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The Heart of a Bank Fisherman
Posted by Walker Smith on Thu, Jan 17, 2013 @ 08:00 AM
Photos and Article by Walker Smith
I remember it just like it was yesterday. The sound of dust-filled gravel gargling beneath the almost-bald tires of my dad’s 1952 Chevrolet. The ear piercing screech of the rusted cattle gait swinging open. The smell of cow manure, viewed repulsive by most, filling my lungs and tying my stomach in knots of excitement. We’d crest the small ridge of the 60-acre pasture, swerving between curious calves and protective bulls, and finally, after we’d idle past the rustic hay barn on our left, there it was—my family’s sanctuary.
It was the place that shed us of our worries and allowed us to follow in the footsteps of our forefathers. The one place we could go where we didn’t have to worry about my ailing grandparents, my book report I turned in late or my dad’s extensive travel schedule that took him away from us all too often. It was a Sunday staple throughout my childhood summers—J.P. Wallis’ farm pond.
We never caught any giants out of the 2-acre pond—just the occasional 2-pound bass, a hand-sized bluegill or a nasty catfish. But that was never the point for us. No matter how slow the fishing was, my family and I never left the farm feeling empty handed. It was about the family time, the laughing and the much needed catching up. As we would sit on the squeaky tailgate of dad’s truck and patiently watch our gas station bobbers as the Georgia summer sun rested atop the tall pines, we were happy. We were content.
Fast forward twenty-something years to a time much different, to a time void of childhood simplicity. Old man J.P. has long since passed, I’ve grown up and left my hometown and book reports are the least of my worries. I am doing what I love, constantly surrounded by the newest tackle trends, the fastest boats and the latest and greatest in fancy fishing equipment. I’ve also been blessed enough to share both informative and touching moments with some of the more influential folks in the fishing industry, which brings me to my point.
I was on the road with Wired2Fish president Terry Brown recently and he said something that struck me. Something that, for some inexplicable reason, actually choked me up a bit—“Bank fishermen have a special place in Heaven.”
It hit me pretty hard. As many of us are idling around with fancy electronics looking for schools of big bass, there is someone, somewhere sitting patiently. They don’t know if there are any fish beneath their bait. They couldn’t even begin to tell you what action their rod is, what it’s made of or if it has a parabolic bend. And you know what? That’s incredible to me. It’s awesome.
The heart of a bank fisherman is that of contentment. The same content feeling that overwhelmed my mind as a young boy watching bobbers with my loved ones. These pioneers cannot simply pick up the trolling motor and move onward in search of better waters. They stick it out through the good, the bad and the ugly. Bank fishermen deal with what they’ve been dealt—none of the fancy equipment, just raw instinct and passed on knowledge from grandfathers, grandmothers and local legends.
Bank fishermen have ankles of steel, conditioned to withstand the pain of standing on uneven banks in search of the fish of a lifetime. With calloused hands and optimistic minds, these anglers brave the elements—the thorn bushes, the poison ivy, the summer mosquitoes—to find their inner peace and leave their everyday worries behind.
These anglers don’t have sponsorships, fiberglass bass boats or tackle boxes full of expensive tackle. Maybe their only fishing equipment is what their grandfather used to catch his first bass. As the diehard bass anglers scream past them in their sparkly bass boats, these folks are the first ones to raise a hand, crack a friendly smile and say hello. It isn’t a competition to them—only a deep, binding brotherhood spurred by a shared passion and reverence for the creatures we seek.
If you’re anything like me, it’s been far too long since you’ve dusted off the lawn chairs and simply watched bobbers with your loved ones. Instead of hooking up your bass boat this weekend, consider an alternative approach. Grab your kids, significant other or even a few buddies and buy a Styrofoam bucket full of minnows. Listen to the sounds. Smell the air. Look at the sky. Relax. Talk and laugh with old friends.
Maybe your bobber goes under, maybe it doesn’t. Try to forget about the fish for an afternoon, enjoy the outdoors and be content. You’ll find it to be a revival of sorts, and you may be surprised at just how good it feels. As we venture into 2013, a year already filled with political and economic turmoil, I encourage you to take a lesson from this special breed of outdoorsman. Embrace simplicity, put aside your worries and find your special place in Heaven this year.
Glad you enjoyed fishing as a kid growing up as uch as I did taking you. It is gratifying for your mom and me to see that it had a positive impact on you. You can't go wrong loving nature and enjoying the great outdoors. We are proud you are giving back and passing it forward.
Your bank fishing Dad!
Posted @ Thursday, January 17, 2013 8:22 AM by Robert Smith
Man did that bring back memories!!! Well over 30 years ago I was doing the same thing only it was the 70's and most people in my small town only heard of fishing from the bank or a small row boat, nothing like what is available now. The reel of choice was the old Mitchell 300 and 308 and just about every rod was fiberglass as the new graphite rods still weren't available at the local 5&10 store. Great read, and thank you for that, those memories need to surface once in awhile.
Posted @ Thursday, January 17, 2013 8:37 AM by Dan Daskus
I love bank fishing,have been doing it for almost 50 years. 95% of the fishing I do is from the bank!
Posted @ Thursday, January 17, 2013 9:04 AM by Mary Keener
Great read, most of us started on a bank somewhere. Myself, my brother, and a select number of friends are dead serious about it. We pack high quality equipment. Bank fishing allows us to hit all kinds of water off limit to boating. New and hard to reach places. It's kind of like camping, in a sense, and I'd like to ask all to please bring out more than you bring in. Seeing others trash lying around is a disgrace to our sport.
Posted @ Thursday, January 17, 2013 2:04 PM by The Great Scott
Thank you Walker. I'm going to save this article and give it to my boys (8 & 2) when they get older.
Posted @ Friday, January 18, 2013 7:55 AM by JP Armstrong
I am still on the banks, and loading docks. Its nice to know that some people dont look down on bank fishermen.
Posted @ Friday, January 18, 2013 8:13 AM by
I'm a bank fisherman and I've found my "heaven".
Thanks Walker, Mr.Smith and Terry for that very moving article.
Posted @ Friday, January 18, 2013 5:34 PM by A J Faria
I was and still am that little boy on the bank. I remeber when my dad got his first boat and as a youngerster thinking that now I can get to the middle where the big fish are. I was in heaven as he fired it up and we took off tearing around the big pond.(Lake) What I didnt know then I know now. It wasnt the boat that made my heart skip it was the time with my father. I would give a million dollars just to have one of those days back siting next to him fishing. He has MS and we havent been since he was told he had it over ten years ago. But I have those bank days to hold on to. Love you Bruce Redding and thank you for all that I am. Thanks WIRED2FISH for just a moment of peace and a thought of the good ole days.
Posted @ Tuesday, January 22, 2013 6:48 PM by Sarge(Jason Redding)
Amazing article! Reminds me of my dad and I for sure!
Posted @ Tuesday, January 22, 2013 7:32 PM by
Yes cant we all rember are first trip fishing on the bank not a boat!
Posted @ Wednesday, January 23, 2013 10:36 AM by
What a sensitive and beautifully written article! Almost makes me want to give up gardening and get a cane pole. Do you remember how your Mimi loved to fish? She would be begging you to take her so you could untangle her line. She would be very proud of you.
Posted @ Monday, January 28, 2013 12:00 PM by Louise Demetriou
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