Friday, February 3rd, 2023
Friday, February 3rd, 2023

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Getting Wisconsin kids hooked on fishing

Dan Durbin hefts a largemouth caught by his son, Blake.I’ve been, for the most part of my life, a bass guy. Maybe it’s because the first “big” fish I saw caught was when my dad, Phil, stuck a largemouth that inhaled his Mann’s Jelly Worm.

Purple was the only color a fisherman needed then.

The reel was an old 5000C Abu Garcia, spooled with some Royal Bonnyl (think dental floss the color of chew spit)- nestled on an old pistol-grip Lew’s Speed stick.

To me, it was the Red Ryder BB gun of bass rigs. I once tried to cast it, and being only around 6 at the time, left that reel looking like a failed attempt at a Rubic’s Cube.

I guess I just considered bass the target, with panfish being nothing more than tinder to a fire.

But a couple weeks ago I was determined to just go fishing. I didn’t want to “target” a thing. Just fish, and make sure my kids caught some. Weight didn’t matter, but action did.

We were fishing “Up North” on Lake Thompson near Rhinelander in Oneida County. Thompson is a modest sized lake and we stayed at Holiday Acres Resort on the lake’s shore, a place with clean rooms, a good ramp, and all the “feel” of an “Up North” resort. The lake was easy to fish, with defined weedlines and fish that didn’t mind biting.

I already knew that my oldest son, Hunter, 12, loved to fish but I was hoping that my youngest, Blake, 9, would catch the outdoors drift. Blake is more into sports of the ball, bat, and goal kind, instead of those where rods, reels, and arrows are the tools. My thought was to simply find some weeds and keep a bobber and worm close to them.

SOMETHING, would take.

We found a small bay that had all the components of “Up North,” right down to a pair of loons that flew by just before dark. When we’d cast a bobber out it didn’t take long for a bluegill, or small bass, to eat.

The Durbin brothers, Hunter and Blake, caught plenty of fish during a visit to Oneida and Vilas counties this summer.Blake was interested. In fact, he was eager to get the line in after each modest bluegill knocked.

But then, as fate would have it, the fish that got me hooked came sniffing around – just as it did to me, when Dad got me hooked.

A small beaver lodge offered a cut bank on both sides and as soon as Blake cast, pushing threw the nylon gears of his Superman rod and reel, his bobber was sucked under the beaver hut and all hell broke loose.

I calmly (well, maybe not so calmly) told Blake that it was OK, and he could handle it, much like he does when he’s collapsing a pocket on a quarterback. “Get him turned out of the sticks,” I said. “Don’t let him into the hut!”
But I saw a different rush than Blake feels when he hits a line drive. In sports he has a confidence in his gaze, like he knows he can get the job done on the field. On Lake Thompson, I noticed some disbelief in his eyes, like he couldn’t believe the power that 16-inch bass had over him. He didn’t understand what all of the fuss was all about when fishing.

Until then.

I don’t know for sure if Blake is sold on bass fishing, but I do think he’s a partner for just plain ol’ fishing, with no specific target on the agenda.

I’ll take it, hook, line and sinker.

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