Angling: Fishing Lines: The day the bass went to grass

WHAT A sad old man I have become. This sorry fact was brought home to me as I knelt in the heart-shaped jacuzzi at Best Western's hotel in Cypress Gardens, Florida, trailing a piece of line through the bubbles. Any normal red- blooded male, blessed by happy circumstance with the honeymoon suite (four-poster bed and all) would have filled the vast tub with champagne and voluptuous babes. Me? I'm using it to test spinners.

I don't suppose you will be much impressed by my explanation that a jacuzzi is ideal for discovering how the plugs, crankbaits, jerkbaits, rattlers, poppers and spinners bought over the past few days behave in water. They cost just a few dollars here. Back in England, they will be pounds 10 apiece. My plan was to head back to the tackle shop for some bulk buying once I'd isolated the really good ones (and yes, I was wearing swimming trunks to guard against getting seriously snagged).

There was another reason. The following day, I was going fishing with Reno Allay, one of Florida's top bass guides. When he said: "Try a floating lure." I didn't want to look a jerk by hooking on a lure that dived for the bottom like Thunderbird 4.

Reno was the best guide I came across in my search for the American fishing dream. He may sound like the sort of place you don't go on a dark night, but in reality he's a cheery fellow, rather like a smaller version of Hemingway. He's a bit embarrassed about his appearance - "Look at me, 44 and white-haired" - but the girls all fawn over him. And his fish- catching record is almost as impressive. "You wanna catch largemouth bass? Go to Reno," locals said. I was even more impressed when the man himself told me we would catch fish in the grass. Now that's some fisherman.

Reno used to be a pro bass fisherman, but couldn't afford to compete with the sponsored circuit men. So he moved from Ohio to Florida, and set up as a guide. Now he has a $30,000 boat and 20 other guides on his payroll. People come from as far away as Japan to fish with him, and one grateful punter even sent Reno $20,000 of shares at Christmas.

We are fishing Lake Weohyakapka, locally called Walk in the Water. These Indians must have been big, tough guys. In places it's 30 ft deep and there are plenty of alligators. "Hell, they won't hurt you," says Reno. Think I'll skip the midday swim, though.

"I've fished at least 100 lakes in this area, and this is probably the best," Reno says, anchoring in a spot that looks like all the others. It's not. Down below is the "grass", which is actually an exotic weed called hydrilla. It can grow an inch a day and spread from a few acres to thousands in a year. In some US lakes, it's a big problem. But bass love it. The trouble is, hydrilla creates an underwater jungle. You need thick line to haul fish out.

Most times, fishing is about the expectation rather than results. But on this day, everything goes right. We catch bass to more than 6lb, lots of them. "Ten, 11 years ago, people ate everything they caught," Reno recalls. "Now I probably have to kill no more than four bass a month. Catch and release has improved stocks tremendously. It's happening all over. People are more aware. Unfortun- ately, the fish get smarter."

For one magical hour, the bass rip up the surface, chasing small fish. They will soon be spawning and they're looking for protein. Good news for us, because I can call on the winners in the jacuzzi trials. "Try that one," says Reno. It's technically known as a Chartreuse Rattl'n Rapala, imitating closely the tiddlers that are providing bass lunch.

Whack! A 4lb bass. Crash! A three-pounder. Bang! Another four-pounder. Then... disaster! It gets hooked in the hydrilla, and I have to break off. "Put on another, quickly," Reno says.

Er, I don't have any more that colour. Blue, red, black bring no response. None of the others I had selected worked either. How can any fish be that picky? But maybe that's the appeal of bass. And so much for all that jacuzzi testing.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie