Monday, February 15, 2016

Just A Bent Hook and a Chunk of Plastic -- 2-9-16

                        Reverend Gene Eidson on Long Creek in February

       On the southeast fringe of Tablerock Lake there is the Long Creek arm, coming in out of Arkansas, flowing north.  At one time I think it may have been the best fishing in the Ozarks.  Clevenger Cove, running into that arm as it widens into a large expanse, was a place I fished as a college kid and we hardly ever went there that we didn’t catch lots of bass, and big ones.  Then, it was a beautiful, natural place, a field on one side and timber on the other, and plenty of fish cover.  Development has ruined that special place. It looks like hell now. 

       My Uncle Norten, the fishing guide who worked almost all the Ozark lakes, caught an eleven-pound largemouth bass from Clevenger cove in 1960 and a ten- pound largemouth farther up the Long Creek arm a year or so later.

       I remember catching the biggest string of white bass I have ever seen in a little cove down close to the Long Creek boat dock, back in the early 80’s when I lived in Arkansas only a few miles from the Creeks headwaters.  That April evening just before the spring turkey season, a friend and I were fishing for black bass, but in an hour or two at dusk we caught at least six whites above four pounds and a dozen or more over three pounds.
       I remember that the fellow who owned the Long Creek boat dock liked to eat crawdads and he had crayfish traps out in the deep water in front of his dock, which he kept baited with chicken necks.  I don’t ever remember seeing ‘crawdads’ that large anywhere in the Ozarks, and he caught enough to have a good crawdad meal quite often. But this column isn’t about those things.

       There was a preacher from Harrison by the name of Gene Eidson, and he didn’t fish for anything else but crappie.  About this time of year, even with ice frozen along the edges of the lake, Reverend Eidson bundled up and brought home the crappie, in an old aluminum V-bottom boat with a 20- horse motor.  A preacher back then didn’t make a lot of money and Gene Eidsenwasn’t about that anyway.  He was serving Jesus without a concern about what it gained him monetarily. God and his congregation and family came first with him. Crappie fishing was second. 

       I wasn’t a member of his congregation, but he read my columns and thought I needed to be taught something about fishing in February. Raising a family on the meager income of a free-lance writer, wasn’t easy and Eidson understood.

       “Don’t go spending a lot of money on crappie jigs,” he told me.  “Come over to my place and I will give you some.”

       In his basement we talked fishing.  “Get that eight-pound line off your reel,” he said, “go to four-pound line and the kind of rod that would bend nearly double if you caught a four-pound bass.  You have to feel crappie with your rod tip… they don’t jerk it.”

       Eidson said we were going to go up to Long Creek and catch February crappie...I’d need to dress warm.  I was skeptical because there in his basement there wasn’t a crappie lure anywhere with hair on it.  He would sit there for hours with the flimsiest little gold hooks, bending the shank just below the eye.  Above that bend, he squeezed on a 1-16th ounce split shot.

The surprising thing was, color didn't seem to matter… 
and they were this easy to make
       With a hundred hooks and split shot ready, he would get out a big handful of plastic worms and cut them into one-inch sections.  He had a box of hundreds of pieces of plastic worms, and he would string them on those bent gold hooks.

       “If I lose a dozen a day,” he said, “its no big deal, it only amounts to a few pennies.  But these hooks, as weak as they are, bend easily so if you get hung up, they usually straighten before your line breaks.”

       With him that cold February day, I couldn’t help but be amazed at what I saw.  He trolled slowly up to standing cedar trees in all depths of the clear water, and never made a cast.  He would drop those little plastic chunks down amongst the branches, carefully maneuvering the line with his hand, then lifting the rod tip to bring up a struggling fat crappie, most between 10- and 12-inches long.

       We constantly were moving, from one submerged tree to another, catch a couple or three and then moving on.  Me, I caught more limbs than crappie, but the hook would bend, I would straighten it and keep fishing.
       For every crappie I caught on that first trip, Reverend Eidson caught five.  But as the morning went past, I began to watch what he was doing, affecting the jigs action with his hand and rod tip, so that it wasn’t just sitting there, it was hopping and quivering and dropping, making those crappie think they were watching a tasty morsel of some kind rather than a chunk of colored rubber.

       Well, it has been a lot of years.  In February I fish for walleye and bass, and occasionally for brown trout.  I know that if the days warm up, I might go down to Norfork on a moonlit night and catch big old stripers on six-inch topwater lures.  I have a couple of light spinning outfits with four-pound line hanging on the basement wall that probably won’t get limbered up until March.  I don’t know where Gene Eidson is today but if you are acquainted with him, please let me know. I’m not going after crappie on Long Creek by myself, but I would sure enough go with him.

       The other evening I tried to organize the “fishing gear” portion of my basement, and it took five or six hours of effort.  There are about fifteen good rods and reels, both casting and spinning outfits, light, medium and heavy. And on Styrofoam sheets on two walls there are more than 500 good usable lures of all kinds.  My tackle box, now rearranged and holding some of everything, must weigh 25 pounds.
       When I lived near Bull Shoals Lake, I started spending an hour or two out of each duck-hunting, mushroom hunting, turkey hunting or fishing trip out of the boat, looking for arrowheads and fishing lures in the high water debris.  I have done the same thing on about every lake I ever spent time on, including ones in Canada.

       In a box in the basement some of those Canadian muskie lures I found are nearly a foot long, and there are a bunch of lures there only an inch or so long. Quite a contrast!  Most of those need hooks replaced, many are without any paint, but many are like they just came out of the box.  I had no idea how many there were in that drawer but they number over 300.  On my antique lure wall, honest-to-goodness rare lures from back decades ago, there are another 300, a dozen antique rods and 25 or so antique reels.

       So I will get to the point.  I have decided to try to bring the entire antique lure collection, or however much of it I can manage to the Outdoorsman’s Swap meet the last Saturday in March.  And I will see if I can get a large number of the other lures there too, the good ones ready to fish.  You can come and see one of the widest variety of fishing lures you ever have seen, and perhaps help me identify some I can’t name. 
       If I sell any… and it is hard for us fishing lure hoarders to do that… we will put the money into our account for the Panther Creek Wilderness Adventure ranch for underprivileged children and boys without fathers.

1 comment:

Dana Alexander said...

Great story! Gene was my great uncle on my father's side. He resides in Heaven now, but he was a great man in every aspect of his life! Thank you for this story!