I remember a lot about fishing with my dad when I was little. I remember watching his big, calloused hands tie delicate knots to small copper colored hooks. I would try and sit patiently while he threaded an uncooperative worm onto the hook and then clasped a small red and white bobber to the line. He would swing the long line behind his back and then swiftly cast the entire awkward collection out onto the water. It would plop as everything hit the water. I remember his dirty and worn tackle box, stuffed with lures, hooks, line, and powerbait.
As a kid, I think powerbait almost defines fishing. Its smell is unique and easily discerned, and stays on your hands and everything you touch long after you have attempted to wash it away multiple times. The small yellow jars with the screw top lids contain brilliant colors of pink, orange, green, and sometimes blends of two colors sprinkled with glitter. And it lasts forever! I sometimes think that the jars in my dad’s tackle box now are the same ones from those trips so many years ago.
So, when I started fishing more seriously as an adult, I always shied away from using powerbait. Powerbait said “kid fishing” all over it. I tended to think of powerbait as my dad’s way of buying time to fish for himself when my sister and I were along for the trip. I don’t recall having many bites with powerbait, and if I did manage to pull a fish in it always seemed small. I quickly decided that if my dad was ready to help me catch a fish he added a worm to the end of my pole. If he needed me to be patient while he fished for a while he added powerbait. Powerbait had a bad rap with me, but that has since changed.
This past Fourth of July weekend, my family ventured to the high country for lake fishing. I haven’t been very successful the last few fishing trips I have been on. The days have been slow and the fish few and far between. A couple of weekends ago, I even went to a lake known for its abundance of stockers and threw in a worm. I actually went home not only empty handed but completely biteless. It was a long day. I didn’t have much expectation for this trip either.
Upon our arrival to the lake, I heard many stories from other campers that the fishing was hot. The weather, however, was not as positive as the fishing appeared to be. The mornings opened with strong, blue, cloudless skies, but the afternoons quickly developed into dark storms filled with heavy rains and lightning. The afternoon fishing for the first day was quiet and slow. After spending a few hours trolling just off the shores of the lake, we docked the boat as large clouds rolled over the mountain tops and settled above our camp. The storm lasted a few hours and was intense.
My sister insisted we head out immediately following the storm’s departure. It was cold and still quite gloomy, but she kept talking about the great fishing she knew that was waiting in the calm after the storm. We had our doubts, but followed her to the boat.
My dad, having missed the afternoon fishing session, opened his tackle box and prepared his line. He pulled out that familiar yellow jar, two hooks, and a small weight.
“Dad, serious fishing here!” I said, pointing to the powerbait with disapproval.
He had spoken to some of the other camps and they said powerbait was the secret to the lake. They instructed him to set-up two hooks below his weight: one with a worm, and the other with a ball of powerbait. Hesitation definitely set in for me. It was, after all, powerbait.
Despite my inner critic to the situation, I followed suit and set my pole up the same way. I assumed the powerbait from his tackle box was the same jar from my childhood. However, within the hour, I had two beautiful rainbow trout and a cut-bow on the stringer. The rest of the stringer was filled with equally large, beautiful fish from the rest of the boat. Some bites were on the worm and some were on the powerbait. I don’t know if it was my sister’s insistence on the calm after the storm, the combination of the worm and powerbait on one line, or just a joke on me that powerbait is the ultimate trout lure, but that was some of the best trout fishing I have ever experienced.
And, after that weekend, I actually have to buy more powerbait to keep in my tackle box. You know, just in case I need it.