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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Technology on the Water

As I said in a previous post I have been fishing since I was 5 or 6 years old. Our first boat was a green wooden boat with a 5 horsepower Evinrude. I had great fun driving it and my daddy patiently instructed me in its proper use.

I remember it seemed pretty cool. When I opened it up it made some noise and the boat threw up a small wake. It seemed to me that we were really going fast and I remember being a little disappointed when my daddy told me we were probably only going 7 or 8 miles per hour.

My daddy's good friend was Mr. Alexander. He also had a wooden boat and had a 10 horsepower Johnson on the back. I thought he was really in the big time with a motor that large. In fact nobody we knew for the longest had anything bigger than about 10 horsepower. According to my daddy, big motors were not for "serious" fishermen. If you had anything bigger than 10 horsepower you were at the river mainly just to ride around.I remember there was a 12 horsepower Sea King (a defunct Montgomery Ward brand) motor hanging on the door of a shed at Mr. Alexander's cabin. My daddy told me that was a real fast motor and that if we had anything like that on the back of our boat, it would be more than dangerous.

Now in those days we did not have trolling motors. I learned to skull a boat with a short paddle and one hand while fishing with the other. This is pretty much a lost art but I still see some old timers on the river doing it even today. This pretty much limited your options on very windy days. You either tried to find a place out of the wind or you simply didn't fish. My daddy used to say that the fishing wasn't good on windy days. Later on after trolling motors came along I finally discovered that the wind seems to bother the fishermen a whole lot more than it does the fish.

We also did not have depth finders (sonar) and our knowledge of our fishing waters consisted of scoping out the area during periods of low water and making mental notes of what structures appeared and where the channel was. Later on when I finally got a sonar, I marveled for the longest at some of the things we had missed.

Some guys moved into a cabin a couple of doors down from us. They had a runabout with what I recall a 40 horsepower Johnson (looked like a washing machine). I remember those guys drank a lot of beer and certainly did a lot of riding around with that big motor. Indeed my daddy knew what he was talking about.

We eventually got rid of the old green boat and got a 14 foot Alumacraft with a 9.9 Johnson. Boy the Johnson was way faster. I betcha we could go every bit of 10 to 12 mph! We also got a trolling motor which made fishing in the wind a lot easier.

Not too long after that, our friend, Mr. Carruth, got some kind of a fiberglass boat with a 35 horsepower Evinrude. My faith in my daddy was briefly shaken in that I could not understand how Mr. Carruth, a fisherman, could justify having such a big motor. My daddy finally explained that Mr. Carruth was a crappie fisherman and he needed a different kind of boat than us bass fishermen. He also had to travel longer distances to find the crappie. I was satisfied once again. I remember that Mr. Carruth drank a substantial quantity of beer and I began to draw a connection between beer and big motors.

Mr. Carruth, Mr. Alexander, and my daddy had a 4 slip boathouse that they had built on a place called Rickett's Creek. There was a 4th slip owned by a guy named Fred Smith. He lived in Illinois and we never saw him. We all had a lot of good times in that boathouse.

Not too much later, Mr. Alexander's 10 horsepower Johnson died and he came back with a 20 horsepower Johnson. Now I was mildly perplexed, but not as much as before, I guess cause I was getting older. I had decided that Mr. Alexander was a real fisherman no matter what kind of motor he had.

My daddy taught me a lot of things about the river. He taught me to watch the weather. He taught me about the dangers of high winds. We never messed with barges or large boats and always got out of the way. They could create rough water and dangerous conditions. He taught me tips about fishing, tips too numerous to count.

As I approached my teen years I got interested in playing music and girls and my interest in the river waned. I would still go from time to time but not nearly as much as before. Some of the best times I remember was when sweet wifey and I would join my parents on the river. This was right before my daddy's health got too bad for him to go. How I would like to have those times back if only for a few moments.

Finally my daddy's health got so bad that we pulled the boat out of our boathouse at the river and brought it home. He was too sick to make the trip but I did manage to take him to some nearby lakes for short fishing trips. When he was healthy he could fish all day. Now he could only last a couple of hours tops. So sad.

My father passed away in 1983. Shortly after that, Mr. Carruth came by and asked me if I would sell my quarter interest in the old boathouse to him. He was going to get a bigger boat that was going to take up 2 slips. I offered to give him the slip for free. I could not have taken anything from him. I told him my daddy would have wanted him to have it. My daddy was just that way and valued his friends and kindness toward others much more than any material thing. Mr. Carruth had tears in his eyes as he told me that he loved my daddy and said he was a great friend. That was the last time I saw Mr. Carruth. I heard he had passed shortly after that. That old boathouse has since collapsed and is no more.

I rarely went fishing for a long time after that. I was more interested in career I guess and put the "important" things on hold. In 1995 I finally came to my senses sold the old Alumacraft and bought a brand new Hydrasport bassboat with a 115 Horsepower Johnson. It had a built in trolling motor and 2 sonars. I asked the salesman if I really needed a motor that big. He told me that a heavy fiberglass boat like this needed a big motor in order to properly perform. I did not want anyone to think I was at the river just to "ride around".

In 1996, sweet wifey and the dogs and I all moved to the river and we have been here ever since. I don't plan on ever leaving. My new Hydrasport bassboat is now 15 years old and on its second 115 horsepower outboard, a Mercury (my first Mercury ever). I am sure that if my daddy were still around, he would approve of my choice. I can go places now in the big boat that would have required an hour trip in the old Alumacraft and my Minnkota autopilot trolling motor is a set and forget machine, even in the wind. With every bass I catch I just know that my daddy is up there somewhere smiling.

I'm smiling! What's not to smile about?


  1. Your daddy was a sweetheart. I always hated that he never got to move to the river like he wanted. What a shame. In a way you are doing it for him. I'm glad we moved here, glad that you get to enjoy all of your many hobbies, fishing, music, ham radio, etc. I miss your daddy. In a way, you are a lot like him.

    Right Truth

  2. The best thing is that I moved here with you. All those things you mentioned would be nothing without your sweet smiling face.

  3. Thank you sweetie, I feel the same way. Nothing would be the same or right without you.