By Jeff Samsel

Four decades later, I remember my first Hula Popper bass, which was also my first topwater bass, as if it was yesterday.

I’d gotten permission to sneak out at first light to fish during a family campout. That was a big deal for a 10-year-old who loved to fish, so I probably didn’t sleep much.

Having just bought my first Hula Popper (Black), I had it tied on as I walked to a pond-like wide spot in the creek that I had scouted the day before. The packaging instructions said to cast and wait for the rings from the splash to clear before popping the lure, so that is exactly what I did on every cast.

Fog hovered over the slick surface. No one else was around. Even the frogs and bugs were quiet as the sky began lightening.

I think it was about my sixth cast. I cast toward a point on the far side and landed it just off the bank. Waiting for the rings to clear had gotten painful already, but I remained faithful to the instructions and was glad I did.

My initial wrist snap and the surface attack occurred simultaneously, and the strike yanked my rod down sharply. The fish hooked itself, which was good, because I was too excited and inexperienced to respond. Several tense jumps later I landed a 4-pound largemouth – my biggest fish ever of any kind at that time – and just stood there grinning and probably shaking as I unhooked it.

Of course I looked around, wanting someone else to see what I had done. No one was there, though, so after admiring the fish a little longer I slipped it back into the water and went back to fishing

I don’t think I caught another fish that morning. That part I don’t remember.