Saturday, July 17, 2010

Deconstructing Old Ads with Bill Sonnett



When I first saw this June 1932 advertisement in Outdoor Life, it wasn't the Pikie Minnow that caught my eye it was the two giant Bass that were caught on one cast. I've had a few doubles in my bass fishing experiance but the idea of two, six-pound-plus Bass being taken on one cast seems so unbelievable that this experience of my long-time fishing apprentice Warren Platt immediately came to mind. I would like to present it here in his own words.



History Repeats Itself

by Warren Platt

George Smetzer (born 1911) began taking me fishing in 1951 when I was 12. He was a neighbor and the manager of our 3 & 2 Baseball team. His son Jim and I became good friends, and after taking a couple of the other boys on the team fishing and finding out that all they wanted to do was throw rocks in the water they took me on a trip to the Kings River in southern Missouri. George gave me a bamboo rod, some poppers, a stick of ferrule cement and matches. It didn’t take me long to figure out what the latter two were for. After showing how much I loved fishing, I was always invited on their fishing trips. George and I continued to fish togeather for the rest of his life.
 
I hadn't fished with George at all the summer of 1987 and wanted to take him to Pony Express Lake to do some top water fishing after the weather cooled, but before the Bass quit hitting surface lures, for that's all George would use. Since I took my first fishing trip with George to wade the Kings River I don't think I ever saw him put natural bait on a hook. If there was one chance in a million that whatever we were fishing for would hit on the surface, George would use a top water lure. When we set up the Oct. 8th trip I thought that would be just about the right time. We got to the lake that morning just as the sky was good and pink, the most beautiful time of the day. It was pretty cool, but not as cool as it would get as the day passed. We both tied on George's favorite lure, the Woods #2000 spot tail minnow, made in the late 1940's and '50's. As an antique lure collector, I buy them as I search flea markets. The minnow doesn't do much in the water, just darts toward you as you give it a little twitch with the tip of the rod, then if you leave slack in your line it will slide left or right as it slows to a stop, never making any noise. If you need noise, or there is much of a ripple on the water, you speed up the retrieve. George was a master with the lure and a fine caster, but that morning he had equipment problems. First it was his newer casting reel that didn't want to cast correctly; he solved that by going to the bottom of his tackle box to bring out the old trusty red Ambassadeur 5000 casting reel that I remember seeing for the first time when he stopped by my house in the late 1950's to show me what he had found at an estate sale.
 
After the casting problem was solved, George didn't like the action of the lure that I gave him, or the next that he replaced it with. Finally one pleased him and it was all business as usual after that. We caught a couple of small bass each, fun, but nothing to brag about. Then at one of the best spots on the lake, George placed a cast that would be worked over some nice cover. All of a sudden the surface erupted as a bass that looked like he would weigh at least 7 lbs. came out of the water as he attacked George's lure. His hook set resulted in a clean miss. "George, I can get up at 4 a.m. and put you on some nice water, but I can't catch the fish for you!", I joked. "That was the biggest bass that I've seen in years." he replied. One more little barb from me, "I don't know about you, but I would have liked just a little better look at him, myself.”
 
We parked our boat in a nice spot, out of the breeze for lunch. It was getting cold and I gave George my double thickness hooded sweatshirt and my size 15 rubber boots. He could slide his shoes into the boots just fine. As we sat during lunch, George's 77 years seemed to be taking its effect on him, but even I was cold by this time. After lunch we headed to another good spot that had a nice tree trunk underwater, but close to the surface. That turned out to be the spot that gave us both the best fishing thrill of our lives. George placed a nice cast about three feet past the spot where we knew the tree trunk was, let the Spot Tail lay there for a few seconds, then began working it toward the tree trunk. The lure sank in a big swirl and George set the hook. The water boiled as the fish sank a few feet and just stayed in the same place. George was fighting hard to just keep the rod tip up. My first thought was that he had one of the big muskie that had been stocked in the lake. Seeing the trouble he was having and knowing that we didn’t have a net, I told him to guide the fish toward the front of the boat where I was and I’d get him in when he surfaced. I wasn’t ready for what happened next. As he pulled the fish to the surface I was faced with not one, but two very large bass. Each with a single barb of a treble hook holding them. Both mouths were wide open, and I instantly clamped a thumb and forefinger down on the lower jaw of each fish. As I lifted them into the boat, the hooks came out of their mouths, my knees were shaking so bad I had to sit down. I had taken my camera to take a picture of George fishing. After weighing each fish ( 6-pounds 2-oz. and 6-pounds 9-oz.) with my Deliar which weighted things a little light if anything, I put them on a stringer so they could stay in the water while I calmed my nerves and readied the camera. After a few photos George quickly took them off the stringer and released them, as I knew he would. We sat for a while talking, and I told George that I had just had my greatest fishing thrill and I hadn’t even caught a fish! We fished for a while longer and the cold no longer bothered us. We talked about every detail time and again and how no one would ever believe us. We had our photos and the memory and we knew we wouldn’t care if they didn’t. The 77 years didn’t keep George’s youth from returning for the rest of that day.


George Smetzer at age 77 with two 6 pound plus bass taken on one cast

 
George died November 21, 2005 at the age of 94 years.  We fished together that Summer and he was still casting with this reel and "Smokey Joe's".  Smokey Joe was his favorite color and I didn't know for many years that that was what he called all the #2000 Spot Tail Minnows. 


This is the lure which George used. If you look closely at the rear treble hook you'll see that one barb is bent almost straight out.  Both bass were hooked with one barb only.  As I remember, both hooks came loose as I picked them up, one with each hand.  Divine intervention is my only explanation as to why they both stayed on the one barb until I boated them.  The lure looked new until that catch, and hasn't been used since.


-- Bill Sonnett

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