Good Luck

September 19th, 2019

larry phillips mugshotGUEST COLUMN, Larry Phillips, Kismet


A natural evolution of aging is realizing just how important some things are in one’s life. I always believed in “The Three Fs” have the greatest priority in life: Faith, Family and Friends – and in that order. Even more so as I’ve aged.

Well, I realized this past Labor Day weekend that fishing, a fourth F, still remains alive and well in my “important” categories. And I will relive that epiphany later.

Fishing has been in my blood since a very young age. My family has a wrinkled, old photograph of me standing with my older uncle and his dad, my grandfather, while he is holding a large, maybe 5-pound bass.

I was 4 and clothed only in dusty, smudged underwear, nothing more, not even shoes. But, I still remember going to a lake several times in those early years with my grandfather and uncles to fish.

As I grew older, fishing was a favorite activity, and though often distracted during two years in college, I was always found of wetting a line. 

Starting in the oil and gas industry at the age of 15 gave me ample opportunities to travel and thus discover “fishing holes” not normally known by mere mortal fishermen: Cattle tanks, or more commonly known as farm ponds.

One version of fishing I learned in high school, mainly at oxbow ponds along the Cimarron River, was tossing lures for bass. Our favorite was a “Lazy Ike” in the mid-1960s. They could garner a strike wherever bass lurked.

While working on oil and gas wells across Southwest Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana, I got to know many a landowner who would allow me to toss a lure while on their property. I always promised not to take the fish, and would release them after landing.

Friends, there is nothing as exciting as to cast a top water lure into a “virgin pond” (unknown to you) and have a big bass explode the surface and try to rip that rod right out of your hands.

This “hit” alone can cause heart palpitations after you have been slowly retrieving that lure with only the sound of birds in the still air.

I call it a “get-out-the-paddles” moment. Simply thrilling and heart stopping. And those who know me today can tell you I’m a “popper” man. I love to throw a Rebel Pop-R or something similar. Truthfully, when one learns the nuances of retrieving poppers, they are hard to beat for stirring up bass.

As an adult, I have had more than a few boats – bass boats, mainly, and I have enjoyed them immensely, if not often enough.

When I received a catalog a couple of years ago that showed a Bass Tracker 40th Anniversary special edition bass boat, I melted with wonderful memories of buying that same boat from Bass Pro Shops in early 1979 (though the boat was a 1978 model). 

I lived in Louisiana back then and drove to Springfield, Mo., to pick it up. It was the only Bass Pro Shop in the world at that time.

Two years ago I contacted Bass Pro in Colorado Springs, and they could order one for me with a 2- to 3-month delivery. Other shops couldn’t beat that time schedule. I ended up getting mine earlier and drove to Colorado to get it.

The problem, though, is that I’m not as spry and agile and have health disabilities to a degree and don’t get to use my boat as much as I would like.

But, this past weekend, I took it to a private lake in central Kansas for a weekend with old classmates – dear friends – and fished a few days, trolling around the places I know where bass live.

I caught nearly a dozen small bass and a few Bluegills on a Pop-R during two mornings. I still felt a thrill at those strikes and the fish fighting their hardest to throw the hook. I still thanked God for allowing me to be there, too.

After the second day working the same timber and rocks along the shoreline, I decided to go back along the identical area just fished, but I picked up a rod with a chartreuse-skirted spinner bait with a trailer hook attached to the main hook (an old trick used by many bass fishermen). I knew the bass had seen that Pop-R for two days.

After about a dozen casts with the spinner bait working a little further from the shoreline where the water dropped to about 10 to 12 feet, I was reeling and pulling up and fluttering the lure down– pumping it parallel to the shore.

I suddenly thought I had caught it on a branch or rock. As I prepared to ease off and jerk it over the obstacle, I noticed my line was heading east, and I was facing north.

I set the hook hard and nearly lost my rod. Line started whizzing off the reel against a stout drag setting. I wasn’t sure what I had, only that it was big. I knew it was possible to hook big catfish with a spinner, I had done it before.

As I got out of my front pedestal seat, and started to the back where my net lay seemingly 20 yards away, the fish made another run. As I reached with one hand for the net, my grip was starting to slip. I had to drop the net between the seats and grab the rod with both hands.

“This thing is trying to take my whole package with him,” I said to myself. 

He kept going under the boat back toward shore. As he was battling up and down the side of the boat, I finally managed to grab the net. I still had not seen this fish.

Suddenly, as he turned at the rear of the boat, he came half-way out of the water with a tremendous head-shaking, tail-walk. It was a bass – a big largemouth bass, and I said out loud, “Holy (crap).”

Just then he was coming alongside toward the bow, and I netted him. Once I got the net and him swung into the boat, I finally relaxed my death grip on the rod. He was hooked firmly through his upper lip on the trailer hook.

I reflexively looked around toward shore and back at the lake cabins. There was nobody to shout my exhilaration to. I was alone.

But then, still shaking with adrenalin, I looked to the beautiful, deep blue sky, and said, “Thank you Lord for allowing me to land this fish.”

God answered, “You’re welcome, you’ve worked hard to learn how to catch fish like this. Do you still love to fish?”

“Indeed, my Lord. Indeed.”

Note: I’ve only caught about a dozen bass larger than this one in my 60-plus years of fishing. I may have forgot a little, but it is now firmly an addition to the Three Fs of my life.

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