There are some days I leave the house and I’m off to work with a general idea of what I am getting into. With a good understanding of where the fish might be and what they might bite, we hit the water. But some days are completely different, and we are working with a clean slate; a scrambled puzzle that we have to put together as we go.
Usually I have the luxury of fishing out of my own boat, equipped with state-of-the-art electronics, quality rods and reels, and an assortment of fish-catching tackle that I use day in and day out to find success. However, recently, I was thrown a major curveball.
I was hired to guide from a boat that was not my own, which had minimal electronics, using rods and reels that were foreign to me, and on top of it all, fishing with lures, worms, hooks and sinkers that were not normally a part of my arsenal.
Some guides might cringe under these circumstances, but I smiled and accepted the challenge. As I rummaged through the old tackle box, I recognized most everything. It reminded me of gear I had seen in boxes from my father and grandfather dating back to the late 1970s and early ’80s with some newer gear.
I felt like a contestant on the cooking show “Chopped” presented with the mystery basket for a meal. Carefully selecting a few choice items, I began to piece together a meal for the fish. Under this format, I knew that if we could make it work, it would be very gratifying not only for me, but for my client that had put me up to this challenge.
As the line hit the water and the improvised presentation was fished, we all waited with anticipation. I had a level of excitement and curiosity that I had not felt for a long time. It reminded me of when I was just a kid and catching fish was not expected but anticipated. When one of the rods doubled over with a fish on the end of the line, everyone in the boat, including myself, sprung with delight.
After landing a fish and completing the challenge that was set forth, we continued to use a variety of different ingredients that were from the mystery tackle box. Some gained attention, while others failed to produce.
Toward the end of the trip, I decided to pull out some of my tricks and got into a small assortment of gear that I had brought. Still using the rod, reel, line, hook and sinker my clients had provided, I slipped on the secret weapon: a small, minnow-like, soft plastic bait. The results came instantly with many bites and fish caught.
Then, on one carefully placed cast, true magic took its course. With a swift swing of the rod, we had hooked into a giant bass. The fight was incredible, as the fish buried down deep, broke the surface for all to see and then dove deep again. My client landed his personal best bass that evening. And the story behind the catch is one that I will remember and tell from this day forth.
So, as I sit back and reminisce on this unique Xperience, I think where there is a will, there is a way. Make do with what you have and prepare a meal that the judges (the fish) will be satisfied with, to avoid being Chopped.
John Liechty is the owner of Xperience Fishing Guide Service in Angels Camp. Contact John at 743-9932 or xperiencefishing.net.