Mike Jones - KEEPING UP

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Thursday, July 26, 2018
Somebody, somewhere
Tuesday, August 28, 2018
Steely Done

Duck destiny
The Aug. 3 edition of Western Outdoor News was a sock to the gut. The cover shot of Santa Monica’s Dave Asch hoisting an 11.4 Castaic largemouth sent pangs of envy reverberating to my very core.

If you happen to recall my April 6 column where I mused over the various items found on the game fish menu, then you may also remember how, as a young boy, I swore an undying allegiance to any fish capable of eating a duck. And it wasn’t because of any simmering vendetta against mallards or their ilk. No, it was the result of one too many carefully drawn magazine covers depicting the toothy jaws of a muskie mere seconds before slamming shut on what my grade-school mind assumed was a doomed duckling. Then, when I saw the Savage Gear Ugly Duckling dangling from the mouth of Asch’s trophy, I couldn’t help but feel I failed the little boy inside me who had pledged so many years ago to someday fulfill his own duck destiny.

DESTINY DENIED — Dave Asch’s trimphant cover shot got columnist Mike Jones thinking about the angling dream that got away.

Admittedly, I’ve had a pretty fair run with my angling life, even boating a teen fish on what was then my favorite lure, a Zara Spook. What dedication I lacked with duck lures, I seemed to find in spades with the Heddon Spook. Not only did this big bass validate my diligence with the lure, it was also the culmination of an entire year of throwing it. I don’t mean when the conditions were exactly right, I mean that I had a Zara Spook tied on for an entire year. Not kidding. From the heat of summer to the dead of winter, I stubbornly kept my Spook rod rigged and ready and out on deck. While I may have missed a day or two, I always tried to give it a fair chance every outing, especially when conditions said otherwise.

Aside from a treasure trove of Zara Spook knowledge from rigging details (you need a split ring on every hook) to color choices (clear and Flitter Shad) to rod action (the right tip section means everything) to line (15-pound mono), the most astounding revelation was how often it worked. On any given day, there is no better feeling than catching a fish and being certain you were the only one willing to throw the lure that caught it. The more improbable the situation, the more satisfying the result.

Over a decade later when big swimbaits fished at or near the surface proved deadly in some decidedly cold and nasty circumstances, I wasn’t quite as surprised as I might have been otherwise. This is precisely when you know the time spent learning every intricacy of a lure has not been in vain. Among many other things, the effort brings a heightened confidence and not the everyday variety, but the unshakeable kind.

With this brand of maniacal commitment, the time will come when you may set a lure aside, content in the knowledge that, in specific circumstances, it probably offers little chance for success. Of course, probably is the operative word. If you have truly dedicated yourself to understanding a lure and seen the possibilities — if you’ve done it right — then you will never absolutely be sure it won’t work.

Over the years, I’ve repeated my lure addiction with a number of worthy choices including Bobby Garland’s Gitzit (the original tube jig), the Zoom Fluke, Yamamoto’s Senko and the venerable Pradco Pop-R. If you’ve noticed a trend here, congratulations. To make the commitment worthwhile, the lure you choose has to be as iconically brilliant as it is versatile. Quite simply, lesser lures offer less. With fewer rigging options, more limited presentation possibilities and a narrower window for use, you’ll quickly tire of slinging a one-trick pony.

The danger in throwing a classic, however, is the tendency to dig your own rut. These lures are legendary for a reason — they catch fish. If you commit to using them, you will catch fish. But, if you set your personal bar too low, if your desire to experiment ends too soon, you may end up limiting yourself.

Another pitfall — one potentially more insidious — is the tendency of professionals and chat room amateurs to publicly and prematurely proclaim the proper and correct method of use. Sad to say, but most anglers quickly lock into one retrieve, one set-up, and one mindset when it comes to their lures. The era or the type of lure doesn’t matter. People like being the expert and if something is repeated often enough, then it might as well be written in stone.

Of all the lures I’ve invested in over the years, none has a stranger tale to tell than the Alabama rig. When Paul Elias won a FLW tournament with the rig in 2011, the firestorm created did not burn in the expected direction. Instead of being embraced and then dumbed down as is normally the case, it was ostracized. As if they were divining the future, some professional ang­lers called it a pox upon bass fishing. It was too effective, mangled fish with multiple hooks and spelled the end to bass populations as we knew them.

That was all I needed to hear. For the next seven years, I committed myself to learning everything possible about the A-rig and fished it more diligently than common sense might dictate. I can assure you now that everything — and I mean every evil and apocalyptic slur offered up by those professionals and others — was a complete and utter falsehood. They didn’t know how to fish it then, didn’t want to learn it and probably still don’t know how to fish it.

Of course, none of the foregoing excuses me from my duck myopia. It is truly the one that got away. Not so for Dave Asch. He had a duckling tied on and ready to go. And, if you think it was rare good fortune or merely a happy accident, don’t be so sure.

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