Wild Bill Sonnett and myself share a lot of things in common. Among other things, we both like fishing vintage gear, we like to fish that gear topwater, and we like Dixie Carroll, the great outdoor writer. So when I ran across this column from the La Cross Tribune and Leader-Press dated June 02, 1918, Wild Bill was the first person I thought of. Dixie's article is entitled "Night Casting Tackle" and he relates a story of how a bass leaped out of the water to hit a lure dangling from a tree. I have a similar story; one night several years back I was casting over a brush pile from my dock in Northern Wisconsin on a nearly full moon night. I decided to take a break and laid the rod in the back of the boat tethered to the dock, with the jitterbug dangling a foot above the water. Imagine my surprise when less than a minute after doing so, a twelve inch bass leaped out of the water and hooked itself on the back treble of the hanging lure!
Night Casting Tackle
by Dixie Carroll
There are two kinds of night-casting, either of which are sure-fire winners. Moonlight night and the simon-pure black night, both good fishing-time with a winning kick to the inky black affair as the real thrill producer. For moonlight-casting you can let your canoe slide along the outer edges of most any bay or cove and cast into the shore and cover considerable water, but for the black night, with just the stars burning out here and there, you must select your fishing waters during the day and study them well, because your casting is going to be a bit of judgment in your part without any helpers along the side lines to give you distance and locations.
For night-casting a great deal depends upon the tackle, and it would be simply playing tag with fate to use a nifty bamboo for the sport: at times you must give the butt and do a bit of pumping, and who wants to subject a pet split-bamboo to such rough usage? Make the rod a steel one that has plenty of backbone and stiffness. Long casts are not at all necessary, and a good stiff steel rod will tickle a fighting bass behind the gills with more success than any other kind, and do the job without suffering any during the operation. Should you by any species of luck hook a pike, or, great guns!—a musky, there is quite a bit of satisfaction out there in the black darkness to have your paws wrapped around a good stiff old steel rod, and get the lay right, old-timer, you'll need all the help a good strong rod can give you to bring a life-sized roughneck to gaff when you cannot tell whether he's coming to you or making a drive for the far end of the lake.
In the matter of reels it is a choice between the anti-back-lash or the level winders, unless, of course, you feel like doing a bit of knitting and cussing in the great old handicap of backlashes. Between the self-thumbing reel and the level-winder there is not much choice, as they both are the real stuff for the night game. The ideal reel, however, for night-casting is the tool that combines both of these features, and two reels in this class that stand out like "four of a kind" are the Beetzel and the Pflueger Supreme. Either of these reels makes night-casting a pleasant occupation. The South Bend Anti-back-lash and the Pflueger Redifor Anti-back-lash are good workers in the self-thumbing line and the Shakespeare levelwinder is an excellent tool for night use.
The fifteen-pound test line is plenty strong enough and the soft-braided No. 6 silk casting-line used for general casting is about right, although a line testing at twenty to twenty-five pounds is not amiss if you are fishing in waters inhabited by the big fellows. And just chalk this up on the scoreboard, the big fellows are great night feeders. This is especially so in the warm summer nights, at which time some of the largest fish are brought to gaff.
As to the plugs for this end of the game, your selection should be entirely of the surface and semi-surface variety, as the underwater lures are taboo, they have too much of an inclination to slip down to the bottom and lovingly cling to any old thing they can hook onto. And then, again, why use an under-water plug when the fish are all flopping around on the surface? For the real dark nights, the all-white lures are the best, and particularly those coated with the luminous enamel which glows like the dampened head of an old-style parlor match. Let a couple of these luminous plugs lie out in the sunlight for a short time, or expose them to the glow of your camp light before paddling out to your fishing-waters, and the plow they shoot off in the darkness will make any bass curious enough to give them a wallop. Not only do they help the bass to become interested but you can see them yourself at considerable distance and keep in touch with your lure as it wobbles in through the black.
That these luminous plugs are the real stuff was shown to me quite vividly last season when on a little night-casting jaunt, I threw a walloping cast over towards a fairly loud splash and succeeded in twining my line around the limb of a windfall that stuck up out of the water, the plug dancing in the air about six inches from the surface of the water. This wiggling plug was too much for an overzealous bass; it sort of got his scales all ruffled up, and he up and strikes that plug in the air, succeeding in hooking himself. He sure cut up a bunch of tricks, half in the water and the rest up in the air. He kicked up such a rough-house that another bass joined him in the fight for the shining plug. I find, also, in the plug line, that the surface bait which kicks up a little riffle as it reels in makes an added attraction, although most of the strikes are made by the fish as the plug hits the water, or vary soon after the splash.
In fact, a good-sized splash when the lure strikes the water helps show 'em the way, and how easy it is to locate the bait. A mighty good plan is to either use all weedless hooks on your plugs or to substitute the trebled books with the twin hooks which ride points up. In this way you will avoid a lot of trouble, especially if the waters you fish are weedy or full of snags. Of course you may not hook all your fish, but you will not haul in a mess of weeds every shot, and who ever had a fish strike a lure when it was burled in a litter of straggling weeds?
-- Dr. Todd