An Angler Dream Turned Inside Out
Tommy Reynolds had always heard stories of the legendary bass that lurked in the hidden corners of the river. As an avid tournament angler, he had spent countless hours chasing bass in various lakes and rivers all over the Midwest, but none of them held the mystique of what he’d soon name Lunker Lake.
In Tommy’s head he always knew the locals had their favorite fishing holes, cuts, coves and backwater havens. But Tommy knew you’d never get even a hint of what or where these places were. Someday, he thought, he’d find his own if he spent enough time and energy on the river.
One sunny morning, Tommy decided to venture deeper into the river than he had ever gone before. He had heard rumors of a secluded area deeply hidden in the backwaters somewhere north of the ramp. Rumor had it many twenty pound bags had been brought back from this Atlantis of the Mississippi river. Armed with his trusty boat Donkey Hunter, the best sonar and GPS guidance available and the best fishing gear his wife allow him, he set out on a journey that would change his perspective on bass fishing forever.
As Tommy navigated the winding river, he finally stumbled upon the spot, he couldn’t believe his eyes, it was Lunker Lake. The moment he laid eyes on it, he knew he had struck gold. Hidden behind two blind turns in the river and nestled awkwardly via a narrow, almost invisible narrow channel was at three acre honey hole! The water was crystal clear, and there was just the right amount of current to create the ideal habitat for big bass, maybe even a smallmouth or two. It was like something out of a dream, a picture book even, and Tommy couldn’t believe his luck. Finally he’d discovered something very few, if any, had ever seen!
Finally, Tommy cast his line into the water, and it wasn’t long before he felt a powerful tug on the other end. He set the hook and his flipping stick groaned in agony while the forty pound braid whistled in the wind, the fight was on. The monster largemouth rose to the surface as the braid directed his destiny upward, launching from the water he spit the beaver back at Tommy and returned to the deeps. Quickly he’d discovered the hook still lodged deeply in his upper lip and the braid, once again, redirecting his head back to the surface. Tommy returned fire with several turns of the handle and a swoop of the net, the fight was over and this bass was huge! The legend of Lunker Lake had been born and Tommy was beside himself with excitement. The bass in Lunker Lake were every bit as fierce and determined as the trophies Tommy had generated in his imagination. As the day grew on each catch was a thrill, and the fish and fights seemed to get heavier and more exciting. Tommy tried to figure out how many giants he would have culled during this smack down, but these thoughts were often derailed as there was much work to be done with the cast in hand.
Hours turned into a day as Tommy lost track of time, ol’ Donkey Hunter rocked gently on the pristine waters of Lunker Lake as the sun was making it’s quiet exit from it’s days work. By the time he decided to head back to the dock, his phone was packed with pictures of trophy-sized bass, all of which he returned to their lairs within Lunker Lake. He couldn’t help but smile, knowing that he had found the ultimate secret fishing spot.
As he made his way back to the dock, Tommy couldn’t wait to return to Lunker Lake for his next tournament. He promised himself that he would never reveal his newfound paradise to anyone else and he’d be sure not to be followed. He laughed to himself knowing nobody had ever even considered following him before; but now it was different. However it was his secret, his advantage, and he intended to keep it that way at all costs. After all, he’d spent all that fuel and time on the water over the years, why give up such an advantage. He’d quietly asked himself if he too wasn’t starting to think like a local who’d never share a shred of information on the all mighty secret he held close to his life vest. Maybe now he better understood those river masters, maybe he had it all wrong all this time in his head.
Two weeks later, Tommy returned to the river for his first tournament since his discovery. He couldn’t wait to run to Lunker Lake with an arsenal of new lures and a heart full of anticipation. His boat draw was awful but he didn’t mind; less boats could follow him now he thought. Ol’ Donkey Hunter dropped the hammer and started burning that high octane fuel and was in wide open throttle for over fifteen minutes. Then some off plane navigation with the occasional look over the shoulder and soon he’d be at his well earned spot! However, as he approached the final blind turn, he was met with a sight that sent his heart and excitement plummeting. The river had dropped almost a foot, and the entrance to Lunker Lake was now blocked by rocks and debris. He couldn’t access the area that had once yielded his greatest catches, Lunker Lake was inaccessible. No matter the route or method, Lunker Lake was going to be left alone today and maybe for quiet some time.
Tommy’s disappointment was immeasurable. He had taken Lunker Lake for granted and scouted no other areas during the pre-fish, he’d assumed it would always be there for him. Now, it was just out of reach, and the bass he had once considered easy pickings were hidden away and protected by the river he’d dominated just days prior. As Tommy turned Ol’ Donkey Hunter away he glanced one last time over the blocked entrance and noticed a giant bass blow up in the lily pads he’d fished two weeks back, he wondered if he’d caught that bass two weeks back and it was now giving him the “get even” sign as the angler sadly drove away. He would surely be back, this much was certain. But just as certain was it wouldn’t be any time soon.
It was a hard lesson, but Tommy learned something more valuable than the secret lake itself. He realized that a river is a living entity, constantly changing and evolving. Rainfall, wind, the constant adjusting of the lock and dams, and the passage of time itself could transform a fishing paradise into an inaccessible mirage in the blink of an eye. Maybe there weren’t as many secret spots as Tommy had once thought, maybe the river itself was the mystery.
Over the years, Tom became very skilled at reading the river, even when so many variables inflicted change. He learned to adapt to its ever-shifting nature and honed his skills to fish in various conditions. He learned to pay close attention in low water conditions and chase the bass up in high water situations. While he may never again experience the joys of Lunker Lake, he had gained a deeper understanding of the river’s secrets and the true challenges of tournament fishing on the big river.
In the end, it was a lesson that proved far more valuable than any secret fishing spot.