White Bass In The Desert

Before the “troll of the damn” ran us off Jake Schroder and I had some really good fishing on Lake Pleasant, then, in 1972 a 20 minute drive north of Phoenix on I-17, now, if you catch the traffic right, maybe 40 minutes. Jake had an original Skeeter Bass Boat with a flat bottom and stick steering that we’d put in at the State ramp, then head straight for the dam and try to fish inside the restraining cables.

The dam had a watchman, or the “troll of the damn” as we called him. We never met him, but almost became friends, 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 birds and Arizona created a great fishery for white bass in Lake Pleasant.

This particular trip was on a beautiful desert morning, clear, with no wind. As we got closer to the damn, I asked Jake, “You see the troll,” “No troll in sight,” he replied, so under the restraining cable we went. For a while, we were the only ones fishing around the damn and after several casts I had a strike with some weight behind it. Must be a catfish I thought. Then it made a nice run, more like a red fish, swirled at the surface 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 7 pounds or more. What a fish! Onto the stringer it went, and back to casting.

Catching one more fish, much smaller, out came 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 away and noticed a fisherman in a boat right up to the restraining line, laughing at our encounter with the troll. He said, “I saw you caught a nice one, let me see it.” We showed him and said we thought it would weigh 7 pounds or more. “Real nice,” he said as we motored off. We took both fish home and had a fish fry.

Several months later I got a call from Jake and he said, “You remember that big white bass you caught out at ‘Unpleasant’,” our new name for the lake. I said’ “Sure do, it fried up real good!” He went on to tell me that the fisherman we showed the fish to was an outdoor writer for the local newspaper, and of all things, he wrote and was published in a national outdoor magazine, an article about the white bass fishing in Lake Pleasant, and most embarrassing, about the 2 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 and ate it.

Don’t ever forget that if records interest you, most times the state will keep the fish, and you can’t eat it