When Bob Bateman nestled the bow of the boat against the grassy bank and reached for a rod rigged with an oval popping cork, I knew he was going after speckled trout.
I also knew that the 25 or so feet of tall marsh grass between him and the pond wouldn’t faze him; he had been slithering and bouncing fish out of potholes and through the grass all morning.
He pulled a couple of keeper trout out quickly with his soft-plastic lure. After he unhooked the second one, I was watched him out of the corner of my eye when he looked at me to see if I was looking, and then sneakily reached into his ice chest to pull out a bag of Sathers Sour Neon Night Crawlers.
I had seen the bag earlier, but just figured that he had a sweet tooth for gummy worms. Instead of eating one, he stripped the plastic lure off of his jighead and put it on the hook.
He grinned bashfully when I turned my head to face him.
“My wife Carol and I caught 15 really nice trout on these two weeks ago,” he said. “We were fishing live bait, and she brought some of these to eat. She said they tasted terrible and might make better fish bait.
“Lo and behold, I stuck one on a hook and the first trout I caught was 14 ½ inches.
On his first cast with the “bait” on this day, a speck hammered it; the next cast produced another and then another.
“The art to fishing gummy worms,” he coached like an old pro, “is to keep them in an ice chest, but not too cold or they become too stiff.
“But if you leave them in the sun, they get too sticky and kind of melt off the hook. I even have my favorite color, blue and pink.”
After the bite in the spot played out, he said he’s not certain the gummy worms are much of a secret weapon.
“I really believe that they take them because they are really biting and will bite anything,” he said.
He paused, grinned mischievously, cocked an eyebrow and then added, “But I could be wrong.”