There was a lot of cigarette smoke swirling around the bait shop 11 years ago as I carefully twisted 220 pound wire around a black swivel. Bob, one of the regulars, had been telling fishing stories of the old days at Nauset beach, while simultaneously puffing his cigarette.
I didn’t mind the smoke though. I was a 14 year old fisherman, eager to put big bass in the boat, and I could certainly use any tidbit of information I could get. I sat there quietly at the table, breathed in the second hand smoke, and continued rigging up red and orange tubes
“I guess the bass are stacked like cordwood on the Ledge,” muttered Bob, in his signature scratchy voice.
“That explains why the tubes have been flying off the shelves,” chimed in Jim, the co-owner of One Shot Bait and Tackle.
Hearing the news about fish stacked up on the Ledge made me more eager than ever to get out of the shop. I still had to rig up two dozen more tubes and count six flats of sandworms before I had any chance of getting on the water. So I did the only thing I could do, and picked up the pace.
I was nearly finished with the day’s quota of tubes when a gentleman walked into the shop dragging a massive fish. The bass was a monster, and pulled the shop’s scale to 42 pounds. I did not know the angler who caught it, although I remembered him purchasing a tube and a dozen worms earlier that morning.
“The stripers are everywhere,” he said. “I’ll let you in on the trick. The fish are only hitting 24 inch long red tubes, but don’t tell anyone.”
The man spoke as if he had discovered some top secret technique. He did not realize that we had been weighing big fish all weekend, and that each jumbo bass had been caught on a 24 inch long red tube. Jim, Bob and I kept our mouths shut, and let the fisherman have his 15 minutes.
Throughout all of this I had not stopped working, and only had a handful of tubes to go before I could move onto the six flats of worms-I was chomping at the bit and the end of my shift was near. But as soon as the man turned and looked in my direction my heart sank. I knew what he was going to ask.
“Oh son, while you are at it, I’ll take six more red ones. I lost my fair share to those damn lobster pots.”
I handed the man a half dozen of the newly rigged red 24 inchers. Thanks to the lobster pots I was now an additional six more tubes away from getting home, and out to the fish.
Cow bass routinely fall victim to the deadly tube and worm.
The fisherman took the tubes and made his way to the register. Jim sold him another couple dozen sandworms, a spool of lead core and some sunscreen. The man took his bag of goodies, grabbed his forty pound bass by the gills and made his way to the door.
But before he left the fisherman turned around, and with a puzzled look on his face asked, “What in the hell do you think these damn tubes imitate?”
I looked over at Jim, who looked over at Bob, who then took a deep suck of nicotine before answering-“I have no idea.”
“Well who cares, they sure do catch fish!” said the man. He turned again, walked to his truck and drove away.
“Nice answer Bob,” said Jim in a sarcastic tone.