In January of 1971, I was transferred to Phoenix, Arizona to be Sales Manager in charge of all new business. The first months were spent missing the Gulf Coast, then a one month bout of Aisian Flu and then, whatever else time I had getting into my new job. Shortly after the Asian Flu, we met the Schlindler family, and Jack Schlindler became my hunting and fishing companion for the next fifteen years.
Jack was from East Texas, and grew up hunting and fishing in Texas’ great piney woods. He was also a Mechanical Engineering graduate from Texas A & M College (now University). In 1971 Jack was VP of a large grocery chain, one of several local chains trying to gain control of the Phoenix market. Jack hung the dubious nickname of Beechnut”, or “Beech”, on me because I chewed Beechnut Chewing Tobacco.
We had many adventures, some spine tingling, like when I slipped and fell/slid fifty feet down a two hundred foot canyon wall at the Black River. As I was sliding down, something inside told me to flatten out and spread my arms and legs to slow my fall. This saved my life! By lying flat and “scroochin” up inches at a time I finally got to where Jack could reach me and pull me up and out of my fix.
Some were funny, like the time when we were chasing a large covey of Gambel quail in the Tonto Basin and I climbed over a six-foot, barbed wire fence and “caught “myself and was hanging upside down for what seemed like an eternity until Jack came up and said, “Beech”, you hung up.” After we had a good laugh, he got me down OK.
Or the thrill of training my own Brittany Spaniel pup, Beechnut’s Rooster Cogburn, or “Rooster”, as he was affectionately known, and watching him get his first point on a covey of wild Gambel Quail and shooting two out of the covey for him. And overall, some of the best White wing and Morning Dove shooting, and some of the best Gambel and Mearns Quail hunting on this planet!
Since we were both fishermen, our first adventures were several trips to Lake Pleasant, at the time a twenty-minute trip up Interstate Seventeen, north of Phoenix. Now the town has almost surrounded the lake.
At that particular time, the spring of 1972, Jack had an original Skeeter Bass Boat with a fifty-five horsepower Johnson, three cylinder outboard engine. It was an early model of the Skeeter with a flat bottom and, of all things, stick steering, not a steering wheel. If I remember right you pushed the stick forward to go to the port (left) side and pulled back to go to the starboard (right) side. But, it served our purposes.
We would put in at the State launch ramp at the lake and head straight for the dam and try to fish inside the restraining cables. The dam had a watchman, or “Troll” as we called him. We never met him but ALMOST became friends with him, because he ran us off from inside the restraining cables so many times. He must not have been a fisherman. Until the “Troll” would run us off, we would cast up on the dam and bounce our special multiple jigs back down its side, awaiting a strike from a White Bass
White Bass in Arizona you say? Yes, years before, Texas had traded millions of White Bass fingerlings to Arizona for a large number of Rio Grande turkeys. Texas repopulated the state with the turkeys and Arizona created a great fishery for White Bass at Lake Pleasant.
This particular trip was on a beautiful desert morning, clear, no wind, and for a while we were the only ones fishing around the dam. I asked, “Do you see the ‘Troll’,” “No Troll’ in sight,” Jack replied, so under the restraining cable we went. After several casts I had a strike with some “weight” behind it. Must be a catfish I thought. It made a nice run, more like a Red Fish, then swirled the top of the water and took off again. Soon we lipped it and swung into the boat, the biggest White Bass ever, maybe. We estimated it was seven pounds or more. What a fish. Onto the stringer it went, and back to casting.
Catching one more fish, much smaller, out comes the “Troll”. “You boys get behind the restraining line, OK.” His first warning was always nice. We waved to him and kept fishing. “Behind the restraining line!” More firm. We waved and kept fishing. He was beginning to annoy us. “Move that “blankety, blank” boat or I’m going to give you a “blankety blank” ticket”. It was time to leave, so we started up and headed out into the lake and noticed a fisherman in a boat right up to the restraining line laughing at our encounter with the “Troll”. He says, “I saw you caught a nice one, let me see it.” We showed him and said we thought it would weigh seven pounds or more. “Real nice,” he said as we motored off. We took both White Bass home and ate them.
Several months later I get a call from Jack and he says, “You remember that big White Bass you caught out at ‘Unpleasant’,” our new name for the lake. I said’ “Sure do, it ate real good!” He went on to tell me that the fisherman we showed the fish to was a local outdoor writer for the Arizona Republic, and of all things, he wrote and was published in “Sports Afield” and article about the White Bass fishing in Lake Pleasant, and most embarrassing, about two Texas boys who caught a monster White Bass, easily a new state record, didn’t register it with the state, but like all good “meat” fishermen, took it home ate it.
If records interest you, most times the state will keep the fish, and you can’t eat it