The Bigger the Bait . . .


It’s hard to overstate the entertainment value of growing up with Gary Wayne Purvis as one of your best friends and running buddies. For one thing, GW was spring-loaded to go fishing anytime, night or day, year-round. For another, he usually had a good idea where folks were catching fish and how.

During our senior year of high school, for example, he suggested we set some trotlines at Iamonia Lake to take advantage of a steady drop in the Apalachicola River. Folks had been tearing up the catfish and we wanted to get in on the action. It’s just that there were a couple of things standing in our way.

Issue one was that the people catching the most fish were using crawfish for bait. Issue two is that everybody in town knew about issue one. Thus every ditch between Wewa and Marianna had been cleaned out and we spent the better part of a day dragging up a whole bunch of nothing.

So, we headed back into town to buy what we figured were inferior earthworms, pretty sure we were going to miss out on the big time fish catching.

Author’s Note #1: At that point, neither of us had ever had any issues with using earthworms before.

As we were cruising down Hugh Creek Road, though, Gary Wayne slowed down and said, “You know who’s got a bunch of crawfish – Joe Wood.”

They were about this size, best I remember. Also, we didn't have rubber bands.

They were about this size, best I remember. Also, we didn’t have rubber bands.

It was true. Mr. Joe was an early adopter and started crawfish farming long before Cajun cuisine even came to Blountstown.

We stopped by Mr. Joe’s house, told him what we wanted to do and asked if we could buy some crawfish. He just chuckled and said, “Boys, y’all can have all you want. Just go out there and get ‘em out of the traps. But I suspect they’re gonna be too big to fish with.”

We thought he was kidding (as he was prone to do.) In our minds, there was no such thing as a crawfish that was too big.

Author’s Note #2: At that point, neither of us had actually seen a farm-raised crawfish before.

So we paddled out to the first trap and as I started to pull it up, I thought we had hit the mother lode. Based on the large writhing mass, I figured there must be about 100 in there.

There were actually five. Five really big crawfish. I’m talking one dress size smaller than a Maine lobster. There was a brief debate on whether it was even safe to let them in the boat with us. But we’d come too far to turn back now.

We checked a couple more traps and wrestled about a dozen more into the cooler, thanked Mr. Joe and headed off to set our lines.

They were so big, we gave some serious thought to shooting them before putting them on the hook. But Gary Wayne nixed that idea because “we might come back and find one with a channel cat in each claw.”

Yeah, I know. But it was dark and they do sort of favor.

Yeah, I know. But it was dark and they do sort of favor.

That didn’t happen, but we did manage to catch the world’s largest speckled perch on one of our lines. He was at least four or five pounds and we were pretty proud until we got back to the Clubhouse and showed off our catch.

Author’s Note #3: At that point, neither of us had ever caught a striped bass on a trotline before.

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