches the most and the biggest. Most generally I don’t ever come out any lower than third or fourth in that kind of contest with those three buddies of mine.
Sondra Gray, the editor of our magazine, can’t stand the thought of having to catch big bass and release them back into the water. Sondra tells me that some of her relatives went down to Norfork Lake this past weekend and caught a whole tubful of big stripers and hybrids, so that is something to remember. She says if she was going fishing with anyone, she’d go fishing with them. But I don’t know that they would take her.
Not many men want to fish with a woman, and I’ll tell you why. Its because if she catches the most and the biggest, it is embarrassing having to hear about it for a week, and she might go down to the pool hall and tell everyone and show pictures. If you outfish her, she just says, “What did you expect, I am a woman after all”.
I’ll tell you how you will know if I caught some nice bass this week… I will be writing about it next week and bragging quite a lot. If you don’t hear anymore about it, you’ll know I came in third or fourth again.
We’ll catch all those big bass in deep water below the shoals on big heavy rubber-skirted jigs with rubber crawdads or pork rinds, and we will fish with casting gear and 12- or 14-pound line.
Since I was small, I have wished I could talk to a bass and ask him what he thinks those jigs might be, bobbing along on the bottom. I always suspected that he would tell me… “I didn’t know what it was, but I just get so tired of my wife’s cooking that I wanted to try something new.”
It is indeed a great time to go after crappie, white bass, even trout, but when you grow up on a river like I did, it is the river that calls to you most often, whether you can catch a fish or not. When you are alone on a river you are a million miles from the nonsense that we have to put up with in our modern progressive society that finds itself hurtling toward the brink of disaster at such an increasing speed.
Float fishing was the first fishing Ozark settlers learned about, and smallmouth bass are still the royalty of Ozark waters. I can indeed go back in time, and pretend I never heard of a computer, when I am on the river. Someday, maybe we will have some leaders in our conservation department wise enough to make it illegal to keep smallmouth bass at any time. But because the season is closed right now, we’ll be fishing without hearing or seeing another boat, and we won’t hear a motor either. The sound of a paddle dipping into the water is a type of soothing music.
Many of our readers have asked me how to get the spring issue of the Journal of the Ozarks, after they read the premier issue we put out this winter. That first issue will indeed be a collector’s item someday, but we do not have any of them left.
The spring issue will be ready about the first of April, and we will pay the postage to mail it to you if you send seven dollars to Journal of the Ozarks, Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613. Our outdoor magazine, The Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal will be out about the same time, and you might want them both. If you have any questions about what the magazines amount to, you can call 417-777-5227 and talk with Ms. Wiggins, our executive secretary. It is amazing that so many who read this column have never seen our outdoor magazine, which we have published now for 13 years.
You can also call that number to get information about the Grizzled Old Outdoorsman’s Swap Meet Event, (G.O.O.S.M.E.). We still have about ten tables available, all free of charge, but you have to be selling something pertaining to the outdoors. Admission is free and I hope to have our biggest crowd yet. It will be held March 29th at the Brighton Assembly of God church, so put that Saturday on your calendar as a special day.
If you get out in the woods at daylight now, you will begin to hear wild gobblers ‘thundering their passion’ from their roosts. I didn’t make up that poetic phrase, I heard it from another outdoor writer. I always just called it ‘gobbling’. I think maybe I will try to get out before the season and get a photo or two of some old tom that is trying to create an early harem. That can be more fun than shooting one.
Turkey hunters nowadays get a little silly about their sport. Some of them spend more money on hunting clothes than my old shotgun is worth when it is full of shells. And I have seen turkey calls sell for two or three hundred dollars. No joke. I always sold the ones I make for five dollars and felt guilty doing that, so I would throw in a box of chalk free.
Have you ever heard of a ‘grand slam’ in turkey hunting? It amounts to little more than having the money to travel to different states to hunt four species of wild turkeys: the Osceola Gobbler, the Rio Grand Gobbler, the Merriams Gobbler and the Eastern Gobbler, which is the only true challenge of the whole bunch.
I have never hunted the Osceola Gobbler, but I have hunted Rio Grands and Merriams, and I would just as soon hunt a leghorn rooster turned loose in the woods behind the barn. Neither of those two species involves any great skill, and I think you could call either one to you at a dead run with an old rusty gate hinge. Honest folks, in Oklahoma a few years back, hunting in early May, I called up thirteen Rio Grand Gobblers and I actually stood up to shoot one. Half of them ran around in a circle after I clobbered their chairman of the hoard.
Hunting ducks in Nebraska once, I called several Merriams gobblers to our duck blind with my mouth. The darn birds gobbled every time we shot at a duck. That was in October! You could probably get one in May with a slingshot!
Next time you hear some turkey hunter boasting about achieving a grand slam, have him call me, and we will make some money by taking him on a guided groundhog hunt! Or maybe we could take him on a triple play squirrel hunt: one fox squirrel, one gray squirrel and one chipmunk.
Well, remember… if you catch a big fish, send me a picture and we will put it on my website, www.larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com or in the magazine. Even if you are a woman. Equal opportunity and all that. Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo, 65613 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org