Bass fishing usually requires a fishing pole, but there are other ways, and that is what this story is about. A warning though: The techniques described here are almost certainly illegal wherever you go fishing. They were fun when we were kids though...
Bass Fishing From A Raft
Wilsey Bay in Michigan's Upper Peninsula is known for its good smallmouth bass fishing. The swimming isn't that bad either, which was why we built the raft. My friend Bruce was probably the oldest at the time, about twelve-years-old. It was probably his idea to use the oil barrels for flotation. Four of them, topped by some wooden pallets and plywood nailed together, made a raft that could support seven or eight people.
We anchored it in the middle of the bay. It is a shallow bay, so the middle was still only six feet deep or so. This would be our swimming area, but more than that. We started to bring small trees out and sink them with milk jugs full of sand and pieces of cinder blocks. Of course, we didn't know that it was illegal to build an artificial environment for fish. In fact, we didn't know that this was what we were doing. We built walls of rocks underwater as well.
Within a few weeks there were schools of fish hanging out below our raft in the racks and tree branches. There were some perch, but most of them were smallmouth bass. As we watched then swimming below us, and then as we watched them next to us during our dives. I had an idea. Who needs a fishing pole when you can get this close to the fish?
Bruce kept the bucket ready in the boat, which was tied to the raft. I had one fishhook and three feet of line. I tied the hook to one end of the line and tied the other end to my finger. I treaded water while Bruce baited the hook with half of a worm. He threw the line over the edge of the boat.
Swimming by the trees, I simply let the baited hook float alongside me, trying to hold it out from my body a couple feet. I could only hold my breath for a minute or less, but by the second dive a ten-inch bass darted out of the tree branches and took the bait. I swam to the boat and lifted it up for Bruce to take. Just barely legal - or at least it would have been if it weren't for the trees. Then again, maybe a fishing pole is a legal requirement. Bruce threw it in the bucket and I went back down for more.
Perch Fishing By Hand
The little creek that enters the bay was occasionally stopped by the sand that built up during storms. Then the water would build up behind the sand for days until it broke loose and opened up the stream again. We didn't always wait, however. Once there was sufficient water pressure, a simple channel dug through the sand by hand, from the dammed creek to the bay, was enough to get it going. It would start out slowly, and then, within an hour the creek would be gushing out into the bay, twenty-feet across where our three-inch channel had been.
Since the creek rarely flowed this fast normally, other things happened that weren't normal. The fish that had been in the creek behind the dam would all get flushed out, for example. The day of the "perch flush" the creek had opened up almost thirty-feet wide, but only a few inches deep. As the perch came out, we grabbed them by hand until we had a couple dozen in a bucket. We built a pond on the beach for these, since it was too many to eat all at once.
Other Childish Fishing Techniques
We caught smelt one at a time by hand with a flashlight, as many as forty in a hour or two. We shamelessly clubbed suckers in the creek ad brought them to the neighbor. She would pressure-cook them with ketchup, and they came out looking and tasting almost like canned salmon. Half for herself - that was the charge for cooking them for us.
Whether bass fishing without a pole or clubbing suckers, these are probably not techniques you'll want to try unless you want to meet the local game warden. And I do have to warn you that the last time I tried using just a hook and a piece of line, the fish bit my thumb and drew blood. Yes, I may be the only person to ever had blood drawn by the bite of a smallmouth bass. But it is fun to remember how much fun childhood fishing could be.