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Shannon Bardwell: Leaping lizards


Shannon Bardwell



Sometimes you can''t go to the river to fish. It''s too high or too muddy or too cold; it''s too late or too something. That''s when Sam and I started fishing in the prairie pond. I had to learn a different kind of fishing because there''s no crappie in the prairie pond.  


Crappie fishing was like fishing with a fancy cane pole, but to bass fish I had to learn to fish with a spinning rod. At first I was all thumbs but figured out that fishing was like everything else -- you just have to practice. Sam knows I don''t learn things too fast, so we tried one bait for a while and then another. It reminded me of when I tried to learn to knit. I did one long string, but then they said I had to learn something different, so I said just forget it. But Sam lets me do the same thing over and over until I get it or give up. Then we go on to something else. 


I tried spinnerbaits with a single overhead blade. Sam said, "Try to feel the vibration." I couldn''t feel anything.  


We tried the Rapala, a shallow running crankbait. It had too many hooks; then the Johnson weedless spoon. I liked the frog, but the pond wasn''t scummy enough. We finally settled on gummy-like worms with a Texas rig. I use a 1/0 hook. The zero is said "aught," just so you''ll know.  


Worms have a hidden hook; they don''t get hung up, and I can easily remove the hook from the fish myself. I keep "goozle getters" in my back pocket. They are like a cross between scissors and pliers. I can put them in the fish''s mouth and remove the hook without hurting the fish. Well, I guess it probably hurts a little. Then I throw the fish back. We catch and release in the prairie pond. 




Pretty and purple 


One day I went to a store to peruse the fishing section. This hobby provides a whole new shopping opportunity. I had no idea what I was looking at, but they were bright, shiny and dangly, like earrings. My strategy was to buy something that other fishermen were buying. I figured if the display hook was full then fishermen weren''t buying them. I settled on purple lizards with yellow glitter. They were pretty. 


I brought the lizards home. Sam said he had never tried them, but that some people like them. He didn''t seem too impressed. We loaded up the Gator with our fishing gear and took off to the prairie pond. Well, we started casting lizards and before you know it, I''m squealing and he''s laughing and we are hauling in big bass.  


"I knew it!" he hollers. "I knew that one day I''d be hauling in 5-pounders!" We were pretty excited about those purple lizards. 




Stunning development 


Sam told me if a fish hits and misses, or if you see a fish, dangle your bait nearby and he might strike again. Well, I looked down that night and right at my feet near the bank was a big bass. He was just looking at me. I dangled my bait all around him ''til it was lying on his head.  


"Sam," I whispered. "Sam, there''s a fish right at my feet. I have the bait on his head, but he''s just looking at me." 


Sam came near. "That''s the fish I just caught," he said. "He''s stunned."  


Oh no, now I''m worried about the fish. Catching them is OK, but killing them is not. I''ve seen Sam get really sad if he catches a pond fish that won''t survive. If we catch a fish, we eat it or let it go. It just seems right. 


So Sam gently moves the fish, encouraging him to swim off. Finally he swims, much to our relief, and we go back to our hoopin'' and hollerin'' and catching 5-pound bass on pretty purple lizards with yellow glitter well into the night.


Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.


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