Athens Review, Athens, Texas

June 29, 2013

MATT WILLIAMS: Why fishing is a pastime and a passion

The Athens Review

Athens — Fishing is a pastime for some and a passion for others. For me, it's a combination deal that often allows for the mixing of business with pleasure amid a wide variety of settings ranging from lakes and bays to rivers, streams and stock tanks.

Through the years I've been fortunate to have had the opportunity to dabble a hook in waters all over the United States, South America and Mexico. True. I haven't caught one of every sporting species that swims in these waters (not even close to it), but I have put my hands on a bunch of them and logged a passel of fond memories in the process.

People often ask me what is my favorite type of fish to catch, but I can honestly say I don't really have a “favorite” in the context of the word. While I am sometimes perceived as a hardcore bass guy, my closest friends will tell you I'm a swinger at heart who will try just about anything once.

In my book, the most fun fish to catch are those that are biting the best at the time. As much I enjoy chasing big fish, I still get just as excited at the sight of a tiny cork disappearing under the hard pull of a feisty bluegill as I ever did.

Bottomline: Fishing is dear to my heart. So close, in fact, that when my final number comes up I hope somebody finds tme at the base of a boat ramp on the heels of another banner fishing day. Here are a 11 good reasons why I hope I'll be fishing until the day I die:

• A Rising/Setting Sun: My favorite times to be on the water during the summer months are the first and last hour of daylight. These are magical times when the horizon glows with a brilliant pastel of pinks, golds and oranges to signal the dawn of a brand new day or the end of what was hopefully an eventful one.

• Tough To Top: There is nothing like witnessing the explosion of thick-shouldered largemouth hammering topwater plug. Sometimes the strikes are so violent they can be heard from 100 yards away on a windless summer day.

• Trotline Brutes: I like to eat catfish, and there is not a better way to stock a freezer than running trotlines on reputable catfish lake when the water level is on a slow rise. Running trotlines is hard work, but the mushy feel of a big fish you cannot see makes it all seem worthwhile.

• 'Trap Fever: During the dead of winter, the Rat-L-Trap bite heats up on grass lakes across eastern Texas. This is fast paced fishing that at times completely contradicts the old adage that you have to fish deep and slow when water temperatures are cold. Often times, the faster you wind the 'Trap, the better the bass seem to like it.

• Rap-Tap Crappie: Soaking shiners for crappie is fun, but catching them on tiny jigs and ultra-light gear is a blast. The jig really shines when the fish are aggressive and suspended in big numbers around outside grass lines, brush piles and bridge pilings.

• Fishing for a Living: The great blue heron makes its living on the water and it is a master when it comes to picking off unsuspecting shad or perch. Pay attention to these guys and they will often times tell you exactly where the fish are.

• The Smell of Fish: If there is one thing I like more than catching fish it is the smell of a dirty jon boat at the end of the day. A boat that reeks of fish is reliable sign that somebody had a pretty good day on the water.

• Getting In a Scrape: “Scrape” is a bass fishing term used to describe what can happen when you get a school big fish fired up along an isolated stretch of deep grass or bushes. Two guys who play their cards right and can put 30-plus-pounds of bass in the boat in short order when a scrape bite goes in progress, often times from small area that may be no larger than an office desk.

• Bantamweight Bream: Just call it a boyish rite of summer. When bream move shallow to spawn in late spring, I always make a point to go there with them at least once with a long pole and bobber in hand. Ounce for ounce, the bantamweight bruisers are the hardest fighters swimming in freshwater, bar none. They also are among the tastiest.

• It's About the Kids: If there is one thing I enjoy more than watching a youngster catch a fish, it is watching a kid bait a hook with some form of live bait, be it a night crawler, shiner or grasshopper. It can be equally entertaining watching kids hunt for their own bait. Some of my fondest fishing memories as a child were hatched on the banks of my grandparent's stock tank in Collin County, where my friends and I spent many a Saturday afternoon shagging grasshoppers for bait.

• Beneath a Full Moon: There is nothing quite like fishing beneath the muted glow of a full moon. Not only is night fishing a good way to get away from crowds, it is also a good way to beat the brutal East Texas heat. Plus, piscatorial titans of all kinds tend to go on the prowl once the sun goes down.

I could think of dozens of other reasons why I hope to fish until the day I die, but none would carry more meaning than root of it all.

I fish because I love it.

Matt Williams is a freelance writer based in Nacogdoches. He can be reached by e-mail,