By Curt Niedermier
For the most part, square-bill crankbaits are snag-free. They bounce and clang off stumps and laydowns and continue right through on their path, assuming I give them a little guidance if they get into thick cover. But my last time on the water, it seemed I was finding all kinds of intersting bottom content, most of which I wish wasn't there, with square-bill crankbait.
I hauled in a 3-ounce bank sinker with about 15 yards of thick braided line, I'm guessing somewhere around 100-pound test. I also hooked what I think was a sandbag made of thick plastic material somewhat like a tarp. That one was fun because I ended up shoulder-deep in the water trying not to hook myself or break off a $15 lure to get it back.
A few weeks ago I was fishing a ledge that was about 10 feet deep on top in the middle of Kentucky Lake. I was dragging a junebug 10-inch worm, which is essentially a purple worm. With it, I snagged a 10-inch purple worm and a few feet of line. The worm sat in my boat for a few days, and after it dried out, it became clear it was most definitely a junebug worm. Apparently I had not found a secret lure or area.
Once at Pickwick, I reeled in a pair of boxer shorts. Seriously. As if I couldn't get enough ribbing from my fishing partners for catching the fewest fish, I had to find a pair of boxers. They were, not surprisingly, in the water beneath a rope swing. My guess is an unlucky rope swinger didn't have his shorts tied on very well.
My favorite experience with hooking strange underwater objects was while riding along with Castrol pro David Dudley during practice for the 2007 Forrest Wood Cup at Lake Ouachita. Dudley was cranking with a Norman Lures DD22 he had used to win about $200,000 throughout his career. He had hung it a couple of times but managed to get it back easily. He told me that day that if he won the tournament -- he had a school of fish pegged that would bite the crankbait every time in a spot he dubbed the "million-dollar hole" -- he was going to retire the lure for good. Of course, he had to make it through the tournament without losing it. About midway through the day, he stuck something solid. His lure knocker failed to get it lose, and all forms of wiggling, jiggling and snapping of the rod did little to knock it free. Finally, Dudley shed his shirt and jumped overboard.
It turns out David Dudley is either a fantastic swimmer with a track-star set of lungs, or he was really attached to that crankbait. He stayed underwater forever, following the line down to the bottom in about 16 feet of water. When he finally emerged, all I saw was a potato sack, rocks, Dudley's face and that crankbait, hooked smack in the middle of the sack. His nephew, who was with him at the time, grabbed an armful of his uncle and another armful of potato sack while I scrambled for the camera -- don't worry, the pro was in no real danger.
Afterward, I found out this was the third time Dudley had been forced to dive to the bottom for his favorite crankbait during practice for that one tournament. At cabelas.com, a DD22 sells for $4.99. Dudley has earned more than $2.4 million in his FLW Outdoors career. He could have afforded another one (or used one of the many others he had in the boat), but some crankbaits are special. And as long as there are random things in the bottom of lakes across the country to snag, it's likely Dudley will be bringing along the swim trunks while on tour.
By the way, one of the photos I took ran in the November-December 2007 Bass Edition of FLW Outdoors Magazine in the Fishing Exposed department.