As adults we tend to reflect and reminisce over our favorite things- childhood toys, sports memorabilia signed by a favorite athlete, or a rock, shell or arrowhead collection. For me, it's my favorite old fishing rods, reels and lures. The minute we stumble upon these tangible objects, our minds are flooded with memories from our childhood. These flashbacks bring us back to the places and events that shaped us- things that made us laugh, made us smile, and made us appreciate the fun of growing up.
When feeling such nostalgia, I can blink and be transported to when I was 10 years old. I was introduced to fishing at an early age by my Dad, who introduced me to the saltwater through “snapper” fishing, and by my neighbor “Uncle Bud”, who was an avid fishermen. He would take me along whenever he was going fishing. My Dad, a police officer, worked crazy hours, and there were times he wasn’t around, but when he did have time, family was always a priority and fishing was part of the family time. With Uncle Bud, I fished from his boat for snapper blues, fluke, and crabs on the Carmans River. He also occasionally took me freshwater fishing on Yaphank Lake. I enjoyed all those fishing outings immensely.
Most of my early outings featured catching large quantities of “little fish”. But what really made
an impression on me was the fish my Dad and our neighbor Pete would catch from the beach, really big Stripers and Bluefish. Needless-to- say, I was chomping at the bit to get on the beach with them and catch some “real” fish. I clearly remember the day my dad finally introduced me to surf fishing. There I was, standing on the shore as a 10- year old kid with my Daiwa 8 ft rod, outfitted with a Daiwa Silver Series reel and 20 lb test mono. I will never forget that rod, or using it to catch my first fish from the surf. That fish was a mid-teens bluefish, and I remember the fight just as much as I remember that rod and reel.
I didn’t have waders then. My dad had bought me a pair of hip boots that I wore over a pair of jeans. Dad is an obsessive-compulsive guy when it comes to safety. He worried I would fall in the water with waders on, get dragged under, and drown. Probably was good that he worried, because as a kid, I always threw safety to the wayside. That fish really took me for a ride. My dad
held onto the belt loop of my jeans as I repeated “I can't do it, I can't bring him in!” Despite my doubts, I landed that fish that day and many more after that with that rod and reel, including my first Striped Bass, which I caught at a time when a decimated fishery made catching a Striper akin to winning the Super Bowl.
I didn’t throw many different lures back then as my dad thought we should keep it simple. He gave me lures he knew I could cast far enough off Smith Point County Park beach to reach the fish- a lot of metal lures, Hopkins, diamond jigs, etc. It was hard work, which is maybe why I really hate using them today it’s all I remember using as a youngster, but I did catch a lot of fish.
That first surf rod and reel are long gone, and I have been through many rods, reels, and lures since then, but the memories of personal fishing accomplishments, that certain equipment and those special lures- such as the ODM Rod and parrot Super Strike Darter used to catch my personal best Striped Bass- will last forever. The many good memories also include the people with me on those outings. To this day I still look at my lure boxes and see certain beat-up plugs with the scars of bluefish blitzes, and certain bucktails which have delivered many Striped Bass, and it sparks memories of those great days, and nights, of fishing. The sounds and smell of the surf also stir memories- the rough conditions, nights where I couldn’t do anything right, the big
fish break-offs, lost plugs, and massive bird's nests. Good or bad, it’s the memories that keep us coming back- because we love it.
Some may look at these things and see just the tackle, but for those of us who have fished, these things are hooked to memories of people, places, the fish that were fought, and the battles won and lost- the awesome times in our lives shared with great fishing friends and family, who share the same passion. So next time you pull out that rod, reel and lure think about the story it tells without even saying a word. Live Authentic! Live the Passion! Tight Lines!
Certified Fishing Guide with over 30 years of experience surfcasting the legendary waters of Long Island. He is well known for his informative seminars at saltwater shows in the Northeast. Bernie offers trips along the outer beaches and inlets of Long Island, as well as Cape Cod Canal, Cuttyhunk, and other Northeast Striper locations. He is a pro-team member for S&S Bucktails, ODM RODS, and KastKing, as well as a member of the Long Island Beach Buggy Association and the Montauk Surfcasters Association. You can contact Bernie on Facebook through Bernie Bass Surfcasting Services, on Instagram @Bernie_bass and through his website at https://www.berniebass.com/