A Rock And A Hard Place
Perch are such pretty fish, clean and lean, transitioning from dark green to fiery orange bellies and accented with wide black stripes. They hit your bait with a fighter’s punch. Sunfish are plentiful and they can turn their stiff wide bodies against the reel’s drag or water’s current to offer a fight that belies their size. Those pinched little mouths rarely take a hook so deep as to be a problem. Catfish usually don’t offer much of anything except a bit of sluggish action from a muddy pond or creek and even when they’ve gulped the hook deep, their ugliness makes cutting the line and tossing them ashore a matter of little concern. Bass of the sport variety slam the bait and run. In most cases you’ve set the hook before they pause to swallow it.
Rock bass are a special case. They’re all muscle, greed and gluttony. The bigger ones can fight like their more prized cousins and those blazing red eyes testify to their hellish fury. They may dart by and touch the bait, but when they’re ready, whatever is on the end of that hook is usually destined for their gut. They’ll go for spinner baits like most sport fish, but when you’re 10 and out fishing with your Dad, it’s hook line and sinker time and the bait is always worms.
There is no fish that can cause more heartache or remorse than rock bass. Their shape and colouration, their habits and their heart all combine to declare that they belong there among the weeds or lurking beneath the dock. Few fish so fit their environment, have given pleasure to generations of young anglers, or filled the bellies of so many larger sport fish. Yet they can be so damn greedy.
Even the knot that secured the hook is barely visible in the depth of that maw.
Parents tell their kids that the brain is too small, the nervous system too primitive for the creature to feel pain. Then why does it fight so? Why does the eye stare like that? Every youngster who’s hooked one of these has tried to remove the hook, turned and twisted from every direction, hoping that something will break free without too much damage, too much blood.
My Dad taught that you have to deal with the disasters you create and the best way to deal with them is quickly. When you make a mess, you’re obliged to clean it up. A swift blow is usually the best way to end it. For both the fish and the fisherman, a rock and a hard place will serve to symbolize and to end the ordeal.