One of my first jobs were life-guarding at Ryan’s 80 Acres, near Frankton. While there, I met Bill Ryan who taught me how to bass fish. There were no spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, swimbaits, etc. The plastic worm was just introduced rigged on a harness with three hooks, some beads, and a little spinner. Then, a Texas rig had something to do with oil wells, but night fishing for bass in Indiana was a thing.
During the daylight hours, Bill and I would use topwater Hula Poppers and Nip-A-Diddys. At night, we tied on the heavy artillery, a casting size Jitterbug. Over half of the largest pit was shallow with weed beds so it didn’t matter where you made a cast. We didn’t talk much on these after-hours adventures. One had to listen intently for the strike. I Lived in Anderson and did not have a car. I slept on the floor of the shelter house at the bottom of a graveled hill just off the first pit. If the fish began jumping, I hopped in a rowboat and fished for an hour or so.
One night, there came a big storm with heavy rain. I curled up in my sleeping bag enjoying the sound of rain hitting the roof, until, a wall of water came down the hill and nearly washed me into the lake. After that, I moved my bedding onto the top of a picnic table. One night, after a big rain, I hurriedly rowed down a long narrow pit on my way to the big lake. Chills went down my spine when I got off course and rowed under an overhanging willow tree.
I was paid a dollar an hour and sometimes worked 70 hours a week. Wild green apples, raspberries, and/or blackberries are what I usually ate for breakfast. Sometimes, the boss would fix me a bowl of cornflakes which might have been good were it not for the fact that the milk came from a cow who ate wild onions. When the concession stand opened, I ordered a Stewart’s cheeseburger and loaded it with condiments.
One night, my sister Lois came to get me. Bill and I were fishing and had just caught a big bass. Bill said, “They are really going to bite tonight.” To this day, I wish that I had gone home with Sis. We never caught another fish and it would be another three days before someone came to get me. My girlfriend lived in Alexandria. I walked the five miles to see her on a Saturday night. On the way back one night, I hitched a ride with an elderly couple who had been drinking. I was soon screaming for them to stop the car and let me out. They ran three cars off the road.
In the 1980s and 1990s, I fished Morse Reservoir in Indianapolis at night with Hughey Cravens. Most often, we used Texas-rigged plastic worms. Our best spots were creek channels breaks and a big hump. My best five bass weighed 21-lbs. and were caught, at night, on March 7 from the back of Ramp Creek on Monroe Reservoir. All fell for an original Big-O crankbait handcrafted by Fred Young of East Tennessee. I would like to have some more of those lures.
It has been more than 20-years since I have night fished. That being said, I have reason to take it up again. My friend Gary Hardwick and Seth Simpkins recently fished Summit Lake post sundown. By sun-up they had caught and released 25 bass with only one short fish.
They were fishing Hardwick’s “Hard to Beat” 10-inch red shad worms. Their biggest bass was over six pounds. “The bass seemed to come out of the cover and use the weed lines as travel corridors. About midnight, I caught four in as many casts. Once the sun hit the water, it was over,” said Hardwick. I caught a big bass on his 10-inch green worm Sunday evening at 8:30.