That’s the Way Love Goes
“Everybody goes through a slump, and right now, I feel like I am going through a slump. I’ve been working more than ever before, trying to take care of my boys and my wife. I’m trying to save up money and pay off what I owe, and fishing just isn’t something I have gotten to do this spring like I have in the past. I feel like I’m losing my edge at catching crappie, and I just want to go out and catch a bunch of fish. You know what I mean? I need to find some fish and just have fun catching them without having to worry about anything else.”
I knew what Cody was feeling before he ever finished talking. I never planned to start my life over at 29, and I sure never planned on fishing only a couple times per month, but here we were trying to spit out the sour crow we had been chewing on after another day of empty handed pre-fishing together for the upcoming tournament on Lake Fork. We both had a lot more on our mind that didn’t include fishing, and the need to be successful, or at least feel successful at something was starting to weigh on our minds very heavily.
“Aren’t we supposed to be good at this? You were a full time guide and able to put people on fish like nobody else. What about me? I used to catch big fish like I was born to do so, and I’ve shown that I can win tournaments in the past.” With the pop of a top and the flick of a Bic, we stared out at the waters of a lake that we were at one time, both very excited to fish. “Cody, I haven’t gotten into a mess of crappie since last July. That’s not like me. I watched everything that I loved go away; my house, my land, my job and my wife, and I don’t care if we have to go catch bluegills tomorrow, I just want to catch some damn fish with you.”
With perfect timing as always, the ever so present Kyron Washington calls my phone to see what time the weigh-in would be held so he could watch. “You boys feeling pretty good about the tourney tomorrow?” “No sir, not really. We both need that $150 that it will cost for us to enter, and since our cards don’t look too good, we decided to go ahead and fold ‘em and just go fish for fun tomorrow. You’re more than welcome to join us if you can be here by 8.” Excited and thankful, Mr. Washington says he was planning to get some stuff done in the morning, but that he was going to move it around if he could, and that he would text me early tomorrow if he was going to show up. Hanging up the phone, I go back to what I was doing. “Well, what did he say?” Thinking about the Kyron that I know, and just die hard fishermen in general… “He’ll be here.”
Kyron shows up at 7am, which is almost one full hour before I am ready to wake up. Smiling as always, I’m greeted with a handshake from a good man. Looking around, the wind is light and the skies are cloudy. They aren’t moisture laden, but they are a dark, spring-time gray. “I’m glad you could make it out man. Follow us over to the ramp and will get with it. Oh, and by the way, we’re having fun today.”
We take off towards the only place we caught fish yesterday, a grass mat that came out near a creek channel. All of the surrounding cover is in 3-4 feet of water, but this cover settles in at 7-8 feet. We dabble around a few minutes, pulling out two short fish. “Let’s move up shallow to see if these clouds made the fish stay up in that other cover.” We move up shallow and find nothing. We hit a brush pile in the middle of the creek channel nearby…nothing. We shoot a couple of the local docks and still nothing. “This ain’t the time of year to be patient, and I’ve seen enough to tell me this isn’t the place.” Cody and Kyron agree, and we’re off to see if we can find big fish in the middle of the tournament guys.
A fifteen minute boat ride has us idling in what must be the area where everyone was finding fish, because nearly thirty boats are in the middle of the thick standing timber when we pull up. Fishermen can talk to each other very easily without having to say a word. I give a head’s up nod to see how the bite is, and they give a head shake which more than likely means we’re catching a few but we haven’t found the big fish that we need.
We fish around in the thick stuff for a while, moving hard and fast, just trying to make something happen. The conversation is good and light hearted, but we still aren’t getting the kind of action we’ve been looking for. In fact, the most exciting part of the morning so far has been when we got high centered on an underwater log. We’ve been fishing for going on three hours now, and we still don’t have much to show for it as of yet.
The captain says he remembers doing really well one year in this area, but that it was closer to shore, and they were focusing on stumps that were very large in size. “Dude, we might as well check it out because what we’re looking for sure isn’t here.” We idle our way across a few hundred yards of stumps, spend thirty minutes hoping and searching, and again, we are defeated. “You know, everyone we’ve talked to says they haven’t done well out in this deep stuff today. Why don’t we push up and see if they’re up in the shallow flats. Maybe we can at least find some jet black males doing their thing.”
Slowly, and I do mean slowly, we start driving towards the shore. I think we’re a couple of miles south of Georgia before we stop, near an old camp ground with a bunch of dudes playing some really good oldies music. Kyron speaks up, “There should be some cat tails and grass mats at the back of this cove.” I’m rigging a sixteenth ounce jig head to prepare for the shallows, but I look up at him. “What do you mean there should be some cat tails and grass mats at the back of this cove?” He keeps his glare straight forward. “I’m feeling optimistic, and I think if we head towards the back of that cove, there should be some fish in there.” The look on his face is saying something different than the words coming out of his mouth.
The Drifters are playing very loudly from the radio at the old camp ground. “Man with music like this, these fish ought to be spawning. Shoot, I’m feeling like I could probably do a little spawning myself.” We turn the boat off about twenty yards from an isolated group of cat tails in five foot of water. I get on the trolling motor and we ease up to the target area. Rigged with the long rods, we drop down and it finally happens. We are exactly where the fish want to be and everything that is wrong with the world ceases to exist.
The fish are furious and in large numbers. Any hole larger than a coffee can gets a jig put in it, and almost every hole seems to produce. It’s pointless to reel in when the fish are at three feet and the rod is ten and a half. It’s pretty easy to tell if the fish is a keeper or not on hookset. If the fish leaves the water then it’s too small, if the rod tip gets wet, it’s a keeper. I’m about two fish and another song away from dancing on the front of the boat. We are catching male after jet black male, and they’re getting even darker as they adjust to the clearer water in the live well.
“The last time you were here, how optimistic was that branch that is sticking out of the water over there by those cat tails?” Laughing, Kyron says it would be in our favor if we checked it out. “I’m still feeling pretty optimistic.”
I don’t know whether it’s the sounds of Stevie Ray Vaughn, or the clouds burning off, but the fishing is starting to get really, really good. We pull a crappie out of every place a crappie could possibly be hiding. We’re all three using different colors, none of which really seem to be out-producing the other. Drop the jig, shake the jig, hold it still and set the hook.
We trick 20-30 fish to bite using this same technique, and it must look like we’re having fun because there is quite the crowd gathering on the shoreline to watch us. I’m still on the trolling motor as Kyron has started putting on a clinic all by his self. Cody and I are catching a few too, but Kyron is the star of the show right now.
We clean out another hole when we are informed that if we were to sneak around the point, we might be able to pick off some bigger fish. The wind is pushing 20-25 as storms to our west continue to build, and since we only have an hour or so left to fish, we might as well go for broke and see what we can do a little further down the shore line.
I tie on a jig that I’m testing as we make our way to what I’m hoping is big fish country. The jig isn’t designed for crappie, but given the time of year and the attitude of the crappie; why not give it a shot. We sneak our way up to a mixture of coon tail and other grasses that is adjoining some sparse reeds. Based on the last two hours of fishing, and the fact that we are roughly twenty yards from a creek channel, I’m feeling optimistic myself on the chances of us very quickly finding and catching fish.
I guess Cody was mad at the fish because for the last hour of the day he drops the hammer down, doing very little to help out the population of Lake Fork crappie. I’m up front plugging away in search for something with a good set of shoulders on it, Kyron and Cody are walking from side to side, focusing on every bit of structure they can reach with a ten foot pole. I watch multiple keepers being flipped over the side of the boat, but there are two that get the net treatment. Both of the fish are males, and they are both over two pounds according to the scales. Out of the 60-70 fish that are boated, we don’t catch a single female throughout the entirety of the afternoon, but in two weeks that should all change.
The wind continues to rise and the thunder heads build, and we all have obligations that are beckoning us to get home. Kyron has fish to fry for his friends and family, Cody has a birthday party and I have plans to go take advantage of a hot crappie bite on Eagle Mountain. Laying down the rods and dishing out a few fist bumps among ourselves, normalcy and joy has returned back to our souls. Once more we feel success and satisfaction, knowing what it is like again to give Mother Nature a taste of her own. The optimistic spirit drives a fisherman beyond reason, sacrificing comfort and time and money, with the only two opponents being themselves and the earth. The next trip may be another blank, but now, during this minute and at this second, we stand between the water and the sky, and we give thanks and have great joy.