This section is from the book "American Game Fishes", by W. A. Perry. Also available from Amazon: American Game Fishes: Their Habits, Habitat, and Peculiarities; How, When, and Where to Angle for Them.
If the descriptions of the appearance and habits of the Black Bass by the authors of the angling-books before mentioned are so brief or inexact, what do they say as to the methods of angling for this grand game-fish?
Brown says: "He is angled for in the usual way, and with the same arrangement of tackle as the Striped Bass or Salmon; and with some enthusiastic western sportsmen is thought to give more amusement than either. But the most active and exciting mode of pursuit is with the trolling-rod and boat." His Buffalo correspondent treats briefly and vaguely of still-fishing with minnows and crawfish.
Another one states that: "The most beautiful mode of angling for them known, is trolling either with live bait or an artificial fly of large size and gay appearance," and gives the formula for the "fly," as follows: "Body of a peacock feather, wings of bright scarlet kerseymere and white pigeon feathers; or, the feather stripped from a white goose-quill, and wound round like the hackle, and surmounted with thin strips of scarlet for wings." Shades of Cotton!
In a later edition of Brown's book, a Detroit correspondent says: "The modes of taking this delicious fish are by trolling, and still-fishing with the rod and reel," and gives very good, but short descriptions of these methods of fishing, as then practiced.
Herbert throws no additional light on the subject, but after quoting the same correspondents as Brown, states in addition: "A friend of my own has killed many of this fine Bass with a large red hackle, with a gold tinsel body, and also with a green-tailed grannam."
Roosevelt, as before stated, is the only author mentioned who writes intelligently of Black-Bass fishing. He says: "They will take minnows, shiners, grasshoppers, frogs, worms, or almost anything else that can be called a bait.
They may be captured by casting the fly as for Salmon or Trout, and this is by far the most sportsman-like way, but the most destructive and usually resorted to is trolling." But, unfortunately, the only personal description of Black Bass fishing he gives is by trolling with large flies.
The only experience related by Norris is this: "I have taken this Bass in the vicinity of St. Louis, on a moonshiny night, by skittering a light spoon over the surface of the water, while standing on the shore."
Scott devotes just three lines to Black Bass fishing: "This fish is taken by casting the artificial fly, or by trolling with the feathered spoon, with a minnow impaled on a gang of hooks, and forming spinning tackle."
In the light of the present literature of the Black Bass, these antiquated ideas are quite amusing, while in the matter of tools and tackle they seem very crude when contrasted with our present light and comely bait-rods and fly-rods, to say nothing of improved reels, lines, and hooks.
But while these Nestors of the gentle art were recommending Salmon rods, and Striped Bass rods and heavy trolling-rods for a fish they knew nothing or very little about, prac-ticallv, the true Black Bass fishers of the then West and Southwest were using light cane rods, Kentucky reels, and the smallest sea-grass lines. They knew nothing of Salmon, Striped Bass, or trolling rods, and had no use for them had they known them.
More than thirty years ago I saw anglers in Kentucky and Southern Ohio using natural cane rods, ten feet long and weighing but a few ounces (much lighter, in fact, than any trout fly-rod then in vogue), with Frankfort reels affixed by grooved metal reel-seats to these native cane rods. This gave me my first idea of short and light bait-rods for Black Bass fishing.
Until a few months before this, as a boy in Baltimore, I had used similar jointed cane rods, of my own construction, for White Perch and small Striped Bass in the Patapsco River, and for Brook Trout in the mountain streams of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. From this idea was gradually evolved, some ten years later, the "Henshall" Black Bass rod, eight and a quarter feet long, and eight ounces in weight. Up to this time there were no jointed rods to be had of less than twelve feet in length, (except the heavy Striped Bass rods), or weighing less than fifteen ounces.
Lighter rods suggested and demanded lighter and smaller lines and improved reels, so that at the present day we have implements and tackle for Black-Bass fishing as light and comely, as elegant and suitable as those for Brook Trout fishing; and it is in the use of such tools that the full enjoyment of Black-Bass fishing is realized.