“You ain’t gonna catch any fish unless the hook is in the water.”
That was a wise saying from grandfather. I took it to heart too. After a cast, I would not pull the lure above the surface until there was no way not to. Many times I caught a bream or bass just inches from the shoreline with me standing a foot or so away.
Now, understand how a child takes something so seriously to follow the advice every time and then you hear something contrary to the wisdom given.
We had a boat that consisted of two pontoons held together by four sheets of plywood decking. It was built primarily for my grandfather’s business, as we had a pump in the pond that would send water down to the manufacturing plant to cool off the injection molding machines. The pontoon boat allowed my dad or other workers access to where the pump was in the pond if it failed with a large deck to work from.
Once, while in high school, we had a pump failure in the cold of winter. I was the guinea pig that day, and would have to go in the frigid water, dive below to find the pump, and bring it up to the surface in order to repair it. I was certified in SCUBA a few years prior and had always been comfortable around water, but I would be diving into water with near nothing for visibility and would free dive without a tank since the water was so cold that I would not be able to stay in long. Afterwards, I was quickly taken to shore where I ran into the house tossing my wet cold clothes and jumped into the lukewarm shower. It made me feel important.
But I digress.
We occasionally would take the pontoon boat out as a base to swim from in the pond, or to give us a platform in which several of us could fish. While I fished with my grandfather and dad many times in that pond, I only remember one time in which my grandfather and I were both fishing from the pontoon boat together.
We were out towards the center, near where the pump was located below. Papa would work the shoreline steadily, and occasionally get a bite or small largemouth. I was fishing from the other side, pretty much casting in the center of the pond away from any structure or shore. Papa evidently caught a glimpse of me casting and reeling and after several throws, finally had enough. “Lil’ Bill, you don’t have to reel it in all the way to the side of the boat.”
As he said that I was finishing bringing the lure in. I was looking more at Papa and paying little attention to what I was doing, other than reeling. Directly beside the boat, with the lure being lifted straight up, a largemouth shot from below and engulfed the bait, slapping the side of the boat with his body while doing so. He wasn’t a monster, more like a two or three pound bass. But Papa realized that his original saying was truer that what he was trying to explain to me. And I was as convinced as ever, that the longer the hook was wet, the better the chance to catch something.
Fast forward to this last weekend. I was fishing hard trying to upgrade my largest crappie for the North Carolina Kayak Fishing Association’s crappie tourney. I fished a great crappie fishery in Lake Jordan on Saturday, and brought one in a half inch larger that my previous best for the tourney. The fish were around 23 feet deep in water that was between 28 and 30 feet deep.
Sunday, I fished a lake that I had only fished once in the last three decades. But in the fifteen years prior, I knew every spot having spent my entire summers doing nothing but fishing. It didn’t take long to find where the crappie were staging. I had one rod with a cork and minnow, and another I was using a beetle spin to cast along the banks. I continuously swapped rods while bringing in black crappie in the 10 to 11 ½ inch size range.
Once, after a particular aggressive strike and fight with an 11 incher, the minnow was pushed up the line from the hook about an inch. I unhooked the slab and laid the rod down with the tip sticking over the front of the kayak. As I measured the crappie, the tip took a jump and I quickly grabbed the Denali Rosewood spinning rod. It bent over double as the crappie pulled under the kayak with only a foot or so of line stretched from the tip.
From crappie hovering over 20 feet deep the day before, to a crappie that basically attacked a mangled and dead minnow that was not even on the hook at the surface, it again proved, you ain’t gonna catch a fish, if your hook ain’t in the water. Or maybe it proved something else, as in if the hook is in the water, you better be prepared to catch a fish.