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Saturday, July 16, 2016

Believin’ What You Know Is So

Boyhood, Bass Fishing, Growing up on the Mississippi Delta

Believin’ What You Know Is So


As a boy, I read all about fishing in sporting magazines. My favorite author was Jason Lucas, and my faith in him wasn’t shaken by what Mark Twain once said: “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.”

Nor was it shaken by Jaybird, my boyhood best friend and mentor, who often teased me about my absolute faith in Jason Lucas.

“Boy, fishin’ is jes’ lak anythang else,” he said. “Readin’ about it don’t do no good — it takes experience. Quit wasting time readin’ ’bout fishin’ and wasting money on lures that most likely scare fish away instead o’ attractin’ ’em.”


Determined to prove him wrong, I continued reading Lucas. One story described a lure called the Black Eel. It was eight inches long, with weed-less hooks protruding from its belly and dragon-tail notches on its back.

One summer day, Jaybird and I drove to our favorite fishing hole not far from my father’s Mississippi Delta farm. After baiting his hook, he stuck the pole’s butt in the mud, and kicked back to take a smoke.

When I showed Jaybird the Black Eel, he burst out laughing and said, “Dat Lucas fella done sho-nuff made a fool o’ you. Only a blind fish would hit dat thang.”

Ignoring him, I followed Lucas’ instructions by tying a weight six inches from the eel’s nose, which would cause it to hover above the bottom.

Then I cast as far as I could and let the eel to sink to the bottom. Next, as Lucas instructed, I counted: one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three … turned the reel once, raised the rod tip slightly and repeated, causing the lure to undulate, a maneuver bass cannot resist.



Detecting nibbles would be difficult because bass won’t chomp down on anything without ascertaining it is edible, and won’t bite back.

If I detected a slight tap-tap-tap, the next step was to lower the rod, reel in the slack, and jerk as hard as I could.

One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three, reel, repeat. Suddenly — tap, tap, tap! I lowered the rod, reeled in the slack and jerked with all my might.

Nothing. Stringing a nice catfish he’d just caught, Jaybird turned away so I wouldn’t see him laughing at me.

All at once the line drew tight, sawed through the water, and rose upward. Suddenly, the surface exploded and like a picture on a barbershop calendar, a monster bass began tail walking across the surface.


With gaping jaw and bulging eyes, Jaybird shouted “Reel, boy, reel!”

I panicked, and instead of reeling I clamped the line between my hands and the rod, ran up the bank with the rod over my shoulder, ran back, and pounced on the flouncing fish.

As we rode home in his pickup, the beloved old black man who was so instrumental in my upbringing looked at me with pride and said, “Boy, today you showed what faith really is: Believin’ what you know is so.” Boyhood, Bass Fishing, Growing up on the Mississippi Delta

Believin’ What You Know Is So


As a boy, I read all about fishing in sporting magazines. My favorite author was Jason Lucas, and my faith in him wasn’t shaken by what Mark Twain once said: “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.”

Nor was it shaken by Jaybird, my boyhood best friend and mentor, who often teased me about my absolute faith in Jason Lucas.

“Boy, fishin’ is jes’ lak anythang else,” he said. “Readin’ about it don’t do no good — it takes experience. Quit wasting time readin’ ’bout fishin’ and wasting money on lures that most likely scare fish away instead o’ attractin’ ’em.”


Determined to prove him wrong, I continued reading Lucas. One story described a lure called the Black Eel. It was eight inches long, with weed-less hooks protruding from its belly and dragon-tail notches on its back.

One summer day, Jaybird and I drove to our favorite fishing hole not far from my father’s Mississippi Delta farm. After baiting his hook, he stuck the pole’s butt in the mud, and kicked back to take a smoke.

When I showed Jaybird the Black Eel, he burst out laughing and said, “Dat Lucas fella done sho-nuff made a fool o’ you. Only a blind fish would hit dat thang.”

Ignoring him, I followed Lucas’ instructions by tying a weight six inches from the eel’s nose, which would cause it to hover above the bottom.

Then I cast as far as I could and let the eel to sink to the bottom. Next, as Lucas instructed, I counted: one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three … turned the reel once, raised the rod tip slightly and repeated, causing the lure to undulate, a maneuver bass cannot resist.



Detecting nibbles would be difficult because bass won’t chomp down on anything without ascertaining it is edible, and won’t bite back.

If I detected a slight tap-tap-tap, the next step was to lower the rod, reel in the slack, and jerk as hard as I could.

One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three, reel, repeat. Suddenly — tap, tap, tap! I lowered the rod, reeled in the slack and jerked with all my might.

Nothing. Stringing a nice catfish he’d just caught, Jaybird turned away so I wouldn’t see him laughing at me.

All at once the line drew tight, sawed through the water, and rose upward. Suddenly, the surface exploded and like a picture on a barbershop calendar, a monster bass began tail walking across the surface.


With gaping jaw and bulging eyes, Jaybird shouted “Reel, boy, reel!”

I panicked, and instead of reeling I clamped the line between my hands and the rod, ran up the bank with the rod over my shoulder, ran back, and pounced on the flouncing fish.

As we rode home in his pickup, the beloved old black man who was so instrumental in my upbringing looked at me with pride and said, “Boy, today you showed what faith really is: Believin’ what you know is so.”

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