Courtesy photo : Dan and Louie with one of our days catch.
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published: Friday, June 22, 2012
A day on the lake with Louie
As you may recall, if you read last weeks column, I had the opportunity to meet Dan Echols and his grandson, Louie.
Louie is the poster child for the new Highlands tourism guide, and a recognized bass-fishing sensation.
He's been featured in numerous publications and is probably best known for landing a 14-pound bass when he was only 7-years old.
Meeting him and getting to know Dan, his grandfather, was a real treat for me.
But even better, was our time on the water last Friday.
I picked them up around 5:30 a.m. and we headed south to Lake Istokpoga.
As the sun came up, the fog was heavy so we started fishing at the mouth of the State Park launch site.
Dan rigged up with a popper and young Louie started the day with his "snake".
If you've never seen the snake in action, you need to see it to believe it.
This thing looks so alive it's no wonder bass savagely attack it.
Years ago I ran into Doug Hannon, the Bass Professor on a fishing trip and he gave me a handful of his new snakes, along with special hooks and rattles.
At the time, I had red, green and black but Louie informed me that they've introduced more colors in the past few years.
Louie's casting abilities were remarkable for a boy of 10 and I watched patiently as he worked the creature bait back to the boat, all of us expecting a strike through the pads at any moment. But it wasn't meant to be.
Either the bass weren't in there or they just were not hungry enough to make the effort.
We finally moved on as the fog cleared, to the opening of Arbuckle Creek.
This is a great place to fish for bass, in fact John Woods of Lorida Bait and Tackle recommended the spot to me.
The key is moving water.
If there is any current, bass will be there, and it appeared we were in luck as we watched the water swirl as it emptied into the lake.
Dan continued working his popper and Louie switched to another lure as I worked the boat over the shallow sandbar built up at the mouth of the creek.
Without warning, a huge fish blew up on Dan's popper, missing the bait completely and refusing to come back for a second strike.
The blast left us all a little shaken, but it was pretty encouraging since our first hour on the lake produced little else.
I managed to pick up a bank runner on a plastic worm and after another hour, as the current died, we moved on to another spot.
Dan's no slouch when it comes to working top water baits.
I watched him patiently work his popper over pads and between reeds with a surgeon's precision.
It's no wonder Louie is the fisherman that he is with such a great mentor and teacher.
Passing along 60 years of fishing knowledge to Louie will benefit him for the rest of his life.
It's always amazed me that you can catch bass in a spot one day and the next day, same time, same place, nothing.
That's kind of what happened to last Friday.
I had gone out Thursday to check on a few spots I wanted to fish with Louie and Dan when I happened on a stretch of reeds not 200-yards long, where I caught 17 bass in less than three hours.
The fish were just stacked on top of each other.
Every flip with my 4-inch blue/black yum dinger produced a strike.
All the fish I caught out of that small stretch of reeds were nice, fat, healthy looking fish - the biggest was 23 inches long.
I caught all the fish between 8:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.
By noon, the fish vanished and it got hot.
So, of course, I took Dan and Louie to my "hot spot."
Flipping was the best approach, and I was surprised how well Louie could flip with a spinning rod.
I'd tried years ago to use a spinning rod to flip baits and it always seemed the line would tangle on the handle.
But Louie handled his custom built spinning rod like a pro and made flipping a bait look incredibly simple.
We fished that area for hours, going back and forth, assuming the bass would "move-in" at some point in the day and caught a grand total of six bass, none of which were worth writing home about.
The most exciting strike came from a toothy gar that I somehow managed to hook and bring into the boat.
Louie wanted a picture of it, but it took him forever to get a grip on it long enough for a picture.
It's funny, but I've had a box full of Doug Hannon's Snakes for over ten years, and with the exception of trying them out once or twice, they've just been sitting in a plastic box.
Wonder how many other old lures I have that I haven't used in a while that might help me catch that great ole big 'un.
I think the highlight of the trip for Louie was driving my Ranger Bass Boat.
He looked pretty serious as he piloted us back to the boat ramp.
All in all, it was a great trip.
I learned how to throw and work the snake from Louie, and I watched a real master work his top water baits.
Last but not least, I got an email from an old friend of mine, Paul Tardiff from Sebring.
He used to fish some of the tournaments I held and it sounds like he's still catching some really nice bass.
The picture of Paul holding up an 8-and-a-half pounder could have been run twice since he caught two fish of identical size on the same trip.
Nice job Paul.
Don Norton is a professional tournament bass fisherman, bass fishing guide, and custom rod builder. He has also taught a few fishing classes at the South Florida Community College. He lives in the Golf Hammock area of Sebring with his wife Lexie and is the owner of a custom rod building company appropriately named " The American Fisherman". He can be reached at 330-635-6682 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His website address is theamericanfisherman.com.
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