My first memories of fishing were on the Mighty Mo with my parents and brother from the bank near Ponca, Nebraska. Not much was being caught, just a few carp and skipjack, using varieties of corn, worm, and ivory soap. Not much stands out from this experience since I was a kid with limited patience when I wasn’t catching anything. A few other trips seem to stand out more, like catching sunfish with a bare hook at gavins point, or blue gills fishing at the Landfill ponds near Jackson, Nebraska. But I still lacked something in fishing that I didn’t find until recently that I do believe discouraged me from fishing more often thru my teen years.
Fast forward to 2008, after I met Drew Hackett. Drew was camping in the Little Sioux Park just outside of Correctionville, Iowa, with his family. His wife, Kim, and my wife, Kristi, have been friends for years, and received an invite to come out and go camping and fishing, sort of a dual family outing. So I purchased a weekend fishing license before the venture, and gave the old hobby a try. Sitting next to Drew at the lake, asking him questions about technique and bait choices, I started to learn how to get the catfish. Drew’s friendship and willing to share techniques had sparked a new-found interest into fishing.
The following week I purchased a yearly license and went solo. While the catching was still decent, it didn’t have the same appeal that fishing with my buddy had. Luckily a friend from work, Vince Verzani, was big into fishing area farm ponds after work hours, so a bond was formed while I learned from him on how to fish for bass. These ponds were under-fished and over populated, which helped hook me into this sport. Seemed like almost everything I learned from Vince would land me a few fish at these ponds, however that didn’t stop us from tweaking our techniques and lures choices to trigger more bites and more trophy bass. This continued for the rest of the open water season that year and into the next spring.
Things were changing in Vince’s life to limit his time from fishing, so I adopted a new fishing partner, Blake Van Peursum. While Blake didn’t get out as much as Vince did, he still ventured out atleast 2-3 times a month to hit some farm ponds with me. During the week, I would scout new areas and lures, and update Blake with the information I had learned, and we would slaughter the ponds. At times, I could remember thinking to myself that fishing cannot be this easy. Sharing photos of heft catches on facebook would render the same comments; “private pond?” or “farm pond?”. Comments like those made me feel like I was enjoying the forbidden fruit, a guilty pleasure so to say…. Guilty pleasures or not, the amazing fishing made me learn more about myself and my techniques that I ever thought I would know.
Just like every season end, I had packed everything up for the winter, only to begin the long wait wishing for spring thaw. That’s when Blake told me how much fun trout release was at Bacon Creek during ice season, and invited me out. So a trip to Bomgaars and Scheels, and I was set. Little did I know how cold it gets on the ice without a shack and proper clothing. I didn’t catch a single trout that day, but I learned how important it is to dress warm, as well as how much fun ice fishing can be due to the social aspect of it.
About a month later, Drew invited me out for their annual ice fishing outing. Properly dressed this time, I gave it another shot and was hooked instantly once I learned how to jig. Learning a set of patterns that worked on the blue gills that day, I suddenly started catching fish left and right! I remember hollering at Drew and Tim about the pattern, and it was an instant success for them as well. Just an overly dressed man sitting on a bucket in the middle of the lake, enjoying pulling small fish from a 6 inch hole in the ice. Luckily the strep throat that swept over me later that day didn’t deter me from future ice fishing ventures, I was hooked!
I could keep rambling about stories of chasing perch and walleye up at Okoboji, or tales about crappie fishing in Smithland, but the common denominator in most of my stories are fishing with a buddy. Your buddies will give you the edge in catching fish by trying different lures and techniques, narrowing down what works in a shorter amount of time. Even when fishing is slow, fishing with your buddy seems to make the day a little better. So next time you decide to venture out, call up your buddy, sibling, parent, child, or significant other, and start trying new things. I know I wouldn’t be half the fisherman I claim to be without the help of my “buddy”.