- Where to fish – an easy choice when you fish with old guys (the fish are in the water).
- Rigging and weighting plastic worms and alternatives.
- Lure selections, knot varieties, water depth: fishing factors that matter.
By Forrest Fisher
When young-minded friends meet on the water in Florida for a post-retirement gathering, life is good. Good for at least two reasons: You’ve survived long enough to collect social security and are going fishing. And, if you were smart enough to give your wife permission to go shopping, you know the entire day will have a happy ending when the boat returns to the trailer. Funny how things work with an excellent plan to wet your line!
We met at Gary’s winter home in Auburndale, Fl., moved the ice-filled cooler with water and sandwiches to the boat, and the day was on. Bill said, “Geez Gary, don’t you ever wash your boat. There’s dust on the motor!?” Not 1-second passed when Gary answered, “Well, go get a dust rag over there in the corner. You can be the new pixie dustman.” Gary and Bill have been friends for a long time and fished many bass tournaments together, also as competitors. I was the new guy in this senior collection of age-old, line-casting, bass-fishing quibblers. Gary added, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain there, Forrest. He thinks he knows how to fish.” We all chuckled, and the laugh-fest, fish-fest was in gear.
We piled into Gary’s GMC Terrain with his 19-foot Ranger bass boat and trailer in tow. The boat was filled with strapped-down, ageless fishing rods and reels and many memories about to be relighted for a fun day afloat. Our destination this day was a canal-interconnected lake system near Lakeview, FL. We arrived at the no-charge boat launch on Lake Rochelle, and the fishing fun began. The lake system includes Lake Haines, Lake Rochelle, Lake Conine and Lake Smart. I swear that each time I fish with these guys, we all get a little more clever and imaginative, no thanks to the last lake name there. Old guys know so much about so many things to do with life and fishing! I’m not bragging, as I’m on the side of what we (I) never stop learning.
“What should we fish with, Gary? You’re the guide today because you know this water,” Bill asked. “Well, the bass are done spawning as of a few weeks back, so they might be hanging back from the shoreline reeds and in deeper water or not. They might be feeding on their own fry, in shallow. Who knows?” Gary replied. Bill quipped back quickly. “You mean you don’t know.”
“Every day of fishing is different, Big Bill, you know that. It could be the new moon phase, the sunrise clouds, the early overcast fog, or it could be that you just got up too early, Bill. Or maybe…you got me up too early!” Never let your guard down on senior fun fishing days.
I looked toward Gary to say, “I liked where we fished here in Lake Rochelle last time, over there where that big gator hangs out.” I was pointing across the lake to an underwater point with sky-seeking reeds that was also near a quick drop-off. “That’s what I was thinking, too,” Gary replied. The big motor roared to life, we popped out of the hole and were skimming along the smooth lake surface at cheek-waffle speed.
About 5 minutes later, Gary plopped the MinnKota Terrova electric bow motor into the water, and we were rigging up lines. The remote control Bluetooth link made it easy for Gary to position the boat to shallow or deep.
Bill tied on an Xstended Life soft bait, a 5-1/4 inch Apex worm in green/red fleck color, using a 4/0 circle hook. I did the same with a blue-black Apex worm, and Gary tied a similar soft plastic tail bait onto a wobble jig. With about 10 casts each, there were no strikes and no fish yet. A few minutes later, I checked my watch to share that it was 8:55 a.m., breakfast time for big old bass looking for big old fishing buddies ready to take their picture. Not a minute later, Bill said, “Fish on! This one is not big guys, but it’s a nice healthy Florida largemouth about a foot long.” Grinning, I said, “They must have heard me, brother Big Bill.” Bill said, “First fish in, guys, pay up.” Bill is a master talker, a great storyteller, and a great friend. Another 45 minutes passed, and Bill yelped, “Well, guys, looks like I got the first fish, the biggest fish, and the moist fish. Bingo, bango, bongo. It’s gonna cost ya’ll.” It’s easy to start speaking Florida English when you’re in Florida, even for just a few months. Bill was developing an accent.
“It’s time to switch, guys.” Gary picked up his first-generation Bass-Pro casting reel bought way back in the 80s – a fishing reel he loves, and tied on a short Berkley Lightning Shad in white-silver color. I switched to a small floating-diving crankbait from Al’s Goldfish Lures called the “Diving Demon.” One of my favorite lures, it dives no deeper than 3-4 feet, no matter how hard or fast you crank. Bill said, “I’m sticking with my worm.”
About two casts later, I had a fish on and pulled a nice 2-pounder into the boat. About 30 seconds later, Gary caught three fish on successive casts. Gary said, “What’s the matter, Bill? Did you spit on the knot and scare the fish away? The fish don’t like you, buddy.” Not exactly sandpaper on sandpaper, but hearty laughs and grins. Then over the next hour, we caught four more fish, Bill too, and the fish bite just plainly turned off. It was 10:30 a.m., and we all knew it was time for man-to-man jaw talk when the fish stopped biting.
We always share good talk, usually about things we’ve discovered in life and fishing. Gary is from Oswego, NY; Bill is from near Sylvan Beach, NY; and I was born and raised in western New York near East Aurora. We all accept that Southwest Florida is a great place to escape snow shoveling. We talked about life and cost of living, the differences between New York and Florida, taxes and gas prices. And how census numbers the day before where New York lost 299,500 residents in 2022 while Florida gained 315,000 new Florida residents the same year. “It must be the great fishing guys!” I added. “It could have more to do with taxes,” Gary said. “Let’s not talk about politics, you guys. C’mon.” Bill garbled. Then added, “The water temp is nearly 80 degrees, guys, it’s siesta time for the fish.”
We switched our no-fish-biting talk over to lure choices to try now. We covered surface lures, plastic baits, swimbaits, crankbaits, jigs, hair bodies, soft bodies, and plastic worms and their pliability and durability. That led us to talk about lure size and plastic worms. I threw in that I fished with Rick Clunn in the Red River a few years back, and Rick says, “Fish with a 12-inch plastic worm to win the tournament or not, and just one more fisherman in the crowd.” Gary said, “It’s true that bigger lures catch bigger fish or no fish. I won a NY Bass tournament that way once a few years back.” I asked how long ago, and Gary said, “Not that long. It was in the late 90s.” We all laughed. How time flies as we get a bit older.
Our conversation between casts was better than Abbott and Costello telling their story about WHO was on first and WHAT was on second and who and what has changed since then. That took us to cellphones…flip-tops and smartphones, laptops, the internet, grocery delivery to the door, online banking and what it all means. No face-to-face conservation and no touch or emotion between people. That’s when Bill said, “Hey Gary, where are you hiding the fish? Let’s get the sandwiches out and head to another lake in the system.”
Five seconds later, Gary hollered, “Lines up, guys. Get the bread out. Time to move.” He lifted the bow motor, turned the ignition key and the Merc outboard growled to life. Off we went. I love that Merc sound as you begin to feel airborne. Ten minutes later, sandwiches and ice-cold water in hand, we idled into a narrow canal to enter Lake Haines, and watched for ospreys and eagles. Lake Haines is another pothole-style Florida lake. The deepest water is about 18 feet. Gary said, “I don’t fish this lake too often, but sometimes you gotta stick your nose where the wild roses grow. Maybe they’re biting here.” A broken 5-acre field of water hyacinth patches was floating in front of the canal entry. Heavy wind the previous day had broken them off from their shallow roots near shore.
Bill stood up to cast the first line where the edge of weeds and reeds was about 4 feet deep in clear water. A 30-foot cast, his line immediately moved left, then right, as Bill lifted the rod to hook up with a nice bass – his biggest bass for the day. Smiling ear to ear, “That’s how you do it, guys. Were you watching? Gary? Forrest? Of course, you know I just jinxed us. First cast, first fish in the new lake, we’ll be lucky to catch one more.” Bill’s prediction turned out to be right on. About an hour went by with no hits.
We turned our talk to fishing lures from long ago that we still have and still use and still work, and we laughed a lot. We talked about new lifestyles in winter: fishing and golf and watching spring training baseball games. We also talked about the new pains and aches we all are developing and that, at least for me, I hide with a patented arthritis grin that can fool anyone. We talked about fishing and hunting and how most outdoor sportsmen enjoy everything in between. Our discourse about lures, line brands, rods, reels and fishing gear changes went into great detail.
We agreed that the increasing multitude of American tournament bass fishing contests today might not be good for the fish but was good for the local economies and the tournament owners. We yakked more and laughed a lot. Non-stop. We deliberated taking affordable Canadian fishing trips with friends – in the summer.
The fish needed to be biting better on this day, yet we brought seven non-whopper bass and a giant bluegill to the boat. The lack of non-stop fishing action was great for talking time. The yapping talk and laughing helped us forget everything else on our calendars as we roughed it out from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. We spoke about notable quips and quotes we have heard through the years, like this one: “Remember that without bread, there can be no toast. Without friends, there can be no fun.” So true.
Keep your bread and your friends close.
We headed home.