The first time I met Bob Mitcham, he had so much fishing equipment it took a 25-foot step-in cargo van to haul it all around. I mean, he was into fishing Hook, Line & Sinker.
Of course, in those days some 30 years ago, it was his business. He ran a route in that old truck around northeast Louisiana and supplied virtually every convenience store and bait shop with all kinds of…well, hooks, lines and sinkers…and poles and fish baits, etc. Those were the days before super outdoor stores and fishing catalogs. Hook, Line & Sinker was the name of his business.
After spending time at Bob’s house, camp and in his boat, I must say that Bob may have more fishing tackle today than he even had then. But now it is simply for pleasure.
“I love to fish and always have,” Bob said on a recent trip to Lake D’Arbonne to take part in the white perch parade. “This is crazy,” he said of the 100 or so boats on the lake, “but they are catching a lot of fish. We’ll just get in there with them.”
We did. And we caught fish. Bob, a Bernice native who lives in Monroe and has a camp on the lake, is very familiar with D’Arbonne. He laughs when he tells about putting the boat in at a small landing on the north end of the lake in the early days and not going very far, but almost getting lost in the thick, flooded timber. Today there is little timber or any way to get lost. And at nearly 75 years old, Bob’s as comfortable navigating the lake in his Ranger Commanche with a 200-horsepower outboard as he is finding the fish and making sure you catch fish for supper.
Bob is an excellent fisherman who, like most of us, cut his eye teeth chasing largemouth bass, both for fun and in competitive tournaments. Now, he specializes in catching white perch on jig poles in deep water. On the day we fished, we were in 30-35 feet of water fishing 20-25 feet deep. We landed about 40 good keeper fish in about four hours and had more than half of them well over a pound. What’s Bob’s secret?
“You have to find the fish and then stay on top of them,” he said. “You have to make sure and fish at the right depth. Be patient. You can fish a little above them and they’ll come up for the bait, but if you fish below them, they won’t go down to it. That’s just the way it is”.
Bob keeps his eye on the depth finder or graph almost all the time while he’s fishing, but never misses that slight hook set from the guy in the back of the boat, turning to see if there is a fish on or not. He has an uncanny knack for seeing wads of shad and crappie on the electronics and saying “We’re on the fish. We should catch one here” just a few seconds before we catch one there. This time of year, he lives for the “tap”.
Bob’s other tips? Use a crappie bite every time. Check your jig or small spinner regularly to make sure
there is still one on there. Hold the pole in your hand because a lot of times the fish will hit so lightly you will never know if you aren’t holding on. Use colored line so you can see it. A lot of times fishing deep, white perch will hit it and actually come up a foot or so, leaving your line slack. Even if you don’t feel the “tap”, you know something’s on there when the line goes slack in 35 feet of water. And finally, his most important tip of all:
“Never let a yellow bass in your boat,” he says. For some reason, he makes fun of friends who actually keep those things on occasion and – GASP – actually filet and eat them from time to time. Don’t even mention that in his boat.
In fact, since I did mention it here, he probably just quit reading this. So I might as well quit writing and go clean some of the fish we caught.