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The Occasional Fisherman: The adventure of Bunk and his new fish finder
Ernie Mitchell
Ernie Mitchell writes about fishing for the Bryan County News

A few columns ago, I put out the request for reader’s personal accounts of their fishing events similar to Bill Dance’s bloopers.

My buddy Bunk answered the call.

Here is his first person account: “I grew up fishing in southwest Georgia in the early 60’s before the evolution of bass boats with high-powered engines and super-competitive fishing tournaments. Being on a quiet body of water enjoying Mother Nature’s splendor was pure contentment.

And catching a few fish added just the right amount of excitement. However, last winter I decided to take a small step toward joining those elite professional fishermen by purchasing a fish finder for my little john boat and adding drive-on guides to my boat trailer.

Proud of my new upgrades, I could not wait to get out on the water. I thought to myself, ‘Yes sir, I have just purchased my golden ticket to fishing success.’ “As I pulled away from the marine dealer with my new gear, I began feeling a little sorry for those poor fish that appeared on my fish finder because the odds would now be tilted squarely, maybe even unfairly, in my favor. In late February the weather turned warm and seemed the perfect time to try out my new gear. I live a short ride away from the Evans County Public Fishing Area near Daisy, so I decided to give the bass a try at Lake Sands. Lake Sands is just over 80 acres and offers a variety of fish cover. I would only need my trolling motor, no outboards are allowed, so I made sure my boat battery was fully charged.

“From the shallow, stumpy upper lake area to deeper open water around the dam, clumps of lily pads and grass around the edges also looked promising. After launching my boat I used my trolling motor to ease around the lake edge while I cast a shallow running crankbait around lily pads and tree roots. Nothing happened so I headed out into the deeper water in the middle of the lake. I turned on my fish finder and was mesmerized by the rainbow of contrasting colors depicting the lake-bottom contours and tree stumps which you would never realize were there without the miracle of a fish finder. I switched to a deeper running bait that mimicked a shad. I fished for several minutes noting how the wind was gradually rising and causing a pretty good ripple on the water.

“Drifting along after an impressively long cast, I felt a sharp tug on the end of my line and my rod bent double. ‘Wow,’ I thought, ‘this fish feels like a monster.’ “Almost instantly I realized I was hung, probably on a stump. At this point the wind was blowing right down the center of the lake at around 10 mph. My boat was being pushed away from the spot where I was hung. I tried every trick I knew to unhang my lure but it was stuck solid.

“‘No problem,’ I thought, just step on the trolling motor pedal and go get my plug off the stump.

“I stepped on the pedal … nothing. Wait, what’s wrong, my trolling motor worked fine a few seconds ago. The wind was blowing the boat further from my hung-up bait and I was having to gradually let out line to keep from breaking it off. So, I pick up a paddle and start paddling furiously toward my lure barely making headway against what suddenly seemed like storm force breezes. Every once in while I would stop and reel up a little slack line but with the wind working against me I made very little progress. I noticed I was beginning to perspire heavily and my arms ached. It made me wonder what would give out first — my out-of-shape muscles or my 68-year-old heart. Finally, after making almost no headway for about 8 or 10 strenuous moments, I just gripped the handle of my rod tightly until with a loud snap, my line broke making me almost fall over backwards. I thought, ‘Dang it, it will cost me 8 or 9 bucks to replace that bait.’ “The money suddenly seemed inconsequential as I realized I was on a crash course for the opposite bank from where I put in.

It was then I noticed there was one other fisherman in a kayak at the protected upper end of the lake. I wondered how much of my pitiful efforts he had witnessed and how hard he was probably laughing. I kept fidgeting with the foot pedal of the trolling motor convinced that some electrical switch in the motormechanism had gone bad over the winter.

“I feverishly tried to fix the problem by repeating the same steps over and over hoping for a different outcome that would miraculously bring the trolling motor to life. Intent on the job at hand I let the boat drift until… THUD!

“My awareness snapped back to my surroundings.

My boat was lodged against the opposite bank of the lake. Well, it seemed that things couldn’t get much worse so I went to the back of the boat and looked in the battery compartment.

All the connections looked fine and my fish finder was still working so it wasn’t a dead battery issue.

“‘Oh well, I just have to paddle back across the lake into that stiff breeze,’ I resolved. I sat there a moment gazing across the lake. The distance was only a quarter mile or so across but the wind and rippling waves made it seem about four times that far. I picked up the paddle and gave it a few strokes.

“Again the arms began to ache and the sweat started to pour. I couldn’t afford to rest, wipe away sweat or pause lest I give up precious headway. Every now and then I would sneak a peek at the guy in the kayak who had to be wondering why I chose to paddle all around the windiest part of the lake. After what seemed like eternity, I got out of the wind. I got the boat on the trailer only to be chased by wasps that lived in one of the hollow metal pilings.

After finally hauling the boat out of the water and safely away from all wasp nests I just had to take one more look in the battery compartment. All the connections still looked firmly connected to the battery.

Despite appearances, I gave the battery wing-nuts a slight twist which promptly sent the propeller of my trolling motor whirring.

“Oh my gosh, that one small quarter turn was all that was wrong the whole time. I couldn’t help but laugh. As I left and drove over the dam I looked out across the lake.

“All thought of fishing disaster, sore muscles and mayhem were gone… replaced by optimistic thoughts of catching huge bass around those lily pads and stumps. Yessir, with a new fishing optimism.”

Mitchell, who is retired Navy and used to water, writes an occasional fishing column. He can be reached at

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