Being the glutton for punishment–or at least embarrassment–that I am, I decided to weigh my specialized tackle boxes. My catfishing box tipped the scales at 18 pounds, 4 ounces, which seemed like enough, so I didn’t weigh the 3-gallon galvanized bucket I carry (some of) my bait in. My crappie box weighed a hair under 11 pounds, mostly because it takes a lot of 1/16-ounce jigs to equal one two-ounce no-roll sinker. I didn’t total the weight of the boxes containing the crankbaits, topwaters, spinnerbaits and soft plastics I use bass fishing–some things are better left unknown.
I could–and do–argue that the amount of tackle I have is irrelevant, because my boat is plenty big enough to haul all of it to, from and on the water. Besides, I also have “several” rods and reels, and the more tackle I have in the boat the easier it is to justify having four or five outfits rigged and ready.
But sometimes–usually, but not always, in the spring–I get an irresistible urge to return to my angling roots, back when fishing was easy.
The deepest of those roots follows the banks of mud-bottomed, slow-moving streams. Missouri’s water use regulations make these streams the state’s most accessible public water to anyone who wants or has to fish from the bank. With very few exceptions, year round streams and their banks up to the “normal high water mark” are open to use by fishermen either from boats or from the bank. Note that these corridors can be entered from bridge abutments or other public property, but it is illegal to cross private property to reach them or to venture beyond the high water mark without the owner’s permission.
Channel cats–most of which will weigh less than three pounds–are the primary target for most of the minuscule number of people who fish these streams, but these waters are also home to scads of carp and drum, plus an occasional flathead catfish. At times, it seems like softshell and snapping turtles outnumber the fish, so if you’d like to add turtle to your menu, make sure you’re up on turtle seasons, limits, etc.
My bank-walking “tackle box” is a five-gallon bucket with a padded swivel seat attached to its lid. It and its contents–a small plastic box filled with terminal tackle, everything I intend to use for bait, a burlap bag to hold fish, a couple of rags, snacks and a can of bug spray–weigh about eight pounds.
After a lifetime of experimenting, I’m now using six-foot, medium heavy action spinning rods mated to stout spinning reels spooled with 20 pound test monofilament running line and a 10-inch 15 pound test monofilament leader. I’ve proven to my own satisfaction that the relatively short spinning outfits are not only easier to carry when walking through the brush and weeds commonly found on creek banks, but they’re also easier to make short, accurate casts with. I carry two of them, mostly because my left eye twitches if I only have one fishing outfit close at hand.
Ponds are another type of water that lends itself to easy, yet very productive fishing for a variety of species. A polite request will unlock many private ponds, and they’re likely to remain unlocked to guests who leave gates the way they find them, who drive only where they’re told to drive and who leave nothing behind but footprints. Shy anglers already have access to hundreds of fish-filled ponds located on public property all across Missouri.
My pond tackle box has canvas sides and a shoulder strap. Its pockets will hold a season’s-worth of not just the lures I really do use to catch bass, crappie and bluegill but also dozens of baits I’m going to try “one of these days.” It weighs four pounds but only because I want to be prepared to use either spinning or fly tackle and because its outer pockets are stuffed with “accessories.”
My go-to pond fishing outfit is a six-foot medium action spinning rod mated to a medium-sized spinning reel spooled with six pound test monofilament. I use a lot of 1/16-ounce and 1/8-ounce lures, and the combination of rod stiffness, reel spool diameter and small line diameter allows for long casts.
For pond fishing, I use a six-weight, 8 1/2-foot fly rod with a weight forward floating line. Its light enough to let bluegills strut their stuff, while still retaining enough power to drive a bass bug into the wind.
By the way, I took my own advice not long ago and fished a pond that’s closer to Sedalia than are any of my favorite launch sites on Truman. I caught three crappie, three bass and four bluegill in about 30 minutes. Not too bad for fishing from the bank, using only one rod and reel.
Gerald Scott can be reached at [email protected]