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Last updated 4/16/2019 at Noon

“I don’t know about Rayburn, but the spawn is definitely winding down

here on T-Bend,” said James Hughes.If anyone would know it would be

Hughes, a part time guide that worked the lake more than most full-time

guides for years, but now guides only the grandkids.

“I think that the fact that they have been pulling the lake so hard

contributed to some fish getting it done early and some of them never

even moving shallow,” he added.“I am already seeing small bream hustling

the vacant beds and I can assure you they aren’t early.”

“How many double digit bass do you think we’d have caught back in the

day when you were still guiding with me on T-Bend,” he asked in a tone

more akin to a jab than an honest inquiry.“We’ll never know,” I

replied,” because those kind of bass weren’t even swimming around in

this lake.”

Hughes’ strong suit was catching bass when they were transitioning from

the spawn back to normal life.Rather than work at it, the rest of us

would start hustling crappie and stripers or praying the bream would bed


James, however, just continued catching bass like they had never slowed

down and his well-guarded secret for years was finesse fishing. While

the rest of us grappled with what to do with the invasion of hydrilla

that was quickly covering our best structure areas, he was using the

weird new grass to limit on both bass and crappie nearly every day.

Because he wasn’t guiding out of a marina, he was able to keep his

technique under wraps for years.He eventually let me in on the secret

out of pity and several years later he would be the first person I told

about the Whacky worm.

James would switch his six foot Fenwick and Garcia 5000C for a Mitchell

308 spinning reel taped on the handle of a six and a half foot spinning

rod.The reel was filled with eight pound monofilament. He would wear out

two or three bail springs every year before discovering that he could

remove the bail altogether.

The magic in all of this, however was the small jig he tied on the

business end of his line.It was a one eighth ounce maribou crappie jig

that had no chenille body.He would thread the last two inches of a

Mann’s four inch curl tail worm on the small hook and it was “game on.”

The strands of maribou would pulse when jerked free from the hydrilla

and the tail on the Mann’s worm gave it just enough profile to attract

bass as well as crappie.Most of the major soft plastic companies have a

host of multi-colored crappie bodies in their line-ups today, but while

they are dynamite strolled or vertically fished over a brush pile, none

of them could match the maribou jig for this application.

We eventually had to tie our own as they were difficult to find after

Walter Chamel got out of the Wholesale Tackle business.The ball head jig

with a gold hook was easy to find, but we had to order the maribou from

a fly fishing outfit.

The most accommodating aspect was the fact that we needed only one

color.We tried both chartreuse and white, but only black would fool both

crappie and bass.The little Mann’s worm is history anyway, but I can’t

even imagine sitting down and tying three or four dozen jigs at a time!

James said he could probably scare up a hundred or so hidden away in his

storage building should we experience a “senior moment”, but that kind

of fishing does not interest his Grandkids.They prefer to drink sodas

and drop their line over the side of the pontoon boat. “If I can get it

done with shiners and tiny Assassin bodies, why abandon a good thing?”

Make no mistake about it, the realistic expectations of a great trip on

Toledo Bend are far better now than they were back in the “Good old

days”, but I frequently question how well a Fuzzy Wuzzy waked across a

shallow flat or a Fliptail Lizard free-floated through a submerged bush

would still work.

Only yesterday I asked a very skilled young bass fisherman if he caught

any bass during the spawn jerking a Rogue down over the grass.His

unexpected answer was, “What the heck is a Rogue?”

“He had never heard of a Drive-in movie either so I am good for a few

more trips!


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