Recently I went on a very um, interesting, fishing trip with a high school friend of mine. We had quite the time, so much so that I felt I had to write something about it. The experience was full of sit com like moments as we stumbled through a day of unforgettable fishing in some awesome Missouri water.
I guess you could say the day started about four months ago when a group of us high schoolers took a day we had off to play 18 holes of golf on a course about an hour away. We took two cars each with two guys and two sets of golf clubs. Preston, my future college roommate, and Aaron another good friend of mine headed up the caravan while myself and Mark “The Shark” Kohl brought up the rear.
In the process of driving, Mark and I were talking about his family’s farm, which he
works at during the summer. I noticed some large ponds along the road on some ground I thought might be his property and ventured a question as to the status of the water. They were two huge ponds, well groomed, with flooded timber, lilly pads, and even docks. I was appalled to hear my intuition was wrong and Mark had no clue who owned the ponds. However, he new the love I had for fishing and piped up that he did own two huge strip pits he thought might hold some big fish.
I’m not one to pass up any fishing, even if all I hear is a modest, “might have some big fish in them”. I like to fish and have no problem spending a week day, that I’d otherwise be working, slogging away in the heat for bass, bluegill, trout or anything that swims. So it was set, I jumped on the opportunity, and we quickly agreed on a date. That day came and passed recently and let me tell you I won’t forget it soon.
I woke up with a splitting headache and quickly texted Mark to move our rendezvou time back from 8 o’clock to nine thirty, I just wasn’t feeling it. I thought for half a second about just canceling our trip but I took a couple of aspirin and gave myself a chance to come out of it. Thankfully after about forty five minutes of rest and a warm shower my headache had eased enough for me to go fourth with the day's plans. I loaded my fishing gear, a small trolling motor, and a couple of oars into my truck before cruising over to Mark's house.
He sprang out of his house happily, obviously having not started the day with a headache, and loaded his weather beaten tackle box and absurdly thick spinning rod into the bed of my truck. Hopping in the cab, he rolled down the window and we sped off to Walmart for some lunch and refreshments. We packed our sandwiches and Dr. Pepper in a three dollar foam cooler which I’d proudly sprawled “YETI” on the side of in thick Sharpie. One small bag of ice later and we were off.
Twenty minutes down the road we pulled into the shadow of a dilapidated barn where we picked up a battery for the trolling motor before heading down a rough side road leading to an even rougher side road blocked by an almost completely rusted away fence. Switching my truck to four wheel drive we bounced our way down the two track to the edge of the strip pit.
I was completely surprised beyond belief at what I saw. The still water was the most startling hue of blue I’d seen in a long time. A nice dock, huge john boat, and quaint cabin framed the scenery perfectly, dissipating what was left of my now forgotten headache. Eager to get on the water Mark and I quickly drained the excess rainwater that had built up in the bottom of the boat and slid the craft off the bank and into the water. However, plug free the boat began to fill once again with water and we hastily struggled to pull the boat back ashore before we lost it and all our gear. Once we’d finished bailing out the water with a sonic cup we inserted the plug and started from the beginning, again. After clambering into the John I started up my old, single speed, trolling motor and began to glide down the pit.
We decided, as any seasoned fisherman would, to start from the back of the pit and work outwards toward the put in. Mark, who’d never even been all the way to the back of his own strip pit was as eager as I was to see what the day had in store for
us. After rounding the final bend we came to what appeared to be the end of the pit. Rigging our rods as we drifted the final fifty yards Mark happened to glance up and notice a small canal, no wider than the lane of a highway extending from the back of the pit. With all day to, fish and our young, possibly stupid, spirit of adventure we decided to investigate.
A short distance through the gap the water opened up into a large pool lined with underwater grass on one side and fallen logs on the other. Not believing our luck we snatched our rods up from the boat and began to cast into the awaiting areas. My first casts yielded nothing and as for Mark, I soon noticed he was a true rookie. Holding an open faced reel on top of his rod I couldn’t help but produce a muffled chuckle. Though being that it was his water and his boat I helped out and had him squared away in no time.
Once back to my fishing I quickly hooked up with a solid four pound largemouth who graciously jumped to our pleasure three maybe four times. Hoisting the fish into the boat my buddy was quick to greet it with a proud smile and a couple of snapshots. Two casts later I landed another, then another, then another. Praising Mark for his choice in water we cruised the banks of the pool pulling fish out happily.
I noticed a large log under the water and quickly called out boastfully that I’d pull a big one from it. Eight casts later I had nothing to show for my efforts when Mark thankfully piped up and pointed it out. Evidently that was just what the fates needed and on the very next cast I hooked into a hog, flashing and rolling in the clear water.
To fat and sluggish to jump it dove into the underwater grass but I stayed firm trusting my heavy tippet. Five to ten heart racing minutes later I pulled the eight pounder from the water and shook it at the sky, just as I’d seen the pros do on the Bassmaster Elite Series. Mark was speechless and honestly so was I. All I could say was, “you nailed it Mark, you freaking nailed it buddy.” We took some quick snapshots then released the beauty and sat back to relish the moment.
We fished the remainder of the pool before moving into the main strip pit. I sight fished a bass in the shallows that jumped wildly through some flooded lily pads. Taking a break from the humidity and the wrist wrenching hook sets Mark and I eagerly broke into our stash of Dr. Peppers. Naturally, having them explode onto our shorts and shirts from the bumpy ride and the lack of cooling my “cooler” was doing.
I stayed sticky but not mad. Fishing an underwater weed line, not five minutes later, I hooked into a behemoth that quickly rose through the water and acrobatically jumped, displaying his incredible shoulders and picture perfect colors. My leader held and after a nerve racking fifteen minute fight with multiple flights and dives I landed my new personal best bass at ten pounds. I looked around and marveled at the fishing ”The Shark” had brought me to.
The incredible fishing continued throughout the day. Landing fish on a variety of flies in a variety of places I had a truly fantastic time. Though the real memories were made as Mark landed a solid five pounder on a popper, or when we had to frantically paddle back to the truck to shut my windows during a pouring rain. I can’t believe how many times we opened a new Dr. Pepper surprised to find it fizz out uncontrollably. Or when we ran out of said Dr. Pepper and Mark began to drink the melting bag of ice. It was a great time to realize that not all memories or success takes place on big, lavish trips to exotic places. Sometimes the best times come from classic trips with good friends to the simplest of waters.
Oh did I mention Mark "The Shark" Kohl has a massive beard...