Thursday, February 17, 2011

Walk in the Park

6:00 Friday morning and I had worked a night shift. Me and my future ex wife had plans to go somewhere, can’t say I remember where, Florida maybe, but I had time to kill till she was able to leave. I went home to find out what time we were meeting and found out it wasn’t for several hours. Now the smart thing after a 12 hour shift would be get some sleep but it is summer, warm, raining and Shelby Park is on the way to where we will meet. The park, you see, is where in it’s 5 acre pond chock full of good fish, I learned most of my bass fishing.

Thinking it over for all of 3 seconds I grabbed a spinning rod, some #9 floating Rapalas and took off. The pond has a couple of good banks bass cruise whenever it is warm and raining and I love to throw Rapalas on cloudy, rainy days especially in ponds. I pulled into the parking spot at what we call the spillway bank, possibly because it has a spillway on it, which is my favorite spot to start. This bank has a couple of ledges stair stepping down to about 4 feet of water and fish stack up on it to feed either early, late or during dreary days.

It was rush hour, people on their way to work cutting through the park using the road on the spillway bank staring at me as I rig up. They had to wonder why anyone would waste time in this pond on a good day much less with rain coming down. Typical, most folks don’t know what I know, to them this is a place to take the kids on a Sunday afternoon and feed the ducks. It is an almost completely overlooked bass fishery right under their noses, at one time even held the world record for carp.

I eased down to the water’s edge and started making casts paralleling the bank starting just about a foot out. Many people fish this spot but they will throw out towards the middle not realizing fish are right by their feet. Bass hold just at the drops and rush into a couple of inches of water to grab food swimming along the bank. I work my bait slowly twitching and pausing giving the fish time to take it. I make a series of casts from each spot working the bait from a foot to maybe six feet from the bank then move up to where my bait was landing to start again. After just a few casts a solid 2 ½ pounder took the Rapala in a boiling strike. A fun, quick fight and I was able to release him back in good shape. I made my next cast and had another fish on almost as soon as it hit the water, a twin to my first one. This turned out to be the program for the morning.

As I fished along I was getting strike after strike. The fish were hitting just the way a top water fan hopes for. Some came up in a big boil, swirling under the bait to suck it down. Others came up to blast it out of the pond, twisting in the air, throwing spray back at the rain. Normally I move along the bank faster than I was but I slowed down to make sure I didn’t miss fish. I have fished this pond for many years and knew this was one of those mornings that rarely come along. Fish from 1 to 4 pounds were hitting everywhere.

The spillway bank is about 100 yards long, is the best bank on the pond and today was covered in fish. The spillway is just over halfway down and by the time I got there I caught 8 or 9 fish plus had more hits. The rain was still coming down steadily, just enough to keep the fish up but not enough to run me off. As I walked past the spillway a car pulled over, a friend on his way to work gets out, comes over and asks what I’m doing. Just as he walked up another 2 pounder latches on as if to answer for me. When I landed it he says he wouldn’t mind catching one like that. I handed him the rod, pointed to a spot at the corner of the spillway, telling him to cast just past it and twitch the bait back past it. He’s a good fisherman and does just what I had told him. As the bait gets even with the concrete corner a fat 3 pounder rolls out and smacks it. He has a huge smile on his face as the bass tail walks, shaking it’s head trying to throw the bait. I land it for him, he is saying he can’t believe that just happened so I tell him what the fish are doing. Now all he wants to do is skip work, go grab some tackle and come back. He says that isn’t going to happen, thanks me for letting him catch one and heads off.

I worked my way back along the bank to my truck, catching a couple of more good fish and missing a few. It was hard to believe fish were this aggressive in these numbers. Beyond where I parked there is a pipe bring fresh water into the pond. This was meant to go farther out but had broken about 20 feet from the bank creating a small area with current. I made a cast into the fast water, letting it pull the Rapala out several feet then closed the bail to start my retrieve. That was as far as I got. A 4 pounder nailed it and took off, my light rod bent double, drag buzzing in protest. I got her to the bank and released, checked my line and knot then put another cast in the same spot with exactly the same results. I stood in this one spot and hooked 6 fish, none smaller than the first, managing to land 4 of them with one leaving with my bait as the line snapped when it brushed against the end of the pipe.

I tied on another bait, tried a few more casts into the fast water without a hit. Moving to my right I cast to a couple of old stumps rotting away a couple of feet under the surface. I cast past them, started the crippled minnow retrieve and it was blasted out of the water. This had turned into one of my best mornings ever. After casting back to the stumps without a strike I got into my truck and drove to the small bridge going out to the island. I wanted to fish this before I ran out of time.

Most of the island isn’t worth fishing but near the end closest to the main part of the pond there are big rocks hidden underwater. I got fish after fish along the whole point. Finally running out of time I made my last cast and headed to the truck. I had a final total of 32 fish hit and landed 24. Most were over 2 pounds with the biggest a football shaped 4 pounder. All were caught on a #9 floating Rapala fished on top. This was years ago but man what a morning.

There are so many overlooked or under estimated ponds. Some, like Shelby Park, right in the middle of cities. I try to find these small waters for those days when a single rod and walking the bank is all I want.

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Born and raised in middle Tennessee.I'm a working wildlife and landscape artist specializing in watercolors. Now making cedar lures and custom turkey calls.



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