There's something iconic about the Largemouth Bass. It's really the unofficial "posterfish" of American freshwater inland fishing. Don't get me wrong, there's lots of fish species out there that are total trophies but, there's just something about a Largemouth Bass....the way it looks....that HUGE gaping mouth, that unmistakable dark stripe painted down the length of it's strong body...it's jet-black eye...it's blood-red gills...the way it hunts, the way it strikes, the way it fights....There's a reason that the store isn't called Pickerel Pro Shops.
So, I've documented at length about our fishing experiences this year...that Gavin was introduced to fishing about 3 months ago with a simple rod and length of line...and, honestly, that's what I thought "fishing" was going to be for him this year, just dangling off the dock and snatching up bluegills and sunnies all Summer. That rig lasted about a month, then he said that he was ready to cast. I did a few weeks worth of hand-over-hand with him on my rod and reel...he'd flip the bail and hold his hands right under mine as I casted out. Then he wanted to try it on his own. The only reel that I had for him was an open-faced reel and, for those not in-the-know, is MUCH more challenging to use than the traditional kids training reel called a "push-button". I put a bobber at the end of his hookless line and taught him a thing or two and within one afternoon, he was able to cast out on his own fairly well. That led to him casting out a baited hook and eventually nabbing his first completely solo catch: casted, hooked, and reeled in all by himself.
And that's pretty much where we are at. he's still too little to bait a hook or unhook a fish but he's pretty much got everything else down pretty well. There's definitely some "proud papa" moments when I watch this little 4 year old boy sit there as something is nibbling his bait....paitent....waiting for just right moment to set that hook. It's impressive.
A few weeks ago we started dabbling in plastic and rubber bait. I picked us up some off-set hooks and rubber worms/flukes. Personally, I like the live bait. I love catching big fish, but most days I'm more content to catch 15 small/medium fish than 1 lunker. Live bait, on our pond, is a sure thing....and I'm good with that. For me, just being out there on the dock with my boy is the highlight...the fish caught is just the gravy. Gavin, on the other hand, has been much more interested in the rubber baits. He's had this white rubber super fluke on his line for the past week. He'll cast it out and pretend to have something on his line and yell "get the net"....sometimes even before his bait hits the water. He's got nothing all week....and he couldn't care less....I think that he too just mainly likes being out there.
So today, he and I are out there fishing, I'm snatching up the occasional bluegill and he's casting and reeling in next to me. Then he says "I got one"...I don't even really react at that point, thinking that it's just another one of his little pretending sessions. He says it again " I got one...a BIG one". At that point I glance over and see his line laser straight heading into the water and his pole bent sharply. "Yeah...you do" I say...."Reel! Keep your line tight!".
He handles himself like a champ and, in a classic yet inevitable shift in roles, I grab the net to help HIM land HIS big fish:
My boys first Bass. Signed, sealed, and delivered all by himself. Just under 2 lbs. Just over 16 inches. He was psyched, I was more psyched for him. He got his Big Fish.
I am so grateful to have rediscovered my love of fishing, especially with my boy. There is nothing in the world like getting to spend that much time with him, so close together, talking, joking, teaching, laughing. Being out there gives me so much time and opportunity to pour into his little life on so many levels. I look forward to many more years of quality time on the dock with my boy. Big Fish or not.
"Many men go fishing their whole lives without knowing that it is not the fish they are after" - Henry David Thoreau