I need a keeper… By Bob Zettler July 5, 2012 And while I could mean a fish I am actually referring to someone to fish with me and then FORCE me to quit sometimes as I simply do not quit! I was just recuperating from last weekend’s expedition with my buddy Arick – he wasn’t there until 5 AM and I had been on the water since 10 PM where I almost had a boat fire, but that’s another story, when I decided to go out on the Fourth of July, our Independence Day. Now I was exhausted as I hadn’t slept well in weeks. In fact, it seems I can only sleep AFTER being exhausted from my weekly weekend fishing expeditions when I decided to go again before the weekend. Usually not a bad choice but this was going to be on Independence Day which for me has been a bad day for me over the years with personal mishaps and the like. And when you throw in the heat (suppose to be 101) and the extra idiots on the water (not me, of course) I could be in for a treat. I decided to either go around midnight or 2:30 AM and after I bought my minnows at Red’s in Springfield, I headed home and went to get my boat after leaving the minnows inside to stay cool. Red’s must sell lively minnow for at least two-dozen were scattered all over the floor when I returned 30 minutes later where I thought I had a Jonestown on my hands. Fortunately, many of them rejuvenated when placed back in the water and I was off to bed by 7 PM but not before a couple of slices of pizza. Set my alarm for 2:30 AM and fell asleep only to awake shortly after 11 PM. After tossing and turning another 20 minutes I decided to simply get on the road. Well that took another 30 minutes as I had to place the spare batteries on board, make a couple of sandwiches, throw my tackle onboard and eat another slice of pizza. Already had the gas tanks filled and headed out to Lake Shelbyville. This is a 73 miles jaunt that for some reason takes me 90 minutes or so to make and I was shocked to not see a single vehicle in the lot at Wilborn. Got the boat ready and hit the water before 2 AM and almost ran into another fisherman – he wasn’t running his lights until I was near him so I motored over to make sure they were okay. They were fishing for Cats as they had to work on Wednesday and hadn’t done well but seemed to be having a good time (wink!). I decided to troll the Railroad Bridge area and did so for maybe 30 minutes with no takers. Then headed to a brushpile I had found this past May and again, nothing. As it would be light in 90 minutes or so I decided to troll a couple of areas that had rocks along the shore and caught my first under. It was really slow but with daylight approaching I happened upon an area near some structure that held fish and caught a few keepers and lost a few nice fish when they either broke the line, took the hook or straightened the hook! As the first rays of the sun creeped over the eastern shore and I saw several fishermen already out, I decided to hit a couple of the brushpiles Arick had showed me last weekend as we had done particularly well on two of them. Now Arick was real good at finding the spots and marking them and this is where I am truly inexperienced. And as I needed practice, this is what I did! Unfortunately, I am not real good at it yet but I came close. You know those computer tricks where they say to choose a candidate or something on your screen but when you try to click on it your choice moves on you? Well that is what it’s like for me trying to find the marker and it’s damn frustrating!!! I had to clear my GPS screen tracks several times as I couldn’t see the marker for all the tracks! And, did I mention that we had wind? No, not gale force but at least 5 MPH and that made it even more difficult for me but I finally settled on a spot and marked it. A little later I moved slightly as I remembered this was a fairly good-sized bushpile and put out another marker and that’s when I discovered the first marker had gone AWOL. I thought I saw it floating a 100-yards away but didn’t care as I was fishing nearer the pile. I use two setups. The one is a simple slip bobber with a #2 red Mr. Crappie hook which I sometimes put a small red, white or chartreuse bead near and a clip-on lead weight. In this depth it varied between 8’ to 14’ so I set my depth at between 8’ and 10 depending on the spots I was fishing. My other rig is a two-hook spider rig set that Brian Cleland showed me. Not finding the fishing as good as I had five days earlier I tried my other spots. Sure, I caught a lot of unders but the overs were very few and far between. Not seeing all the boats I expected and having tried three or more spots, I lost track of time but had used up most of my minnows on all those unders so I decided to try one last area which had produced for me the following weekend. Luckily the Findlay Marina was open and busy but they took my $15 and got me four-dozen minnows and an ice cream bar and I was southbound. This cove had water and good structure with depths in the 13’ to 20’ range where they intertwined and I fished. Unfortunately, it was now after Noon and I had decided the day before to quit around now but as I had more minnows and there wasn’t another boat around me in the cove I went fishing and immediately began to catch Crappie. No, not a bunch of overs but I was catching doubles and every now and then a keeper with a bunch of White Bass thrown in for good measure. I lost a number of good fish here too and even more of my homemade spider rigs. Now Brian can make these lickity-split but each one takes me almost 10+ minutes each to tie and when I lose one I get frustrated even though there are even many more times I get them free than lose them. Many, many more times… And it’s that frustration that gets to me that keeps me coming back for more. Call it stubbornness, call it dedication, call it insanity, call it obsession (not the Calvin Klein type), or whatever but I keep trying to the point of near exhaustion. And around 2 Pm yesterday I hooked a good one that took the line off my reel screaming! Even when I got him close enough to catch a glimpse I wasn’t sure what it was but it was big! I had one of my slip-bobber rigs out and while I was fighting this big-un I hooked a nice White Bass on it. One foot on the trolling motor, one hand on the big-un’s pole, I flipped the White into the boat. Me so proud!! The battle lasted at least 30 minutes with the now identified fish a big Buffy getting closer and closer to the net until I was able to keep him close enough to the boat that I was able to scoop him into it. God, that was fun and made the whole trip worthwhile! Took a picture, posted on FaceBook with my foot for size comparison ( I wear a size 13) and went about trying to catch his grandfather until I decided I ought to head home another 30 minutes later as it was truly hot and the fighting of the wind, waves and lack of sleep was taking its toll. Sure, I had kept hydrated and had probably consumed a couple of gallons of either Propel, PowerAde, soda and the like but that sun had taken a toll on me. Headed back north but something took over me and I tied that new favorite spot again which is near the main “drag” of the lake. Caught a few and realized it was now pushing 4 PM and I had been out here way, way too long so I packed it in and headed to the ramp where it was an easy on for a change. But walking up to my Jeep I looked like the tired old, handicapped man I had become and for a change I simply left a bunch of stuff in the boat I would normally take out. And as I drove out and on my way home, I was seeing stars and could barely make out the road. With nowhere to pull of and everything on my side of the road without shade, I somehow made it to Bethany and the comforts of Casey’s whereupon I descended on the soda machine and Hostess Chocolate pie for the trip home. One smart thing I had done on the way to the ramp was to park the boat in the shade of the Railroad Bridge while I cooled off and picked up the boat to make ready for the trip home, something I normally do in the parking lot but realized it just might be a tad too warm there this time.. The soda and pie did the trick and my vision was returning to semi-normal so I put it on cruise control and took a nap….NO, I just kept under the speed limit and took my time. Yes, I did finally stop under a bridge on I-72 to clear my head for five minutes and be under some shade without being blinded by the bright sunlight but was pulling in the driveway after 6 PM whereupon I crashed and burned after making sure the fish were all iced down. Woke up once around midnight and finally for good at 7 AM. Took the boat to storage after unpacking it and brought home some donuts for my son and me. That is where I caught up to some degree on the comments from friends over at FaceBook and realized I need supervision when I go on these expeditions of mine. Will it happen, probably not as I am a type of person who seldom gives up especially when it comes to one of my obsessions and at this time of year its fishing. Come September, it will take a backseat to hunting and then it transists once again come next May when the last hunting season is over and I begin to fish with a vengeance. I only ask one thing since I know I will not hire a keeper, that you pray for me as it will take divine intervention to change my ways..or a major health problem! Thanks for listening and stay safe out there..and just keep on the lookout for a man driving a Hunter Green Jeep Patriot towing a Red Sea Nymph Sidewinder – on the road or in the water!