A fellow with a handful of rods and a beat up tackle box ambled through while Bear and I studied the map. The stranger and I looked at each other like a couple of strange dogs and he and Bear exchanged nods.
"Who's that?" I asked later.
"Buck Perry. Thought ever'body knew him. Only man I ever saw who could catch fish on dry land."
Buck was out on the dock stowing gear in his boat. Lanky, sunburned, be-speckled - he looked like a cross between a Tarheel mountaineer and a Cracker farmer.
Bob Lang talks about a "dropoff" the way Julia Child talks abut her chopping board, in fact the similarity between Lang the fishing expert and Child the French chef continues in other fields. Each speaks a language the inexpert can understand and learn from. And they both have nothing but disdain for malpractice in their respective crafts.
Lang has finally found a way to do what most good anglers dream some day of doing . . . finding a way to make a living In the business of fishing. Bob Lang actually joined the ranks of the unemployed, a craft union to which most writers also aspire some three years ago when he began building and selling the now-famous and still-productive Balder single-spin bass lure. The business eventually outgrew the kitchen of 'his Ingleside home and today it is housed in different quarters on the shore of Lake Marie, where Lang has established the Bob Lang Fishing Center.
Fishermen apparently approve of Lang's philosophy, for they have made his Fishing Center an unofficial "headquarters" since its opening this spring. Part of the reason for this is the fact that Lang's team entry in the recent Sport Fishing Unlimited Tournament in early May finished several lengths in front of the second place team to draw the $1,000 first prize. Since Lang's team consisted of himself, plus experts Harold Smiley, Joe Wascow and Gene Wasserberg, visiting fishermen are thinking in the right direction when they hang around Lang's for fish information...because Wascow, Smiley, and Wasserberg also hang around the place.
The fishing Center has the things that are important to the fisherman, of course, boat rentals ($3.75 per day for Starcraft 14-footers), motor rentals, lures, fishing tackle, live bait and good food. And it also has the idea that the more you can teach your fisherman customer, the more often he'll return and become a better customer. In short, at the Fishing Center, the word is o u t...it is never a secret where the fish are, or what they are doing; nor is what other fishermen are doing to catch fish sacred information.
Lang, his wife and offspring who help operate the place, are real "loose lips" when it comes to fishing information. For example, Lang quotes: In Lake Marie (where the Fishing Center is located), and in Channel and Catherine in the adjacent Chain of Lakes, the large mouth bass are just finishing up on the spawning beds and will be moving back into the deeper water in the coming week. Meanwhile, bass fishermen should be working the shorelines with small Raider spinner lures, plastic worms and live nite crawlers. In a week or so, the bass will be moving back out to the drop-offs in 5 to 8 feet of water where you win be casting the same lures, except fishing them deeper ... once you locate the drop-offs.
Crappies in the Chain of Lakes are still biting, their favorite seems to be the "Yumtnie" jig, dressed with a minnow. The difference between the boats that are catching crappies and the ones that are simply minding bobbers is this: Make sure the minnow is lively and keep him active by twitching the bobber, let the water calm as the hook swings, and then twitch it again. You won't get many fish just starting at the bobber. Weed worms on the tiny "Yumtinie" jig are also working well. The crappies, like the bass, will likely be moving but to deeper, six to eight foot waters, in a week or so and will be a little more difficult to catch.
The bluegills are moving into the shorelines, and as always, they are a sucker for a redworm, Just as it is with crappies, fish the hook about 18 to 24 inches below the bobber and keep it active. And use a light three or four pound leader.
Northern Pike in the Chain of Lakes are just starting to pick up. The first anglers to find them consistently have been the Spoonpluggers, trolling the number 250 Spoonplug at five to seven feet, just ticking the underwater humps. Spoonplugs are best in the green, yellow or plain yellow. (Copper on cloudy days.)
Striper fishing is a little slow, and walleyes are spotty, but big when taken. Lang reported seeing three five pound walleyes this week alone and all three were taken on a trolled Lindy Rig with a live nite crawler in less than three feet of water (I don't know what they are doing there either, but they're there.) The bad news of the Chain, of course, is that the carp are heavy in the shallows now and stirring up the beds.
Lang's Fishing Center is open from dawn to dark during the week and is open from Friday mornings around the clock, 24 hours a day, over the weekends and holidays. Another innovation of the Bob Lang Fishing Center is the combination guide service and instruction trips. Lang said: "We take our customers on a one day fishing trip, but we aren't simply guides who take them to a hot-spot. We explain exactly what we're doing, where we're going and why. Our hope is that after one day in the Fleet Headquarters guide boat, the customer can catch fish strictly on his own, merely checking with us once in a while to find out what the latest information is.
Lang also reported that Spoonplugging expert Terry O'Malley is available at the Fishing Center for Spoonplug structure fishing trips.
Information on what's happening is free anytime and you simply pick up the phone and dial 395-0112. Or drop by for firsthand information and supplies. You reach Bob Lang's Fishing Center by driving on route 173 west of Antioch two miles . . . turn left (south) at Locust Avenue and follow the signs to the lake front.
A big "Thanks" to Illinois Spoonplugger Jim Duplex for sending me this one. The cover of Buck's little booklet, "A Spoonplugging Lesson," is actually a picture of Buck and golf legend Bobby Jones which was taken from a story that appeared in the December 1954 issue of Outdoor Life, Another Grand Slam For Bobby Jones by Charles Elliott.