Welcome to Panfish!

Part One Hundred-twenty-nine

Tom

By John McBride

Winter is a time when we go through our equipment to see what needs replaced, tie up a couple hundred flies for spring, and also go over that "honey-do" list, so at THE first hint of warm weather you are ready to go and drown a bug at that special spot you have that you always wanted to try.

I pull all my rods down off the rack on the wall, wrap on new guides, and give my reels a good going over.

One of the grand kids spotted a beat-up 14' telescoping cane pole with two foot of black nylon tip-up line dangling off the end, (I take all hooks off my poles for the kids, and cats safety!) and asked "how do you control the back cast with that big pole Paw-Paw??" I just grin and tell her that the pole is a friend's that I'm keeping for him.

She skipped off to tie up some bright bugs for spring, and I stand there a few seconds recalling the story of that beat up old pole.

Tom

A fellow worker at the factory who was in maintenance, and had been in the National Guard during Desert Storm. I was told that most every vehicle that came home was washed down by him, and his mechanics crew.

While at work years later his arms started twitching, and getting weak.

He had Lou Gehrig's disease. (ALS)

He went down hill faster than the doctors said he was supposed to, and this started to limit his fishing.

He had to quit working, so I just saw him when I could on the weekends.

His son had to come home from the Marines to help take care of him, and needless to say he had his hands full. (You know how it would be, an active guy laid up, and setting around thinking about everything!)

One weekend Tom decided to go out and see if we could catch a monster Pike, that he had been catching/releasing for years, just one last time.

I pushed the wheelchair into the old flat bottom, and we went around the lily pads to find his monster.

On the third cast Tom started to cry. He couldn't cast where he wanted, or strip as fast as was needed for the streamer he had me tie on for him. We left, and on the way home he had told me that he wanted to go fishing with his son, and hadn't the nerve to try, and had just then realized that he couldn't ever again.

His son liked to fish for Bass, so later in the week I called Tom up and told him to enter the two of them in a local Bass tournament that was coming up. There was dead silence for about three minutes over the phone, then all he said over and over was that I was crazy!!

"I will show you how you can go out with your son next month in another tournament, and maybe win a trophy doing it!"

I finally got him to do it, and I got out all my notes from all the old ways that I had learned to fish growing up.

I rigged up two poles for us and that coming weekend, off we went.

The rules were NO LIVE BAIT!

50 fancy Bass boats with 300 hp motors zooming to parts unknown, and us with a 12 ft. Jon with a 5 horse! Boy did we get heckled! ZOOOOM, off they go! We putt-putt around the lakes edge, so all the wakes wouldn't swamp us.

Then I pull up to the largest lily pad spot on the lake, and grab the duckbill pole and start to slide us into shore. (Tom by this time has a real puzzled look!)

I tell him to get the poles out of the rod box that I built into the side of the boat, and then he really gets mad.

"Whats next, Night crawlers??"

"You'll see," was the only thing he could get out of me.

We get into the middle of the pads and then I shove the duckbill pole into the latch on the back of the boat, and open my pole to show him. "It's called Doodle Skipping!" (Tom furrows his eyebrows!)

"First you tie on two foot of heavy line, and then some kind of floating bait with propellers on it." (Tom squints at me!)

"Then you slide the pole out of the boat so the bait is sitting in a pocket in the pads." (Tom grits his teeth!)

"Now don't cast a shadow over the pocket when you do it, or you will scare the fish." (Tom reaches for the oar to hit me with!)

"Now pull the bait around in a figure eight, back and forth over the pocket." Boy-oh-boy can Tom yell swear words loud! (I think I even learned some new ones!)

About then I had a strike that threw water on both of us, and I pulled back into the boat about a three pound Large-mouth. "And when you catch one you have to hand-over-hand the pole, and not try to lift the fish."

Now there has been grins before I imagine, but I don't think I have ever seen one as big as the one I saw in the front of my boat just then.

We didn't win any money that day, but we did have fun with all the stares we got when we went to the weigh in.

Tom is gone now, and I never found out if he took his son to the next big tournament or not.

But I will keep my Doodle Skipping pole till I pass on, (just for the memories you understand) and I will not use it again.

It doesn't matter how you fish, where you fish, or if you use bait to fish, or even if you eat some fish. It just matters that you DO you fish, and remember those that you have fished WITH!

Thanks Tom!! ~ John McBride

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