We turned east off the county gravel and bounced along the field road in my old beat up ford 3/4 ton as the sun cleared the tree tops that towered above the banks of The Little Black River. It was Labor Day weekend and perhaps the last opportunity of the summer for a fishing trip with both of my sons. School had already started for my youngest son Jake, and as for myself rice harvest was to start Monday.
The morning air was getting thick as the humidity rose and we began unloading equipment. Jake climbed up in the bed of the truck and handed the 7.5 horse Evinrude outboard motor to his older brother Logan, then they gently slid the 14 foot john boat out of the truck and down the long bank, careful not to end up sliding into the river. A boat trailer would be useless in the remote area where the only river access is a steep bank, slick with mud. We eased the front of the boat into the water and mounted the motor. As soon as the equipment was loaded we struck out upstream.
The morning mist still hung in the air above the water and at that early hour the temperature was pleasant, I remember thinking, “Man I wish I had brought a thermos of coffee.” We motored upstream about three miles with intermittent stops at random spots that looked to promising to pass up. At one of these places, a deep hole with a fallen tree still attached at the root wad, Jake got a strike. As he set the hook and cranked the handle of his old zebco 33 the fight was on. It really wasn’t much of a fight but it yielded the best catch of the day, a small mouth bass just shy of legal limit.
The river level was just high enough to allow us to zig zag and log jump a precarious path all the way to Rattle Snake Rock. The rock is a secluded spot on a river of limited access, it takes quite bit of effort to get there so my theory was it should be a honey hole. A small, sheer bluff meets the water and rock shelves run submerged along the bank providing ideal cover. Just a few hundred yards upstream is a deep fishy looking bend and then a semi permanent drift that is impassable unless the river is at flood stage.
As soon as I cut the outboard, Logan dropped the trolling motor and we began plugging in earnest. We worked every shelf, rock, log, and root wad that caught our eye. I was using a white and blue spinner bait and Jake tied on a Rapala top water minnow. Logan, not one to beat a dead horse, was unleashing his arsenal of various lures. For all of our efforts we didn’t have many strikes after two hours of fishing. I could tell that Jake was getting restless and losing interest quickly. He was lovesick over his latest Jr. High conquest not to mention we were all hungry and thirsty, so I started offering possibilities as to what had happened to the fish population because they obviously had all died. “Otters must have eat em. Or the alligator gar, son of a guns are thick in here,” I said trying to lighten the mood. “Damn things may have drowned.” Just then Logan hung a bass and brought him into the boat. The day had heated up quickly and we had started trolling to the shady spots. Bam, Logan caught another small mouth, this one a pretty decent bass. He had tied on a Rebel Popper, a floating top water lure that he had bought for three dollars at Walmart. The lure was shaped like a football with one end sawed off and a hollow pocket recessed in it forming a cup that slashed and “popped” as he worked the lure slowly with a twitching motion. I guess those back water bass had never seen a critter like that and they could not leave it alone.
Up until then we had caught a half a dozen fish, but as we trolled the shaded areas and fished cover with eye appeal, Logan and his popper reeled in at least ten small mouth bass. I caught a couple of little bass and Jake accounted for another before we fired up the motor and headed to the truck.
After loading up the boat and equipment we were reluctant to leave the shady river bank with its peace and tranquility. As we drove out to the main road we could see combines cutting rice, harvest had begun. Summer was over but my sons and I had made memories and had a good day fishing Rattle Snake Rock