The silence woke me from my sleep.
Seems odd to say that.
With an infant in the room, some sort of sound machine is always buzzing away, creating fake rain or running water noises to mask movement. Our breathing, cover adjusting or pillow fluffing.
But now – silence.
I could see massive puddles in the street, and the drops falling from the tree leaves and power lines made soft ripples that glistened in the moonlight. Clearly a storm had come through and killed the power.
“… something’s wrong“, I mumbled to myself, and rolled out of bed as quietly as a clod can when half-awake at 3:30 a.m., “better go check the basement…“
The basement, you see, is prone to flooding. This spring it had already happened. We have two sump pits in the basement, and both were equipped with heavy-duty pumps. I say “were equipped”, because one day they magically burned up at the same time – no surge, no other electronic devices were damaged, none of the circuit breakers were flipped… they just died.
Then the water came.
Watching your basement flood is an interesting experience. It puts you in your place. You quickly realize that you are at the mercy of nature and the local water table. The cracks in the basement floor become dark and obvious as the water starts to seep through. The pits slowly overflow. You scramble like a madman to move every box and memory from the basement floor to higher ground.
The mind begins reeling:
“Why didn’t I clean up down here??“
“Why aren’t these paper documents on a shelf??“
“When is the water going to stop?!“
“Why do we have so much STUFF?!“
But it doesn’t matter what the answers are – all that matters is that you run. Run to every single object, hoist it over your head, move faster, up the creaky wooden stairs to deposit the item on higher ground so you can repeat the process many, many, many times.
Fortunately (fortunately?), as mentioned the first flood of the year had already happened a few weeks ago, and everything was still piled up haphazardly in the garage. As I ambled downstairs on this dreary, dark morning, I was not frantic – only curious. Was there water rising in the pits?
“Well, shoot… guess I better fire up the generator and get these pumps working ASAP.“
I shuffled back upstairs and pulled out the gas-powered generator my father-in-law had gifted us last Christmas. As long as the pumps weren’t magically burnt up again this should work well.
A quick tug on the cord.
She fired right up, and I was able to do two very important things:
First, I ran two large cords from the generator to the pumps so that they could lower the incoming water, and I was relieved as they began gurgling & ejecting immediately.
Second, I ran an extra cord from the generator, across the garage floor, into the door by the hallway, past the pile of dirty shoes and up into the kitchen.
To save the food in the fridge, you ask? The frozen meals in the deep freeze?
No… to make sure the coffee pot would start up for my wife at 5:00 a.m., and after resetting this, I went back to our room filled with silence and slipped into bed… my most important husbandly tasks now complete…
We met in the kitchen 2 hours later.
My wife daintily teetered in as I was sitting, enjoying my first cup. Her robe cinched up, she could hear the generator grumbling away outside, took one look at me, then the nearly-full pot of strong black coffee.
She poured a cup and gave me a quick smooch, “thank you, what’s the plan today?“
“I’m not sure“, I said, “I was going to go try to learn to use a jerkbait and see if I could muster up a few cold largemouth bass, but with everything going on I’m not sure I’ll have time… maybe I’ll go next week…“
She took a deep, noisy slurp off the top of her piping-hot coffee, then in a very matter-of-fact tone said, “the mess will be here when you get home, you should go“.
She was right of course. It is in her nature to push me to do the things that she knows will make me happy, but leaving her home with all the kids, no power and a generator running… I couldn’t do it in good conscience.
After a brief discussion, we decided that I would go, but later on. Late afternoon. The forecast showed overcast skies and low temps all day. If I was going to have success with the jerkbait today, a few hours shouldn’t be a make-or-break deal.
Plus… I’d never caught a fish on a jerkbait before… so what’s the rush?
We finished our coffee, and after a few hours the power returned. Cleanup ensued, then my rod, reel & gear were prepped.
Time to fish.
When I arrived at the lake, it was cold. It was overcast. I had planned to fish from shore, and as I began walking around the edge of the lake searching for a fishy-looking spot, I realized something…
Nobody was here.
City lakes have a tendency to get rather loud, but at times, noisy lakes are all you will be able to fish – we can’t take a 6-hour trip to the creek and isolate ourselves from society every day. City lakes allow us to scratch the itch… but the sweet sound of a lawnmower running over sticks and rocks does not create the ambience we crave.
I welcomed the cold. The drizzle. The mud. The cracked, bloody fingers. The wind.
The payoff, was silence.
Silence, like what woke me from my sleep early this morning.
Silence, that would allow me to hear the slight click of my bail opening, the lure whipping through the air, pulling my line through the guides until further down the bank the presentation entered the water with a soft “plop”, the bail clicked back over with a quick motion of the hand, and then with the initial twitch – we were fishing.
The only problem was that I was using a jerkbait.
I had never caught a fish on a jerkbait in my life. The one that I had tied on looked so good… so good in fact, that I had been looking at it for 5 or 6 years, planning to use it “one day”.
Today was the day.
I knew that lethargic, cold bass should respond well to a bait that I could pause in front of them – they had to. I had read so many articles and watched so many videos on how these baits could be fished, how they could work… but with limited time, it became apparent that I may have made a huge mistake.
“Ok so I twitched it… now what the heck do I do?“
My awkward cadence was underway.
“I have no idea what I’m doing… this looks ridiculous…“
It was obvious that there needed to be a simple pattern I could follow so that I was able to focus on my line to see if it jumped. After all, I didn’t know what a strike would feel like. A pull? Slack? Something in between?
“Twitch twitch pause, twitch pause, repeat.“
There. Done. That was it. My simple pattern. For the next 45 minutes I would live or die by the double-twitch pause twitch pause.
I made another cast, then another… then something happened.
The rod bent over in the direction of my jerkbait.
“Oh my gosh, are you serious?! Oh my gosh – that’s a good bass!“
My drag clicked a few times. The rod stayed bent as I reeled – I could see the thump-thump-thump of the tip-top as she made runs in the opposite direction – she felt huge.
But she wasn’t.
As I brought her in, I could see that the jerkbait had caught the bass on the top of the back.
Still, I had my “first” jerkbait fish – right?!
No… deep down I knew the victory was tainted.
“I’m still gonna count it!“, I proclaimed, knowing that was a lie, but trying to convince myself that I had achieved my goal.
The fish was unhooked, measured and released, and as the initial shot of adrenaline started to fade, so did my conviction towards the fact that I had “caught” a jerkbait bass. Wrong. I had snagged one.
With time dwindling, I decided to keep working the bank, making cast after cast, hoping that I might place my jerkbait in front of another bass, one that was more interested in eating as opposed to inspecting, as the previous bass had done.
Less than 10 minutes later, the casting paid off.
What did the strike feel like?
Well, if memory serves – it just felt like a tiny bit of weight, as if the bass had inhaled the jerkbait in a soft, subtle manner that I didn’t even feel on my end, but as I tried to move the lure slowly towards me, it stopped.
I set the hook, pulling in the opposite direction, and she was off.
She swam hard, and stayed deep. You could tell instantly that this was a bigger fish. If there was any doubt, it went away when my drag decided to scream in my face as she made a powerful run –
“Oh my gosh, that is a good bass. That is a GOOD bass. Hahahahahahahaha! I just hope I got ‘er in the mouth!“
She pulled away from me several times, and as I worked her closer to the shore I could see that I did have her in the mouth.
A single barb on the rear treble was all that connected me to the fish. I could see the entire body of the jerkbait as she kicked & thrashed close to shore – I had to get her up by the rocks so I could grab her. Now. Before she was lost forever.
I held my breath, gave the spinning rod a final mighty tug, and shoved my thumb into her thick, powerful jaw.
She was mine.
As I hoisted her into the air, laughing like a crazy person, I was even more grateful for the silence and solitude. No gawkers. Nobody running over to inspect my catch. No questions about the bait I was using.
Just me, and my first jerkbait bass.
She was gorgeous.
With the tiniest of tugs I dislodged the single hook from her face, grabbed a quick measurement and some pictures, and we said our goodbyes.
As quickly as it started, it was over. I knelt down to carefully release her back into the cold, dark water, and she took off with a single, powerful kick.
The ripples her tail created on the surface began to fade, and I was left, surrounded by silence once again.
My goal had been achieved in a most spectacular fashion… but now it was time to get back to real life. Time to go home and clean up the garage, the flood piles… my hike back to the truck began. I would head home and start my work… but I knew that all the while I would be thinking about everything that had just happened…
Thinking about the cold, the silence – and that one mighty jerkbait bass.
My first – but definitely not the last…
Tight Lines & Godspeed, Patriots.
Quick Note: This day was recorded and can be seen here.
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