I was taken by surprise.
It’s been a few years now, but I once found myself fishing with a master crappie angler. His goal was to break Pennsylvania’s state record.
He’d come relatively close many times. Though he’d never quite gotten a fish topping 4 pounds – the record is 4 pounds, 2.88 ounces — but he was legend for each year getting several that weighed almost that much.
After some persuading he’d agreed to do a story. We met up and were soon drifting over brush piles, all while he avoided offering too much in the way of secrets.
Suddenly he had a pretty solid hit.
The discount store rod with the cranky old reel was pulled to the edge of his disheveled boat – he was nothing if not a master of substance over style – when he grabbed it and set the hook. The rod bent deeply.
A few minutes later he swung a largemouth bass into the net.
It wasn’t a monster by any means, going perhaps 15 inches. But it was chunky, firmly muscled and full of fight.
I said it was a pretty nice fish.
But him? He was not impressed.
“I call them green carp,” he said as he unhooked it and without another look dismissively flipped it back into the water.
There aren’t many that think that way.
I’ve heard of people that say they prefer other species to bass because of where they live or how they’re caught or how they taste on the table. But just dislike them in general? To the point that catching one is an aggravation?
Indeed, bass are the most popular game fish in America, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. They account for more than 170 million angler trips to the water annually.
That I understand.
This is their time of year, too, especially when it comes to largemouths. They’re the fish of summer.
Oh, I know, they can be caught all year round, with some of the best action coming in spring and fall.
I know, too, that they’re often pursued most ardently by diehards in $50,000 bass boats and $1,500 kayaks – both outfitted to the gills in their own ways – and throwing some of the countless lures that literally fill entire aisles in big box stores. And that they are, courtesy of tournaments, the one fish that’s been successfully commercialized.
But they’re the everyman’s fish, too.
They lurk among the bluegills in state and county park lakes and ponds. They bite when the weather is warm. They can be caught on simple gear. And their gaping mouths make it easy for even neophytes to grasp them without getting spined, bitten or gouged.
Those are a lot of positives.
How many casual fishermen – maybe dangling a nightcrawler under a bobber while on a family picnic – have reeled in stunted bluegill after stunted bluegill, only to suddenly catch what seems a whopper at maybe 12 inches?
Plenty. In fact, I’d bet largemouths account for more “personal bests” for those anglers than any other species.
It’s no wonder so many like them.
I certainly do, and I’m looking to spend a lot of my summer chasing them.