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One last bass

The fish pictured above isn’t the largest I have caught in my short span of searching for these beautiful green fish, but it is by-far the most memorable bass I will ever catch due to the story behind it.

Re-wind time twelve years and you would see little beanpole me lugging a monstrous orange Plano box filled with lures of all shapes and sizes I deemed efficient enough to carry, and I would be dragging the box bigger than me down the campground loop at Denby Point on Lake Ouachita. My destination was my late grandpa’s bass boat tied up along the sandy shore near his motorhome.

I wish you could have just seen the excitement on my face! This was all because I was going fishing with my “papaw,” as I called him, and he would put up with my constant changing of lures from my massive box, my erratic questions, and multitudes of hang ups or broken lines. None of that mattered to him, he simply wanted to enjoy our time doing something we both shared a deep passion for.

After about an hour we had his boat loaded up with all my equipment, and more Little Debbie’s than two humans should ever consume in a morning. Following the tackle prep, we would head up to his motorhome to try and get some sleep so we could wake up as early as possible.

Before I could even blink it was time to get up, and we rushed to the boat - I would run and have to stand by the trolling motor jitterily waiting on my grandpa. Soon we loaded up, after slipping on life jackets and untangling my massive pile of spinning rods. Our descent down the lake was one I keep searching for, but never can capture with the same magnitude as that day. The sun coming up behind us as his boat was cutting through the thin layer of fog on the lake, and everything felt like it was frozen in time.

We arrived at our first spot. I was so charged up I’m surprised I even hit the water with my first cast, but I did several times with no action whatsoever. My Cordell Boy Howdy ruthlessly worked on top to no avail. Neither of us could get a bite off of a perfect rocky shoal covered in shore grass, but we kept our heads high as we tried about a dozen other spots. These points and humps were much of the same, and we just couldn’t get luck to climb in the boat with us. We changed lures a dozen times to Devils Horses, Pop Rs, Spooks, and even opted for a grub at one point, but nothing prevailed!

So, a little after lunch time my grandpa looks at me and tells me something that, looking back, jumpstarted me into manhood. He told me “Dustin, boy, it’s up to you now, you tell me where to go, and what we should do.”

It seems insignificant, but I was 10 years old and had no clue of what to do, and just him telling me that made me feel ten stories tall. So I pointed to a spot with some brush I could reach when I was casting from the bank near our camping spot, and we sped over.

We barely had the energy left in us at this point in the hot summer sun, but we both tied on our favorite lure – a finesse worm on a jig head, and casted out. No sooner than we did, both of us got a bite and boated two great looking bass. The next hour was filled with fish after fish, combined with yelling and high fives, it was perfect!

Once our thumbs were thoroughly callused from the countless fish caught, we headed back to the sandy shore near the campground to park the boat, and cleaned our massive catch in between several ear-to-ear grinning pictures taken by my grandma with a camera she could barely use. When we finished up, papaw had to have dialed every number in his phone to tell each person in our small town how great of a time we had, (all because of my spot).

That was a trip of a lifetime for us, and absolutely the best we ever went on, but a similar occurrence happened to me this spring. On March 26, this past spring, my grandpa passed away after a short bout with cancer.

The next evening my Dad and I decided to go out and fish Lake Ouachita, because that was the only thing we could deem as the right way to mourn. Unfortunately, the fish didn’t want to cooperate, and we caught just enough to have a mess to eat.

However, as we were beginning to leave, I couldn’t help but notice the legendary spot me and my grandpa had our infamous outing on, and I motioned for my Dad to stop the boat. So, we pulled up to the sacred spot, and with sun setting behind me I said silently under my breathe “one last cast”, and I heaved a Flash Mob Junior umbrella rig out into the unknown. With about one crank of the reel the monster in the picture above took ahold, and used up every bit of energy I had to wrestle him into the boat. Once I got him in, I took pictures as usual for such a large fish and released him back, but then I sat down overwhelmed with feelings I can’t explain. I firmly believe my grandpa was watching me as I made my last cast at our spot and was right in the boat to experience it. Just like the run across the lake with him as a kid, I was frozen in time for a short moment. This was our last bass to experience together, and it will certainly be the best I ever catch.

Every fishing trip I embark on now is to chase a similar memory and keeps me just as jittery as that fateful morning waiting by his trolling motor. My grandpa handed me a lifelong obsession that day I will forever be grateful for.