TABLE ROCK LAKE, Mo.--As smallmouth bass go, it was nothing extra.
It might have went a pound and a half.
If you fish for smallmouth regularly, you've caught hundreds, or even thousands, like it.
But, for me, this one was special.
Not for the bass itself, but what it symbolized.
Our family made our usual Easter/spring break trek to the in-laws. But this year was different. My father-in-law Tom Weinhold passed between Christmas and New Year's.
Down here, my morning rambles are different for numerous reasons.
Not the least of which is not having Lady, our family mutt, along.
And the terrain is far different. At home, I ramble off for a mile and a half to two miles. Down here, I probably do three-quarters of a mile to a mile. But it is probably a far better workout because the first part of going straight up a typical Missouri hill.
The smallmouth was in a spot where it should have been. I caught it when I worked one of Tom's black spinner baits across the point just off the home association's dock, then along side of the dock.
Walking into dawn this morning was far different, too.
The birds sounded different. I didn't recognize half the ones I heard. OK, I easily recognized the Canada geese honking down in the cove.
And the crows that began cawing on top of the ridge. And I heard and watched what certainly looked and sounded like ravens.
The black spinner bait meant something.
Tom made them by hand. He had a box of them completed and several in progress, which I found when cleaning out his fishing desk yesterday.
Tom was a handy guy. He was the sort who had a motorcycle shop for years. I sometimes wonder what he thought about my lack of fix-it ability.
He and my mother-in-law used to visit over Thanksgiving. It took me a few years, but I finally figured out if was a good idea to have Tom lead me in fix-it jobs or have them for him to do when they came. He fixed stuff from light fixtures to door knobs and locks to a new sink my wife had wanted in for years.
So it made sense that he loved making his own baits,especially building spinner baits and pouring his own jigs.
Redbuds are one of the things we have always noticed on our trips down to Table Rock. Most years, we begin noticing them around Effingham. (Old joke, ``What's wrong with Ham?'')
This time was different, we only noticed our first redbud a few miles from my mother-in-law's. Over the last couple days, the redbuds have really begun to pop. That usually means the bass will start to pull up.
I sure hope so.
Yesterday morning, I rambled off after the rains and began finding red worms, something different, wiggling on one stretch of road. So I collected a couple dozen and figure the youngest two kids and I will try the docks later this weekend for panfish.
The big black spinner baits Tom used regularly years ago for night fishing and told me that is the way to go for night fishing.
One of my plans while down here this time was to walk the shore and do some night fishing with those black spinner baits. But, considering my eyesight is just terrible, I figured I better test it out to make sure everything was working well.
So I did last evening in the half hour or so between finishing up going through his fishing stuff--he had tons of stuff and his life-long fishing buddies will do the final go-through in a few weeks before my mother-in-law holds a man's garage sale--and the Easter ham supper.
Tom was not a religious guy, actually kind of the antithesis of it. Not sure if he would have appreciated the Good Friday connection, but I sure did.
Caught the one fish and that was enough. Took a few pictures, the released it and walked back up to the house in perfect timing for the ham and side coming out to the table.
The water level is coming up rapidly on Table Rock for a series of strong storms in the area over the past couple days. Not sure if I will be able to walk the shorelines today.
Probably good I caught the smallmouth when I did.
Next up is looking at a couple of his morel spots, which he allowed me to see.
Memorial morels has a certain ring to it.
Back at the house, I heard a boat roar out of the cove. Fog in the cove had built with the cold just in my half hour ramble.
Another day. Soon the family will stir. Life moves on.