Sunday, July 12, 2015

Late Night… or Early Morning?

An old photo of Uncle Norten with a 1980's bass taken at night on his favorite lure… the spinner bait.

         It was a pretty angry strike. Angry, vicious…  That bass wasn’t hungry, it was mad!   It took that big spinner bait close to my boat and nearly wrenched the rod and reel from my hands.  Honest to goodness, I just about lost a good Ambassadeur reel and a graphite rod that my uncle Norten had given me.

         It was about three o’clock in the morning and I hadn’t felt anything like a nibble for more than an hour.  I could have curled up in the bottom of the boat and went to sleep, but that fish woke me up in a hurry.  He was good one, and he was off the ledge of a Beaver Lake bluff, down about ten or twelve feet.

         Two or three cups of coffee and my Uncle’s stories about catching bass at night on Ozark lakes hadn’t chased the drowsiness out of me like that fish did.  But it wasn’t long until I was sleepy again.  About thirty minutes later another one woke me up a lot like the first one did.

         That was the middle of July, back somewhere in the late 1980’s.  I only caught six or seven bass that night between three p.m. and sunrise.  But they weren’t small, every one was a beauty, between four and seven pounds.  Uncle Norten loved that kind of fishing, and he never seemed to get sleepy, as I did. 

         We wouldn’t have had much success during the day, with the sun high and hot, the temperature in north Arkansas soaring to a degree or two under a hundred.  In that clear water, we would have to fish vertically in very deep water during the day with spoons or jigs and Norten didn’t like to fish that way.  He caught a bunch of bass late at night on those huge spinner baits of his over the years.
         I didn’t mind fishing at night, on Crooked Creek or the Buffalo or Kings River, but I used a jitterbug, and by three in the morning I’d be sound asleep at home or on a gravel bar.  Bass on the rivers that slurped up jitterbugs from the surface weren’t big enough for Uncle Norten… he wanted 8 to 10 pounders, and he caught a bunch of them in his lifetime that were in that range.  In the summer, he caught them at night. 

         As knowledgeable and experienced as anyone concerning the outdoors, talented outdoor writer Jim Spencer reminded me of something recently about summer fishing at night.  He lives near the White and Buffalo Rivers, back in the National Forest a few miles from Calico Rock, Arkansas, and fishes Norfork Lake a lot.

         He said in a recent article he wrote for the Lightnin’ Ridge Outdoor Journal, that night fishing is still the way to catch the biggest of bass in July and Augusta and lots of them, but that most fishermen have the same problem I have.  In the wee hours of the morning, it is difficult to concentrate on working a lure without falling to sleep.

         Bass fishermen on the big lakes tend to fish late in the evening and into the early darkness, according to Jim, and I think he is right.  Bass         CAN be caught early on a summer night, but it seems to me it is never as good before midnight as it is after.  Spencer thinks the best of the bass fishing this time of year is the late hours before dawn.  I think he’s right.  Maybe what I will do is fix up a little place to sleep in my boat and set an alarm clock for four a.m.!

         Cindy Davis is my new business partner, the lady who is trying to direct the publishing of outdoor books and the two magazines I started years back.  She is a ball of energy and ideas and should do a much better job than I have.  My responsibility will be to accumulate good material for both, and turn it all over to Cindy.  She has worked more than thirty years for a publishing company in Arkansas, practically running the whole operation.  I told her that is what I want her to do for me… run things, so I can hunt and fish more and try to write a few more outdoor books.

         I think it will take a few months for her to get it all organized but Cindy is a welcome addition.  Writers and photographers and artists should continue to send their work to me and I will pass it all on to her. It won’t be long until you readers can meet Cindy at various functions like our Outdoorsman’s swap-meet and at the wild game banquets and church dinners where I speak from time to time.

         I don’t mind being computer illiterate.  The ladies who work for me, and Gloria Jean and my daughters can have those darn machines.  If I am going to waste my precious time, I want it to be outdoors, in the woods or on the water, watching and learning, catching stuff, and shooting stuff, more with a camera now than with my guns.
         Every morning I get up and watch the birds from my screened and shaded porch here on Lightnin’ Ridge.  There are bunches of them, and they sing their hearts out early.  The bluebirds, living in a house I made for them only about thirty feet from my porch, are working like crazy, feeding their youngsters.  I have to admire the male for helping like he does.  Folks probably do not realize that bluebirds not only feed their young, they also haul off their droppings.  And to think, I never once changed a diaper when my kids were little!

         I can hear all you ladies clucking about that but you have to remember that I made it so easy on Gloria Jean that she didn’t mind.  She stayed home with those babies, never once going out to get the worms and bugs to feed them, like that momma bluebird.
Gloria didn’t have to hold down a job when she didn’t want to, and I fixed her up one heck of a nice big nest to enjoy life in.

         Those little bluebirds keep looking out of that box and any day now they will leave, just like kids do.  By next spring, that male bluebird will have forgotten how hard he had to work this summer, and he’ll likely do the same thing all over again.

         Some good news to pass along.  The doves are thicker than flies up here on Lightnin’ Ridge and the other day I heard rain crows again.  Still very few whippoorwills to be heard, but at my little cabin on the creek, I saw an old hen turkey with four poults about the size of big chickens, so they haven’t all drowned. I wish there had been eight or ten. I still predict a very poor hatch of turkeys and quail this summer because of the heavy rains.

         I am connected to something called facebook! Can you believe that?  I don’t even know what it is… but Ms Wiggins, my executive secretary is helping me with it.  Seems to be a good way to hear from readers here and there.  Write to me at Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613 or email me at

         You can catch me at times in my office if you call 417 777 5227.  If you get Ms. Wiggins, don’t argue with her if she starts bragging on her boyfriend or Hillary Clinton.  The other day she got into it on the phone and they called her a ‘goose-eyed old battle-axe’, and she spilled her fingernail polish all over the desk.

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