Bubba And The Flying Bass
Daryl Gay's very first humor piece for GON, the Back Page, Aug. 2, 1990
The backwater slough of Lake Hoocheekoochee was only about as dark as the inside of a cow as Bubba gave frantic instructions: “How we ever gonna catch anything in here with you banging that paddle off the side of the boat, Skeet? You’ll scare everthang within castin’ distance into the next county by the time we get to The Hawg Hole.”
Skeet lazily wiped a dribble of Bull of the Woods of his grizzled chin and issued a single challenging reply: “Any time you wanna see if your hands fit this paddle, you’re welcome to try.”
But, as usual, Bubba’s arthritis was acting up something awful this morning, even though he reckoned that ailment would sufficiently tail off over the next 30 minutes or so, by first light. After all, a little arthritis should never come between a man and his casting, especially in these old, black, hawg-filled waters.
Bubba and Skeet had fished Hoocheekoochee at daylight for a month or so, every day in a row, but this was the first time in a while they had managed to really beat the sun and get into The Hole before breakfast, hawg-style, was properly served. It was also to be the first time in either of their star-crossed careers that they had seen, among other wonders, a largemouth with a 4-foot wingspan…
Skeet sculled the battered, 12-foot jonboat ever onward, one arm constantly swirling the water, the other languishing on the boat’s semi-painted side.
“Awright, cut the motor,” came from the command from Bubba, who seemed to have received a sudden promotion to admiral. “We’re close enough to reach The Hole from here, and I can just make out the end of that log where I lost grandma largejaws yestiddy. We’re gonna do thangs a mite different this time around.”
Hindsight, as they say, is 20-20, and if Bubba had only known just how different “thangs” were going to be this morning, he’d probably have skedaddled out of there with the paddle throwing up a waterspout.
You see, there was something special about that log that Bubba didn’t know. A certain mama gator had chosen it as part of her living area and was busy raising her chillun there. During periods of low water, she had dug out a nice, cozy hole in which to bring up her brood.
When the lake filled back up, a huge sow bass took advantage of the drop-off to set up shop nearby, ambushing her three-a-day meals, then retiring to the safety of the deeper water. All in all, things worked out pretty well.
At least until Bubba came along.
His battered old Creek Chub Plunker, a priceless, no-longer-in-production wooden model, was front-and-centered as Bubba made ready for the crucial first cast. The mist-shrouded morning was as quiet as a sleeping baby as he sailed the Plunker 6 feet past the log’s protruding point. It plopped fatly down, just like a frog and was allowed to rest for 10 seconds.
Meanwhile, back at the boat, the angler sat with chill bumps running laps over his leathery hide, and they weren’t all from the cool of the pre-dawn. Even while straining to pick up the Plunker’s form in the gloom, he knew the placement was perfect. And the time for action was now.
A flick of the wrist gave the lure a tantalizing “bloop,” and two more got it within spitting distance of the log itself. It was allowed to rest there for another five seconds, then blooped again. With a spray of water and a sound like a dog falling out of a boat, it disappeared.
Bubba’s bellow blew most of the bark off a nearby cypress tree as he set the hooks with all his might, watching the rod arch and buck like a rodeo stallion.
“Git da net, git da net!” echoed through the swamp.
But that was a little hard for Skeet to do, considering that he was now cowering under the front seat, having thought the apocalypse had arrived in full force at the strike.
“I got the biggest bass in Creation on the other end of this 6-lb. test line. Hallppp!!!!”
Actually, that was not quite the case. Not only was it not the biggest bass, it was not even a bass. In fact, it didn’t have scales or fins a’tall. But then, most great horned owls don’t.
Though Skeet never would have thought it possible, Bubba’s screeches only intensified when he finally saw what was doing its best to flap off with his precious Plunker.
“Cut your line, cut your line,” Skeet squalled from his hideout, having no plans whatsoever to come out and share in no battle with an owl sporting a couple sets of treble hooks as well as claws and jaws.
But Bubba would have none of it.
“I’ll get that Plunker back if it’s the last thing I ever do.”
It was simply amazing to watch big Bubba work that owl on the light tackle, but all good things, as they say, must come to an end. With a final, mighty heave, the bird managed to snap the sewing-thread line, leaving it blowing in the breeze. But the bird’s problems weren’t over yet.
The sudden snap of its tether sent the owl reeling to the surface of the water, with the Plunker hanging tantalizingly—at least to the bass—from one leg. The sow, lurking 6 inches or so under the water, hadn’t paid much attention to the proceedings until now. But when that lure touched down, it was just too tempting to resist. When the owl hit, so did she, glomming onto the Plunker.
The ensuing proceedings closely resembled a cat fight inside a wide-open Maytag, exceptin’ this bout was sprawled out all across Bubba and Skeet’s favorite fishin’ hole. About all they could do was watch, and, in Bubba’s case, hope. Hope that his Plunker would somehow pop loose and could be recovered.
“I’m betting on the owl. That fish ain’t got a chance against that big ol’ bird,” Skeet hooted.
“Done,” Bubba snorted. “Ten says that Ol’ Largejaws will send that stupid squawker back up into the trees where it belongs.”
That $10 bill floated back and forth, back and forth, even as the combatants did. Every time the owl would manage to put a measure of daylight between itself and the water’s surface, the bass would snatch it back down with water flying. All the while, the brawl drew nearer and nearer to its starting point—the end of that log.
Lest we forget, and Bubba and Skeet probably never will, there was another party to consider in this scenario. Mama Gator didn’t especially appreciate the ruckus that was upsetting her housekeeping, and her two blazing eyes popped up alongside the log just as the altercation was nearing what had to be some sort of climax.
As the bird and bass once more sent a spray of black water flying across Hoocheekoochee, the case was suddenly snapped shut.
With the sudden surge of her mighty tail and a sound like a barn door slamming, Mama’s maw crunched down on the combatants, sending feathers and fins flying in all directions. About the only things that flew farther were the eyeballs of the pair in the boat. As soon as they had been replaced in their sockets, Bubba and Skeet zeroed them in on the fight’s “mediator.”
“I know that was a large largemouth, and that was an oversized owl, too, but that’s the most gargantuan gator I’ve ever seen,” Skeet sputtered. “And she don’t look like she likes us too much, at least in a friendly way.”
“She shore don’t, and it don’t appear that her appetite has been taken care of either,” Bubba choked out. “Whatcha say we crank up and get on out of here?”
But Skeet, catching the gator’s sudden movement toward the boat, which looked to be a foot or so shorter than the gator, was already getting started on kicking up a rooster tail with his paddle. Bubba, his arthritis miraculously healed, was stroking the water with his 6-foot rod in an effort to aid in the getaway.
The gator chased the pair only a mile or so before seeing that things were fruitless. After all, it’s hard making progress against a wake that rivaled anything Hurricane Hugo had to offer. She eased back to her once-again peaceful abode, then settled in to enjoy her owl-bass repast. With a comforting belch, she blew out a scarred old wooden plug.
A playful flick of her tail sent the Plunker flying into the air, only to snag by a single rear hook on the point of her now private log.
If you’re ever fishing Lake Hoocheekoochee and are of a mind to pick up a valuable old plug, there’s this hole, see, with a single protruding log.
On the other hand, maybe you’d be better off without it…