It was over 30 years ago when I last caught a nice smallmouth bass. This may seem hard to believe, but not so much when you consider that was also the last time I fished. My cousin and I had slipped through the woods to a pond on posted property along the New River. We knew we were not supposed to be there fishing or otherwise, but we also knew there were big smallmouth bass just waiting to be caught.
I’d saved up some money from a paper route and just bought a brand new fishing lure called a Crazy Crawler. It was a top-water lure with two little wing-like arms sticking out from each side. As you retrieved it, it kind of waddled through the water like a crippled frog. My cousin laughed at the lure and told me I was nuts for not getting a new Arbogast Jitterbug or Hula Popper.
About half way through the retrieve of my third cast, the surface of the pond erupted and I began a battle with the largest smallmouth bass I’d ever laid eyes on. My cousin was cheering from the sidelines as I struggled to reel in the monster. When I finally landed the fish we danced a jig I’m sure both of us are now glad nobody witnessed. We grabbed our gear and the fish and raced home.
The state of West Virginia issues what they call a “citation” for any game fish over a certain size and when we arrived at the house I threw all two feet of my catch in the sink and headed down to the local bait shop to see what I needed to do to get my recognition. When I returned home Mom was frying my trophy up for supper, leaving no evidence to produce for my certificate. It wasn’t too much longer until I gave up fishing all together. This was partly because I had earned my driver’s license and partly because I had discovered teenage girls. At that time both seemed more exciting than fishing.
The famed Crazy Crawler had remained untouched in my tackle box until my youngest son recently became addicted to fishing. A schoolmate of his had shown him how to catch bluegill along the bank of a lake with a bobber and little pieces of night crawler. I was determined to show him the excitement of real fishing using top water lures on the river.
We headed up the river in an inexpensive and unstable canoe I had acquired from a friend for little of nothing. After about a mile we began the slow float back to camp. I tied the Crazy Crawler, rusty hooks and all, to my line and on the first cast produced a nice smallmouth. My son witnessed the strike and was eager to get the lure attached to his line. I tried to contain his excitement while I wrestled to free the fish from the lure.
That’s about the time the canoe struck a rock and all but dumped us both into the river. Somehow, a tangle of unheard of proportions developed in the fishing line during the confusion and to complicate matters, the canoe was rapidly approaching a set of rapids. I yelled for my son to throw out the anchor and, unusually, he immediately complied. What I failed to realize and he failed to consider was that the anchor rope was wrapped around the handle of my fishing pole, jerking it into the water.
This alone would not have been a big deal since the water was only several feet deep. The problem was this also jerked the line attached to the Crazy Crawler and imbedded one of the rusty hooks into my inner thigh.
Trying to maintain some semblance of dignity I screamed. Then, the anchor rope pulled taunt and I screamed again. With blood running down my leg and a look of uncertainty creeping upon my son’s face, I realized I needed to act fast to keep this episode from leaving an emotional scar on him. So, I did what any experienced fisherman would have done in this instance and cut the line.
With the situation somewhat stabilized I began the task of hook removal. This was going along rather well and without too much pain until my son, who had become bored with my injury had occupied himself with fishing and hooked a nice bass on a Jitterbug. In his excitement he rocked the canoe to the point it almost capsized again. I hastily reached for the gunwale not realizing the remaining line connected to the Crazy Crawler had become entangled with my watch band.
This was a good and bad thing. It successfully, though quite painfully, completed the removal of the hook from my leg. It also launched the antique but cherished Crazy Crawler into the river. The thought of going in after it crossed my mind but would have left my son in the canoe alone so I decided to deal with the gaping wound and blood instead. Luckily, my son thought the screams from me were sounds of joy for him catching a fish.
This experience confirmed that the Heddon Crazy Crawler is still an effective top water lure. It also convinced me that if you are going on the water with a young first mate you should do so in a stable watercraft. The next time we went to the bait shop we bought a couple new Crazy Crawlers and we have caught several nice fish with them since. We also retired the cheap canoe.
The Greenbrier River flows into the New which feeds into the Kanawha and later the Ohio and Mississippi. If you are on any of these rivers and happen to come across an old Heddon Crazy Crawler with faded paint and rusty hooks, think twice before adding it to your tackle collection. It may be cursed and you can buy a brand new one for only about $ 4.95 at www.heddonlures.com