I’d been staring at that damn tree limb that extended ten feet out into the pond for at least 5 years. It’s always been decorated with lures like ornaments on an overdone Christmas tree. It’s gotten so bad this past year that you couldn’t cast anywhere near the limb without snagging someone else’s line that’s dangling from the tree. Out of all the ponds I fished within a bike ride of home I’ve always thought this was the perfect spot. Although with each passing year I started to think this was the perfect spot for fish, not fisherman.
My 12th birthday had just passed, and I was beginning to put a lot of thought behind everything I did as an angler. Little by little I started putting the pieces together and realizing fishing wasn’t luck. I wasn’t blindly casting at a feverish pace anymore. I was breaking spots down and trying to visualize where bass would be and reasons they’d be there. I had my best luck casting plastics into what I know call ambush points, but back then I referred to them as hiding spots.
This was the first time my mom had dropped me off at the lake alone. I tried getting my buddies to go with me, but they didn’t believe me anymore when I told them we’d only go for a few hours. Then and now when you go fishing with me it’s an all-day endeavor and if the fishing is hot it might go longer than that.
I walked through the gate to see the pier was already crowded with every couple feet on both sides. The pier was always crowded with people having fun with the countless bluegill that swarmed the rocks. There were a few bass guys that knew bass were roaming the area and chomping on bluegill but most of us kept it pretty low key. I thought about squeezing in and throwing a crankbait a few times there, but didn’t want to be the guy that let the cat out of the bag.
I briefly thought about heading left of the pier and fishing alongside the cattails with a spinnerbait, but I couldn’t get the thought of the tree limb out of my head. I took a right and headed towards the tree limb while stopping a few times alone the way. For my 12th birthday my folks gave me a casting rod combo that I’d been dying to use. It was Daiwa reel with a flipping switch that immediately made me feel like a legit bass guy like my heroes at the time Bill Dance, Jimmy Houston, Roland Martin, and Hank Parker. I tied on my favorite crankbait back at the house a rust colored mud bug that had been my go to for all the ponds around here for a couple years.
The first spot I stopped at was a little area where I’d stand on top of a concrete block where they sometimes let water into the pond. I’d been practicing with the baitcaster in my backyard and although I was getting better I knew I was always one cast away from a backlash that required scissors and new line to repair. My first cast went off without a hitch and after a few cranks of the reel I got bumped. With my heard pounding I reeled in as fast as I could and fired off another cast to the same spot. The only difference is this time I forgot to control the spool with my thumb and looked down to see a world class birds nest.
I spend the next twenty minutes picking out that birds nest determined to catch my first fish on a baitcaster. I was only twelve years old at the time but my vocabulary had already included a handful of adult words I was using as I tried to bring my reel back to life. As I was picking out the backlash and cussing like I was Richard Pryor I was wondering if my fishing hero’s ever backlashed. I also wondered if when they did if they cussed like I was… I pondered it for a few minutes and decided I’d try not to cuss while I was fishing even when I was frustrated.
With a pocket full of line I had to cut out while fixing my backlash I was finally ready to fish again. I briefly thought about casting at the same spot to hopefully catch the fish that bumped my mug bug, but decided if I was one cast away from another monster backlash it might as well be at the tree limb.
I spent a good five minutes staring at that tree limb before casting. The tree this limb branched out from was stuck between two bigger trees. The limb that sprawled out across the water was just above a rock pile that looked to be about three or four feet deep and then a sharp drop off just past it. As I was scanning the limb for a spot to make the perfect cast I started looking at how odd this tree limb was. At the base of the tree this limb immediately grew out instead of up and was the only limb on the tree like that. I’m not sure if it purposely grew that way to create the perfect fishing spot. You know enough mojo to have fish of all species flock to it, and just enough “damn it” to keep fisherman from fishing it effectively. I assume the limb was forced to grow out instead of up due to the close proximity of the trees near it, but I’m as much of an arborist as I am an expert on women.
I picked out what I thought was the perfect spot to cast to. A little opening between the hundreds of strands of monofilament line dangling from the limb as a reminder of how many before you have tried and failed at the very thing you’re about to try. Through youthful optimism I assured myself I could make the perfect cast with my new baitcaster. You know the one I couldn’t string more than 5 casts together without backlashing in the backyard, and my stats on the water so far had been 50/50. One good cast to one world class backlash…
I reared back to cast my mud bug to that perfect spot I picked out. The first couple seconds of the cast seemed like my crankbait was in route to that spot. After that I quickly realized I’d been paying so much attention to my damn thumb that I’d sent my lure directly over the limb and my mud bug was now hanging ten feet above the limb on one of the many branches that are a non-issue for anyone worth a damn at casting…. Right next to a hula popper I’d donated to the same spot a few years earlier.
It took me occasionally donating lures to this tree limb over the next couple years before I finally realized it’s a spot only fishable from boat. As the years went on the lures decorating the tree limb got to be so ridicules the city finally came out and cut it down… I was there a few days later and caught a handful of decent bass, but after about ten minutes I walked away shaking my head. I knew they didn’t just remove the tree limb they’d also had taken away the gobs of mojo that spot had. What was once a spot that forced angler’s imaginations to run wild was now a good spot to catch fish, but nothing more.