In memory of the passing one of our former columnists, we are reproducing one of his favorite "Fishing Fundamentals" columns from our December 2002 Christmas issue. Tight lines, Gary. ---Don Zaidle
Fishing has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. At Christmas time, my "wish list" always included new fishing gear. The Christmas of my 11th year found me pleading for a replacement to my worn-out Shakespeare spin-cast combo. All of the gifts had been opened under the tree that Christmas Eve when my dad asked me to walk out to the garage with him. Thats where he presented me with my new Zebco 404 combo. I caught a bunch of fish that following year on my new rod and reel, but none sticks out in my mind like my first bass on an artificial lure.
It was early summer, and I was on a Boy Scout camp out at Lake Somerville. My favorite fishing partner in Troop 740 was Wayne Thompson. He was two years older, but saw the passion I had for fishing and helped me by sharing what he had learned. We were camped on the lakeshore, and I was wading the back end of the cove at high noon when the small keeper sucked the Snag Proof Weedless Frog off the surface. My fishing life was changed forever.
The "gift" of fishing is in the experiences and memories. These events occurred more than 30 years ago, and yet the images remain vivid. I cannot remember another present from that Christmas, and have forgotten the names of many of the scouts in my troop, but those events have not faded. There is something about fishing that is almost magical. It does not matter how well my last trip went; I await the next one with special, indescribable anticipation.
Christmas is a time for celebrating our Saviors birth. Jesus was a gift from God and, it is my theory that gift-giving at Christmas time was originally a symbolic gesture, not a retail sales promotion. Christmas should be about family and giving. Fishing can also be about relationships and giving.
Over the years, our family of hiding gifts away from the Christmas tree. After all, there is not much suspense in a wrapped fishing rod. The gifts are always welcome because they support my passion (addiction?). However, it was the time my parents and others shared fishing with me that became the true "gift." If it was not for me, I doubt either of my parents would have spent much time fishing. They fished because they knew it was important to me, and they got joy from the smile on my face each time a fish was caught or an opportunity to fish came along.
My mom was my earliest fishing partner. Together we watched many a cork slip beneath the surface of the water. When I first learned to use a bait-casting reel, she was often my coach in picking out the nastiest of backlashes. Recently, I came to realize the significance of her gifts to me. I asked her if she wanted to go to a pond for a perch-jerking session, and she declined. It seems the fun she had fishing back then had a lot more to do with me than with fishing. Thanks, Mom.
My dad and I still fish regularly. My dad has always enjoyed fishing, but he is first to admit that he is not the best of fishermen. If I had experienced my dads limited success in fishing, I might have looked at golf more seriously. Nonetheless, Dad has always supported my fishing efforts. At my urging, he subscribed to several magazines so we could learn together. Early on, he would take me on guided trips several times a year, and we went bank fishing whenever he could get away. When I was 14, we joined a bass club together, and at 16, we went in together to buy our first bass boat. There is not a doubt in my mind that the bond we share was strengthened by the good, bad, and ugly times we shared on the water. Thanks, Dad.
Fishing provides a common ground for people from all walks of life. I am always happy when I find a stranger who likes to fish--I know we are no longer strangers. The best friends in my life have evolved from fishing. It was not always fishing that brought us together, but fishing keeps us together. My partner when I was fishing regional team bass tournaments was Mike Boriack. Mike and I went to school together from first grade through high school. Throughout the years, our interests have been widely different, with the exception of fishing. Mike would agree with me that our friendship would not be as close today if it were not for fishing.
My fishing with Mike was put on hold when he started raising his family. He is the most devoted father I know. Today, when we get together for lunch, Mike lives vicariously through my fishing stories. He is also giving the "gift" of fishing to his kids. Thanks, Mike.
My wife, Tammy, and I do not have kids due to a series of health problems. However, she is my biggest supporter when it comes to fishing. The best compliment I have ever received came from Tammy the first time we ever shared a boat. She admitted that she did not "get" what the big deal was about fishing, until she watched me fish that day 13 years ago on Fayette County Lake. She said that as she observed me from the back of the boat, she could see there was something to all this, almost like art. Thanks, Tammy.
Writing for Texas Fish & Game is my way of passing on the gift to you. I have been blessed to spend time on the water with many fine anglers over the past 30 years. The fisherman I am today is a composite of the things I have learned on the water and reading magazines like this one. Fishing has shaped my life, it has taught me patience, it has kindled my appreciation of nature, it has calmed my spirit in troubled times. Thanks, God, for the gifts of Jesus and fishing!