Over my life my fishing has changed. I started to say evolved, but that would imply that my fishing has reached a higher order of some kind - it hasn't - fishing is fishing. But it has changed.
I first fished with a cane pole, bobber, split shot, hook, and whatever bait could be scrounged up. Sometimes we would seine minnows for bait. Sometimes we dug worms. Grasshoppers figured largely - especially when we ran out of other bait. My Grandmother (the greatest fisherman that ever lived), the one that took me fishing the most when I was little, also used a cane pole until one of her sons bought her a fly rod. She used the fly rod like a cane pole that could be cast out a ways. Not exactly what he had intended I guess, but it worked for her.
Grasshoppers were, most of the fishing year, in some abundance and nearby. Catch a fish, then go catch a grasshopper, then catch a fish. That could go on all day. We also used cut bait, as in cut the smallest fish into strips and use that for bait. Thus one fish could be used to catch many more.
Cows were always nearby as we fished in stock tanks. Cows would come up and drink, sometimes wade into the tank. Cows, my grandparents said, always had priority, give them room and let them be. So we coexisted with cows when we fished.
Later in life, as a young adult I got my hands on a baitcasting rod and reel. And lures. Pretty soon I discovered a spincasting rig that I liked a whole lot better and although I dallied with a baitcaster now and then I always returned to the spincast. It just worked better for me.
Mepps spinners, Daredevil spoons painted red and white, Johnson spoons (Silver Minnow), Rappalla Minnows, Hula Poppers, Jitterbugs...those were the lures for many many years. I fished for whatever bit, but mostly it was Large Mouth Bass. And I also fished a few places other than stock tanks. Creeks, small rivers, lake edges. No boat you see, not yet.
Then in my middle adult life I got the Bass Fishing Bug. It's a disease that is epidemic in Texas and that I caught from a work buddy. He was big time into bass fishing, had a boat, competed in local tournaments. Took me out a couple of times. So I focused in on bass.
I used plastic worms a lot, jigs, big flashy spinner baits, diving chunky lures. I bought a boat. I fished lakes. I got to where all I used were the plastic worms for a while. This took up a couple of decades of my fishing life. And it was a ton of fun.
Eventually, in the more current years of my life I moved onto the Brazos river bank. Fly fishing seemed to be the best way to approach fish on this river, something I had experimented with back in my teens in Maryland's estuaries. I started fly fishing, and tying flys. There is a great deal more to the feel of a fighting fish on a fly rod than any other means. There is also a simplicity to fly fishing, if you want it to be simple that is, that also appealed to me.
I don't like tying flys though. There are reasons I'm not a brain surgeon and doing tiny little repetitive tasks is one of them. But that didn't slow me down as flys can be purchased at reasonable prices on line, you just have to plan ahead a little. As in if I'm about out of wooly buggers I don't whip up a batch that night. I could, I still have the stuff, but I can also order them with a couple of key strokes and have them inside a week. Fly fishing is also neat. No worm juice under my finger nails for instance.
But one day I caught a largish bluegill and as I was bringing it in a huge bass came up from the depths and swallowed it. My heart stopped beating. My adrenal glands opened the flood gates. Sights and sounds sharpened into a crystal focus. Out of pure instinct I set the hook as hard as I could. The hook came out of the bluegills mouth and hooked the bass. It was an epic battle.
And this is where I more or less came around full circle to my Grandmother's way of fishing. Now I fish a fly rod a lot like a cane pole, with night crawlers - to catch bluegills - and then use the bluegills for bait for big bass. I use night crawlers because they are nearly impossible for bluegills to ignore, and I've zeroed in on a hook that works best for this fishing style, small enough for a bluegill but strong enough for a giant bass.
I've caught a lot of eight pound plus bass this way. I've missed a lot more. It's not a cinch getting the hook out of the bluegill and into the bass - but it works often enough to keep me at it.
I never caught large bass on flys, six pounds being about the largest, in all the years I fished flys in this river. Maybe that's on me, maybe not. I don't know for sure. I do know that when everything works just right with a live bluegill for bait that I will have a monster bass on the end of a 5 weight fly rod and it is worth repeating as often as I can. So, like my grandmother I use a fly rod like a cane pole that I can cast a little ways with live bait. Unlike her, the fish I'm trying to catch that way are for bait. At first that is. Then it is for big bass.
A ten inch bluegill would seem to be too big for bait - it isn't. I have, as my personal best, landed a 25.5" long bass that by all accounts was a twelve pounder. That was a hell of a fight with that beast coming up out of the water several times and stopping my heart each time. And yet I've lost several that were even larger. I've seen even bigger ones hunting in the clear shallows a time or two. There are some monster bass where I fish and best I can tell the only way to get them on a hook is with a big live bluegill.
I think it is fitting that I've circled back to my Grandmother's style of fishing at this point in my life. That's not to say my fishing style won't change again - it probably will.