Mid-Florida bass fishing with gators and a run of bad luck

Rick Bramwell continues his southern odyssey and catches a few fish, but hopes his spring only gets better from here.

Last week’s column was about a trip to Florida where everything went wrong. My host had many unexpected challenges come up leaving me stranded for hours in an old campground along the Withlacoochee River.

It was early Monday morning. I could wait for a fishing opportunity at 4 pm or I could invite myself to visit Joe and Bobbie Jones who live on Lake Pierce. I was able to make the move 140 miles to the south. This would put me in a nice bass boat with an experienced angler. What could go wrong?

I got run off the road by a semi on the way there but made it safely. By evening, Joe and I were fishing for bass. In three years Joe has learned where the big bass hang out and how to catch them.

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The evening was windy and we were losing power on the trolling motor fast. The culprit seemed to be a bad battery. We had to find a place out of the wind. Before the sun rested on the horizon, the motor was dead.

The next morning, we fished for redear in the lilly pads. For this, we did not need the trolling motor. We let the momentum of the outboard carry us deep into the pads where the shellcrackers were spawning.

It had been a bad spring for this species. The males came in for two days and then went missing. Folks were catching them in small numbers.

We tried several places and caught just a few. I caught one nice-sized fish. When we did use the trolling motor, it faltered.

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Once again, the battery went on the charger while Bobbie, Joe, and I had lunch at the Cherry Pocket.

This evening would be my last chance to land a big bass. We ran to the far end of the lake and began fishing. Joe had to run the trolling motor into the wind. As the sun sank low, Joe caught a three-pound largemouth. The fish were going to feed.

Even the alligators were active. We had a 10-footer come near the boat and then watched him suck cormorant off of a lilly pad. The gator rolled three times with his tail coming out of the water.

It must have been mating season for the gators; their calling, back-and-forth, sounding like hogs grunting.

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Shortly after this bit of action, the trolling motor went dead again. I was to fly back home the next day.

For a few days, a barred owl had been observing neighbors catching bluegill from their piers along the canal. The wild bird overcame his fear of man and realized an easy meal was at hand.

We first heard the owl hoot at some distance and then watched it fly and land in a tree next door.

The neighbor was fishing for bluegill while the owl patiently waited. When the man caught a fish, he threw it on the grass. The owl swooped down to pick up the fish and flew to another tree where he began eating his ill-gotten meal.

Joe has caught big bass, up to eight pounds this winter. He caught one over seven out from under the neighbor’s dock.

I had no sooner got home and raised the leg rest on my recliner when Joe sent a photo of a 4.5-lb. bass, he caught from under the neighbor’s dock.

The next day he fixed the problem with the trolling motor.

With morels popping up and turkey hunting in the near future, I need a change of luck.

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Rick Bramwell
Rick L. Bramwell is 74 years old and began writing for the Anderson Herald Bulletin in 1972. He likes to hunt small game, deer, turkey and morel mushrooms. Bramwell’s 174-7/8 typical whitetail is the largest ever taken in Madison County. He used to compete in Red Man and BASS Federation tournaments, but is now content to fish ponds and small lakes for bass and panfish. For most of 43 years Bramwell has coached Baseball and softball. He has three grown children and resides in Madison County, near Pendleton.

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