Tuesday, July 9, 2019

A Bomber in Arkansas

Floyd Mabry and me with our catch from Lake Millwood in Arkansas

         I left the University of Missouri in January of 1970 with a degree in wildlife management from the school of agriculture. A few days later I took a trip down into Arkansas on a whim, not knowing exactly what I wanted to do, just hoping someone down there might want to hire a naturalist.

         I got side-tracked a little, but I landed a job. By March of 1970 I was learning all about Arkansas, as the outdoor editor of the state’s largest newspaper, the Arkansas Democrat in Little Rock. I was only 22, but I was fishing with guides and anglers from all regions of the state and learning more in that first year than I had learned from all five years of college.
         By mid-summer I had been into some great trout fishing on the White and the Little Red and had fished for walleye in Greer’s Ferry, and white bass in the Arkansas River.  I had seen the Buffalo and Crooked Creek and one of the most beautiful lakes I have ever been on… Lake Ouachita.  I had gone on my first Arkansas turkey hunt and had caught a ten-pound bass from Beaver Lake in the first days of spring.
         The other day I was looking through saved photo files and articles I wrote back then and I found some old black and white pictures I took with a big blocky camera the photo department loaned me, which I carried around everywhere I went.  I found a couple of pictures from mid-July of 1970 that brought back some great memories of a lake right in the southwest corner of Arkansas known as Millwood.
          I got a call in mid July from a fellow by the name of Floyd Mabry who said he was a representative of the Bomber Lure Company and he wanted to give me some lures his company made.  But he wanted me to come and meet him down at Millwood Lake so he could show me how to use them.

         I drove down there that night and the next day he had his own fishing boat ready and I saw a lake like nothing I had ever imagined.  Millwood was a jungle filled with water. They had cut boat lanes through much of it and flooded timber was everywhere.  Mabry was quite a guy.  He wore khaki pants and shirt, with none of the colorful patches I was constantly seeing on anglers who wanted to be pro’s. He was short and tanned like an Indian and very instructive and talkable.  Who wouldn’t have loved fishing and learning with Mr. Mabry?

         We went back into a remote region of the lake and stopped in a small opening surrounded by flooded trees.  He gave me a Bomber topwater lure that I cannot remember the name of, and told me that I didn’t have to cast it too far.  I couldn’t have, there wasn’t any room for long casts.  The water was about 6 to 8 feet deep and very murky.  And Mabry allowed me the first couple of casts, telling me just how to work that lure.

         A two-pound bass sucked it under and I tightened the drag on my old ambassadeur reel as I fought his efforts to free himself of that hook.  You didn’t want to give a bass his head in that brushy water.  I had 14-pound line, and nothing there was going to break it.  But what a place it was for a strong bass to get around a limb or fallen tree. A couple did, as I remember, but I landed the best one that nailed my topwater lure.  It was a four or five pounder that I wanted to keep to take home and eat.  But that wasn’t yet the time of catch and release.
Floyd Mabry catching a lunker before releasing it back to Millwood
         Mabry had some folks at the dock to take fish to, but he only kept the ones under two pounds.  I took home my limit of ten, but I didn’t get any big ones like he landed and released. Mabry made sense.  He said the lake was full of bass, plenty of the eating size, but he released any above three pounds that he caught, because he believed in time there could be some 10 to 12 pound bass there if all lunkers were released.

          I talked to Mr. Mabry again several times on the phone but I don’t think I ever fished with him again. One thing I remember though, he kept mailing me lures and I went from a tackle box with a half dozen “plugs” from my boyhood on the Big Piney to a whole tackle box full of lures.  I learned so much about fishing that year that I couldn’t help but have good stories in the Democrat’s Sunday Outdoor Page.  I met and fished with some great people, but none I liked better than Mr. Mabry.  And I couldn’t believe I was making such a good living having the time of my life.
         Right now I am looking for folks who want to write about the outdoors or the Ozarks, as I have been doing all my life.  I need good articles for my 2 magazines.  You can email me articles at lightninridge47@gmail.com or mail them to Lightnin’ Ridge Publishing, Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613.  If you have questions, you can often reach me by calling our office--417 777 5227.

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