Outdoor writers land whoppers

Larry Woody • May 4, 2017 at 8:30 AM

Any time you get a bunch of outdoor writers together for a fishing trip, you’re sure to end up with some whoppers.

And I don’t mean big fish.

I mean big yarns.

One of the best I heard during last week’s annual Outdoor Writers Conference hosted by Lebanon’s Jim Duckworth was about a fisherman who accidentally dropped a gas lantern overboard in deep water while night-fishing.

He told his buddy he was fishing in the same spot a few days later when he happened to snag the lantern handle and hauled it up from the depths.

His buddy agreed that was pretty amazing.

“Yeah,” agreed the story-teller,” but the REALLY amazing thing is, the lantern was still burning!”

His buddy pondered the account for a minute, then offered a suggestion for future telling:

“I believe if I were you, I’d blow out the lantern.”

Fun, fellowship and good food have become the trademarks of the annual get-together, with Jim inviting outdoor writers from Tennessee, Florida, Alabama, Georgia and Kentucky. Not all make it every year, but those who do are always in for a treat.

They are partnered with some area anglers who provide boats and expertise on area lakes. Last week we fished Percy Priest and Center Hill. Other lakes in the past have included Kentucky Lake and Old Hickory, along with the Cumberland River and some private lakes.

The fishing was challenging. Torrential rains had flooded the lakes to near-record levels, lowering water temperatures, muddying the water, and making fish hard to find.

I fished the first day’s two sessions with Lebanon’s Joey Mallicoat and Mt. Juliet’s Chuck Campbell.

Joey is a former member of the Tennessee Tech fishing team and a semi-pro angler on the regional tournament circuit. If bass can be caught, he can catch them. But Joey had to work hard to boat three fish (he missed a big one that was lurking back in the flooded timber) and I caught one little one in four hours on the water.

In the afternoon session I partnered with Chuck to try to find some crappie. We fished coves and banks where we have caught fish previously, but they were deserted. We finished the day with three keepers in the live well. In some past trips, Chuck and I have caught three crappie on three casts.

On Day Two I fished with James Tapia, athletic trainer at Wilson Central High and an excellent bass fisherman. James landed a fair smallmouth and I got a three-pound largemouth on top-water, along with a good hybrid. And that was it.

David Bell, another semi-pro, fished Center Hill with fishing magazine editor Ron Presley and reported slim pickings there, too. Ron managed to catch enough fish for some photos, as did outdoor writer and author Vernon Summerlin.

But even if the fishing was slow, it was still fun, and that’s what it’s all about. I didn’t fill the freezer, but I stocked up on some great stories.

I told Jim to sign me up for next year.

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