Patches of brown dotted parts of the steep, rocky slope that had been washed out by flooding weeks before. A fishing dock had gotten loose from its bank and floated to the corner of the pond, with mossy muk gathered in the shallows nearby along the treeline.
A flurry of activity took place overhead, with crows calling out to each other as the first short breaths of fall began to flow over the pond in the valley below. Barn owls on the hunt called out to each other across miles of forest, and even higher above them several gulls circled the pond, perhaps looking for edible remains on the once-flooded terrain.
Early attempts to use a swim bait to draw bass out of hiding proved fruitless, with large clumps of Hydrilla and other vegetation getting caught in the bait's treble hooks as it scoured the long-untreated waters. I took out my lighter and lit the knot connecting the fishing line to the lure, then searched through tackle for something that could navigate the weedy depths a little better. I came up with a box of Neko weights and another box of Neko hooks, both produced by VMC, and decided a worm might be the best bet on this day.
The Neko rig calls for a worm with a weighted head to be wacky rigged -- basically hooked through the middle of the worm and left to hang with the hook exposed -- and dropped to the bottom of the pond. From there, you can jerk it along the bottom, with the weight causing it to drift slightly backward as it falls and stand on its head briefly. This setup is enticing and gives bass a nice target to inhale. It also puts the worm in a perfect position to set the hook.
As a pair of animated crows landed in the tree above me, I turned to cast near some cover. The rig hit the water with a nice "plop" and, slowly, I jerked the worm across the bottom, allowing time for it to settle back down before jerking again. After four jerks, the movement of my pole was met with swift and belligerent resistance — a deft strike from a small bass that had been hiding in vegetation. I set the hook in the roof of the bass’ mouth, and the fight was on. It zigged and zagged, trying to evade the force pressing against its momentum, but to no avail. The first fish of the day was landed and soon released again to see another battle, another day.Well, so far so good.
After tossing the diminutive fighter back, I fixed the worm so it again was positioned in the middle of the worm, slightly off-center so that about a third of the worm was on the weighted side of the hook and the remaining two-thirds floated free. I tossed it again toward a weedy area and was almost immediately greeted with another strike. This time there was little fight as the fish became tangled in weeds during its initial struggle. I dragged the large, lifeless lump of weeds into the shore and soon uncovered the bass underneath.
Two for two.
On the third cast, I put the bait in the middle of the pond and slowly worked it back toward shore. After a series of jerks, I felt a hard bite on the other side of the line and yanked with fervor.
Damn, I thought, missed it.
I let things settle after my abrupt yanking, then began walking it toward the shore again. Three jerks later, the bass came back and hit it dead on. I yanked again and this time my timing was true to form. I set the hook and could immediately feel the fish flying toward the opposite direction. I kept my pole low and maneuvered the fish through the vegetation. Eventually he tired and I pulled a nice 2-pounder onto the bank — my third bass in three tries.
After my threepeat, the bite cooled down a bit, probably because of the flurry of activity from the last battle. I dipped and dunked the worm in various spots across the pond but nothing was taking, so I decided to take a break and start a bonfire. Pretty soon, I had a 7-foot-tall inferno blazing in front of me with a heat that I worried might melt my face.
As the wood crackled under the intense heat, I heard loud stomping behind me and turned to see two full-grown white-tailed deer running past me. Apparently, they didn't like the fire as much as I did. In a flash of white, the deer disappeared into the brown background of the woods. A few minutes later, I could hear them on the opposite side of the pond, stomping and snorting their displeasure as the smell of smoke drifted their way.
Laughingly, I went back to fishing and soon connected with another decent little bass. Because of the angle, I set the hook high and to the left, and I mistakenly kept the rod in the position. As the fish began splashing around in near the surface, I suddenly realized my mistake and tried to lower my rod.
The bass launched out of the water and the hook flew from its mouth in the opposite direction, splashing several feet away.
One of the tricks to fishing I've learned throughout the years is to keep the rod tip low and pull away from the fish to keep pressure on the hook. I usually set the hook to the left or right side at a low angle, rather than jerking the rod up, which is less likely to successfully snag the fish and can often lead to a hook flying at your face.
Even the best amongst us make mistakes. I do not claim to be among them.
I began casting toward a side of the pond that I knew was home to some portly crappie, and pretty soon something big hit the worm and took off toward the other side of the pond. My pole bent over double as I worked the big hawg around the vegetation, enjoying the fight, when he, too, got tangled up and eventually had to give in.
Soon after that, with the sky darkening and the embers of my once-proud bonfire dying in an orange glow at my feet, I hopped in my car and maneuvered my way up the loose rock road and back to the main gate.
All in all, it was a great day of fishing, even though I only spent a few hours out there. I gained a new appreciation for the Neko rig and will gladly be adding it to my fishing repertoire.