I was about 8 years old and Grandpa wanted to
take me fishing. Now to me that was about the
greatest thing in the world, us going fishing
together, after all that is why I came to stay
with him for the summer.
We were going to leave before daylight and we were
going to a farm pond near Opp, Alabama. Grandpa
was a gill fisherman. He would have 6 cane poles
out of the boat. That gave me the front of the boat
to fish out of, I was fishing for bass. I had my
trusty Zebco 202 reel that Dad had given me. It
was my first reel.
We were doing ok grandpa was catching gills. It
did not matter how big they were they went on to
the fish stringer. I had not caught anything but
had stirred up a yellow jacket nest. It was lucky
for me that they did not know where my black 7 inch
worm came from. They just swarmed all over the place
for a little while.
All of a sudden on my back cast I had hooked Grandpa's
Stetson hat. This was not a cowboy hat but an old
dress hat that he had worn to the point it was a
fishing hat. Well the hat went with the cast. You
got it, right into the water. I reeled it in and
turned it around for Grandpa to take off the hook.
I knew I was dead. I knew I was going to get a good
switching. Well he turned the boat back toward the
car and the real fear started, he sculled the boat
back to the bank and told me to get out of the boat,
and if I wanted to bass fish I should do it from the
To me this was worse than getting a switch applied
to my back side. Come to think of it Grandpa never
did spank me. Anyway he started back across the
lake. It was a long way to scull the boat.
He had just gotten all his poles out of the
water and I started fishing, I think there
were tears in my eyes because my hero was
on the other side of the lake. I loved being
near him and now this lake was between us. I
was walking around the lake and I was paying
attention. I was determined to catch a bass.
I wanted to show my Grandpa that I could fish.
I wanted back in that boat. Well I was casting
that black worm and I saw a bass move the water
behind a log. I cast over the log and reeled
that worm back to my side; I did it really slow
hoping the bass would see it. As the worm slid
off the log all heck broke loose. I counted to
5 and set the hook. Well it was a big fight.
Please close your eyes for a moment and picture
this. I am a little guy, the bank is red clay,
the bass is big, and I slip and slide down the
bank. Grandpa had always said hold 'em hooker
hold 'em whenever he caught a big fish. So here
I am on my back side sliding into the water holding
on to the rod and fighting the fish yelling hold 'em
hooker hold 'em.
Now I am about half way into the water trying to
push myself up the little bank. The fish is pulling
me into the lake, and I am yelling like the Yellow
Jackets have got me.
Grandpa is sculling as hard as he can to get
to me. He is going just as fast as he can.
He never said a word just sculling and putting
his poles into the boat. Now remember it had
not been 20 minutes since he finished the first
trip back over there. Well I get back to my
feet and this Zebco reel is grinding and
growling with the fight. I finally get to see
this bass; it is the biggest bass I have ever
seen. I finally get it to the bank and step
on it till Grandpa gets there. When he does
arrive he takes on look at the fish and said
"what a hog."
We got the bass into the boat and I turned
around to find someplace to sit and my Grandpa
started laughing as hard as he could I turned
around and his face was blood red. He finally
got his breath back and told me I was red from
my head to my toes.
He told me we were finished fishing for the day;
he wanted to get back to town. I was tuckered
out from the fight and did not care at that point.
I had made Grandpa laugh and made my day. Little
did I know but he was about to get even with me
for the hat.
We went back to town and he stopped at every bait
shop he knew, showed the fish and got it weighed.
It was a little over 10lbs. But it was not bad
enough that we stopped at every bait shop in and
around Opp, Alabama but we also stopped where he
worked, a big grocery store. And every place we
stopped he had the fish weighed and made me turn
around to show off my new color. RED by now not
only was my back, red clay red but my face was
beginning to have the same color. We finally
made it home and he showed off the fish to Grandma,
and the backside of me. She was laughing at the
story he told, and he mentioned the hat at every
place he told the story.
The next day he got home early and told me to
get into the car. We were going shopping; we
drove for quite a while before we came up on
this big barn (big for an 8 year old).
And we went into this barn. Inside were cane
poles of every size I could imagine.
This wonderful man came over and said hello to
my Grandpa and used his first name. They were
old friend from the way they talked. And yes
the man got the story also. They laughed and
laughed. I was getting tired of getting laughed
at and the gentleman seemed to notice. Well he
asked me if I would like to get a new cane pole.
Well this was special because I had never owned
one of my own. The gentleman told me that this
was the proudest he had ever seen my Grandpa.
Well that changes my feelings right away. The
man was Lew Childre, if you do not know who Lew
was then think Fuji. Lew had a passion about
fishing, he never replaced my dad and Grandpa
as my heroes but he did become one of my favorite
people. While Lew did not sponsor my pro bass
career (he died in 1977) I fished with nothing
else but his rods.
Lew gave me my first cane pole, that pole caught
many gills that summer and others to follow, I
never took the pole home with me it stayed with
You never know who you will meet while fishing
or looking for fishing gear. Just remember
that people like Lew, Ladyfisher, JC, Al Campbell,
and others on this website give to us because
they love what they do. I am always looking
for someone to give a hint to or to help learn
how to fish. It is my way of paying it forward
because of the lessons I learned from my heroes.
I do not think I can walk in their shoes, but I
will follow the path they led me down.
Our young people out there need heroes, are you
going to be one? Just remember they hang on your
Hope you enjoyed the walk back into my past.
Thank you God for putting these heroes and
mentors into my life they have made it one
joyous ride. ~ Harold E. Hattaway Jr.