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Blake Warren – ON THE HOOK

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Thursday, June 01, 2017
Big bass fishing’s Valhalla

By George
If you are going to be on any road at 6 a.m. when the sun just starts to peek its forehead above the distant hills to the east, I suppose it’s a good omen to be on one with your namesake all over it, and that’s exactly where I found myself on Wednesday morning of last week as I motored the six-plus miles down Warren Road to the first launch ramp at Lake Skinner. There, I was due to meet friend, former WON BASS Editor and longtime WON staffer, George Kramer, for a day of catching up a bit… and to also try to do a little actual “catching” while we were at it as well.

freshwaterhalloffamerFRESHWATER HALL OF FAMER George Kramer showing how it’s done with the best fish of the day, a 4.67-pound Skinner bass. “Well, at least it’s got the head of a 6½ pounder,” he quipped just before the photo was taken.

It had been far too long since I last caught up with George in person, and I was looking forward to the midweek day on the water. I made it to the ramp a little later than I’d planned, and when I first saw George, he was off in the distance, working the far bank with something surface oriented. A quick wave from the launch ramp dock, and he went about pulling up his trolling motor and putting across the lake.

A few quick pleasantries and talk quickly shifted to fishing. George clearly had a game plan — as was fully expected — and a well-thought-out idea about how he wanted to approach the day’s work. He told me right off the bat that the lake had just dropped a little over three feet within the last few days, likely pulling the majority of Skinner’s bass off their comfy confines and cozy haunts of shoreline cover, and also likely killing any thoughts we might have had about running into a potentially rock-solid buzzbait bite. To the drop-shot it was, at least for George. I hadn’t been fishing enough lately, and I just couldn’t manage to coerce myself to start with the worm right from the get-go.

Opting to throw a chatterbait and an underspin clearly proved me to be the obvious moron of the group this morning after watching George stick one, two and a third solid fish on Roboworms — 6-inchers in Aaron’s Pro Shad the specific weapon of choice for the day. Me? I hadn’t even gotten a sniff.

“I've got a drop-shot rod set up for ya here anytime you want to use it,” George said. I was hesitant and told him about my (likely highly irrational) reluctance to go to the plastics just yet. He would never bring it up again. “I wouldn't want to encourage you or have you do anything that would go against your religion,” he quipped.

DROP-SHOTTING WEEDLESS 6-inch Roboworms deep into the tules produced a couple solid fish.

George broke down Skinner like a seasoned vet: “That sandstone extends wayyy off that point there.” “You’ve got deep reeds that are growing real tall, here, and the others over there that aren’t as deep and not as tall. What does that tell you?” “You see that mudline? There’s a little cut that runs right underneath it. It’s only maybe a foot wide, but it almost always holds fish.”

It was a legitimate tutorial and it seemed incredibly effortless. Just stream-of-consciousness fishing knowledge, rolling off the tongue as if second nature, all of the deep thought and the “figuring it out” already having been done, with bass gears that just simply refuse to quit turning. But I guess that’s just exactly what 55 years of bass fishing can do for you (Sorry ’bout that one, George. I needed to do it strictly for point-making purposes only).

“I've never said at any point that I'm an expert,” he said with one arched eyebrow. “But I did always say that I WAS an AUTHORITY.” Immediate laughs came from both of us.

More banter ensued. More talking shop. More knowledge dropped. More fish hooked and put on the boat… by George and the plastic worm, of course.

Over the course of our day and at some point during our back-and-forth, something dawned on me. I was fishing with a guy who, 35 years ago, did the exact same thing I find myself doing this very day. At just about the same exact age, at the same place and doing the same job, editing WON BASS and covering the SoCal freshwater scene. Funny how much things change and yet somewhat stay the same. Small world after all, indeed.

These are the moments that fishing is most perfectly suited for. Those seemingly subtle slices of life when any particular notion might happen to ring true to you for that brief moment in time when you happen to realize something that is actually very much worth realizing. And you just so happen to be in the best possible scenario for that to take place. Amid the quiet. Just you and another guy who loves to feel that fish bite at the other end. Not another care in the world. Total contentment.

GINGERLY BRINGING A near-5 pounder to the boat.

“There we GO!” George said as he reeled right into another good fish that brought about a Huck Finn-ish smile, one that is undoubtedly strictly related to something “fishing,” no matter whether you're 7 or 70 years old (sorry once again, George, I just truly needed to make another decent point here).

The bucketmouth was giving George its all and showing its resilience, and the first call for the net of the day was made. A good bass. Certainly looks like a 5.

“Let's weigh it,” George said. “Just for fun and to see what we've got here.”

The numbers on the handheld scale went up and down in the glare, and it finally settled in at 4.67.

“Well, at least it's got the head of a 6½,” George said with a wry smile. “If I could just get that one in the Open.”

Indeed, George. Indeed.

We found one more Kramer-savvy brushline that was holding fish and a few more Skinner bass were boated there too, by George.

Sometimes fishing can be as beautifully simple as just listening and learning. Taking your foot off the gas pedal and just enjoying what it is you're doing, where you're doing it, and whom you're doing it with. Some of the best fishing memories are often born on those rare occasions when catching fish becomes second in priority. Ego fishing is far beyond played out at this point anyhow.

Just get out there and dig it. That's what it's ultimately there for in the first place. Simply appreciating the moment, in the moment. Just taking it all in — and hopefully sticking some good fish while you’re at it.

Or perhaps it merely takes one lazy day of fishing with a Freshwater Fishing Hall of Famer to shift your perspective a bit. I don't know. The experts live elsewhere. You'll have to go ask them. Hell, I'm not even an authority. Besides, it's better for everyone that way. Authority and myself haven't ever truly gotten along too well at any point along the way anyhow.

George absolutely crushed me in the end on a day that brought us a slower bite than either of us had hoped for prior to the sun coming up. Nine fish to 1.

The one all-too forgettable bass attributed to me? On a plastic worm, of course. What else? During our last hour putting lines in the water, I had finally caved in. Maybe I should have just listened to the old man (oops, my apologies yet again; last time, I promise) right from the time my foot touched the deck of the boat. Perhaps then I wouldn't have spent my Wednesday getting schooled...

By George.

AARON’S PRO SHAD wound up as the worm color of the day.


IT’S TOUGH TO beat mornings on the water.

FROG WATER — While a lake level drop of over 3 feet in the few days prior to our outing pulled a lot of bass off shoreline cover, there are definitely some pockets at Skinner that scream out for the frog.


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