The Curse of the White Bass

     As we unloaded the atv I was full of hope.  Today I had an expert with me on the ice and I knew I'd get my chance to catch fish.  Though I had been beaten in the past, today would be my day!  However, I believe that to tell this tale properly, a little back story is in order.
     The curse started about 4 seasons ago.  I was on Lake Monona in one hell of a snow storm.  Determined to put something on the ice I stuck it out in some truly miserable conditions.  Squinting through the blowing snow I suddenly saw my Vexilar light up like a Christmas tree.  It was a white bass school, and it was huge.  I began to aggressively jig my Echotail waiting for the telltale jack hammering from a fish below.  Maybe I was just to cold that day, or maybe I had to big of a bait on my hook, regardless of the reason, I missed fish after fish.  Then as fast as they arrived, they vanished into the vastness of the frozen lake.
     Each ice season since I have had opportunities to land these little fish.  Each time I struck out and went home empty handed.  On multiple occasions in the spring, summer, and fall I have landed more than my fair share of white bass.  One such occasion saw my buddy Mike and I land so many of these silver devils that we actually got bored and headed home early, tired of bringing so many fish to the hand.  Ice fishing however has been a completely different story. 
     Heading out on the ice, kids in tow (literally they were on the sled laughing hysterically).  I started to wonder why I had never fished this lake before.  "Focus!" I said to myself, you need to be on top of your game.  Mark brought the machine to a stop and off went the boys tackling each other as they ran across the ice.  Mark said, "I'm gonna start drilling," "The bite doesn't start till just before sundown."  I pulled my ice skimmer from the bucket and followed him around ice.  Cleaning each hole out as he drilled.  "Must be a good spot," I said, "Everybody is in this same little area."  Once we finished I pulled my rods from the bag.  Mark handed me his Vexilar and said, "You can use this if you want to check for fish."  It was a good idea, we had covered a huge area.  We had maybe 5-15 holes in the ice, all covering a spot where the weeds transitioned to gravel.  Turning on the Vexilar I was greeted by that familiar humming sound.  Moving from hole to hole we quickly discovered that nothing was down there.
   
     "It's the curse!" I told Mark, "No fish!"  He laughed and reminded me that it was still a little early.  As the sunlight faded I realized that I didn't have my headlamp in my bucket.  Now that it was getting dark, I would be fishing blind.  Huddling over my little hole in the ice I felt it, Bang, Bang, Bang, I knew it was a fish.  I reeled back and set the hook, SWISH, I missed it.  Then Mark yelled, "Got one!"  Soon he had another, and another, and another.  I started to jig frantically, like I had never been fishing before.  Nothing was happening, then Bang, Bang, Bang, SWISH.  Dammit, why can't I get the hooks in one of these things.  I was frustrated, no I was mad, so mad in fact that I stopped to have a cigarette and calm my nerves.  This was insane, I knew it was in my head, why was this so hard?  Collecting myself, I once again dropped my little Echotail through the hole.  Watching it drop of sight to the chilled waters below.  I jigged a few times keeping a nice steady cadence.  The kind of cadence that makes crappies swim for miles, just to take a bite.  Bang, Bang, Got him!  The rod doubled over (it was an ultralight) and bucked as I worked that fish to the surface.  Mark and the boys ran over to see me finally catch a white bass through the ice.  Almost at the surface, my line suddenly went limp, I lost the fish.  Reeling the line up I saw that my poor little Echotail was gone.  Bragging rights I guess, a trophy for the little white bass to show off to his buddies.  A prop for his tale about the time he beat the Shorebound Hero on Lake Kegonsa.
     That's my story, exactly how I remember it.  A woeful tale of a man forced to wander the ice in shame every January.  Veraciously drilling hole after hole in the lake.  Chasing little fish on big bodies of water.  Perhaps it's not a curse  Maybe, I just need to work harder if I hope to land my winter white whale.  Either way I'll get another chance at these fish.  As long as I don't fall prey, to the Curse of the White Bass.
The boys with the spoils of war.
     Tight lines.

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