I was fishing one of my favorite creeks recently when there was a disturbance along shore. Minnows flew, water splashed and I knew a big smallmouth bass was chasing bait into the shallows in a freshwater version of a feeding frenzy.
Easing up on the area that was no more than 12″ deep, I tried cast after cast. Almost resigning to the belief that the fish had left the area, one last cast and PAYDIRT! A “river pig” struck my small spinner and the fight was on.
By the bend in my rod and heavy thumping on the line, I knew it was a nice bass. Seconds later it jumped while streaking toward the main channel and all doubt was erased: the fish was at least 20-inches long, a trophy in a creek where the average depth is just above the knees.
And then came one of the worse feelings in the world: the lure shot back toward my face and the fish was again free. The fight had only lasted 15 seconds but the bronzeback had gotten my pulse racing. “Oh well,” I thought, ” it is better to have hooked up and lost, than to never have hooked up at all.”
It didn’t make me feel much better, but it was the only thing I could muster.
Moving upstream, I walked through the area where I had hooked the fish while searching for the next river monster. At the exact spot where the fight had begun, I looked down and stopped as something caught my eye. It took a second to realize what I was looking at: it was a nest, complete with fry, that the fish had been guarding.
I was surprised. Smallmouth bass in my home water tend to spawn in the late-May/early-June window so the nest was notably early in the season. On the other hand, the weather has been so bizarre this spring that nothing seems too strange.
Catching the fish off the nest wasn’t my intention but it had happened. I could only hope that the momma bass would return shortly to guard her brood from the ravenous sunfish, crawfish and all the critters that enjoy snacking on our favorite fish.
Before leaving, I got an underwater photo of the nest and its horde of tiny black fish, a first in a long career of outdoor and fishing photography. Hopefully one of the youngsters pictured above will eventually grace the cover of a magazine.
Or at least set someones’s pulse racing yet again.
Maybe even me.