- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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It was not a popular move. "Let's get those fish in, hey?" said our guide. Brennan looked at me. He was making the same connection as I was. Neither of us knew much about the mores of bass fishing on this side of the Atlantic, and the previous day we had been too intoxicated with instant success to worry much about the ritual thumping over the head of each striper as it was landed. For years we had released almost every one of our own bass, taking home a couple apiece, maybe, at the end of the trip. Possibly it would be different in Massachusetts, but I suspected that not every striper angler would approve of what we were doing.
"John Ferguson," I said to Brennan. He knew who I meant. John Ferguson, the best bass guide on Splaugh Reef, County Wexford, Ireland, wind-reddened face, collarless flannel shirt, in one of those cloth caps they call "ratters" shouting, "Haul 'em!" as small war parties of bass detached themselves from the main school and hit the long, twinkling spoons we used there. Ferguson, hating the six-pound-test line we used, closing his eyes in frustration as the reel drags buzzed and added a minute or two to the time elapsed before the bass would be safely flapping in the fish box that would be shipped to market in Dublin that evening. It looked very much as if Brennan and I were still in the business of filling fish boxes for other people.
As I have suggested, though, Bob Francis could pick up a hint. One reason why we had had to opt for the down-tide position was that balsa swimming plugs had proved more effective than poppers and you could cast them nowhere near as far as the latter against the wind. Poppers were more fun, though. You might not get as many strikes, but you got some, and they were visual strikes. Ferguson never gave his clients priority over the fish box, but now Francis proved that he was capable of rising above the price of bass. "We'll haul and go round," he said. "Try poppers."
"You know something?" he went on. "I'm about the only guide left here who would take you casting. Everybody else, it's all wire-line trolling. Can't stand to do that." On the Annual Outing, Brennan and I don't care for too much tension. An olive branch offered is an olive branch received. We have also been at it long enough to know when to give a really good opening to a guide.
"Uh, how does the fishing here compare with, what's the other island? Martha's Vineyard? Cuttyhunk?" I asked him.
Francis savored the moment before replying. "Cuttyhunk?" he said. "Well, now, most of them Cuttyhunk bass are down deep. I went over there with three fellers from Nantucket one time, fished two nights. Fished them Sows and Pigs, whatever they call 'em. We did fairly well, but the bass were down deep. Like in North Truro. 'Course, they catch a lot of bass in them places...." He paused to give emphasis to the payoff. "Only, there, a lot of bass means about five."
We made a long detour around the rip, came up on the other side and started to throw poppers into the wind. The scoring rate dropped but the bass still came steadily. Then I hit one far out, so that I didn't see the fish strike. It behaved like the others for a moment or two, giving that solid old brick wall imitation, then moved irresistibly to the left, taking line.
"You may have Bosco," Francis said.
The 15-pound outfit made no impression. The bass moved back, almost to the place where it had been hooked, then swung right. "Who's Bosco?" I asked. I should have known better. Wherever there are fishermen there are Boscos, though they have different names. I once knew of a 50-pound northern pike called the Green Devil that was 31 pounds when it was caught. What I should have asked was, "How big is Bosco?" But I got the answer anyway.
"Big bass. Eighty pounds. Could be more. Passes this way every year, busts two or three people up. So take it easy on him."