J.K. Campbell: A tuggin#039; toward fishing

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 6, 2003

J.K. Campbell doesn't remember the first time he went fishing.

He's not even sure there was a first time.

Like being born. There's only one time to be born "of the flesh."

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"You're born and you start living and I live fishing," he said, with a twinkle in his eyes. "I've fished all my life. Now, I don't have anything to do but fish and that suits me just fine."

Campbell is a regular at Pike County Lake and some days he catches something. Some days he doesn't. But it doesn't matter either way.

Fishing is the one sport in which success doesn't depend on the outcome.

"You go fishing; you don't go catching," Campbell said, adding that on some of his best fishing days, he went home with an empty string.

Campbell, scratched his chin, trying to find the words to describe the attraction of sticking a worm on a hook and dropping it in the water in hopes of pulling in a flipping, flopping fish.

Then, he leaned on his elbows on the wooden railing of the pier and stared at the red and white cork bobbing in the water. He obviously forgot about finding the words.

"Me and my daddy fished the river when I was a boy," he said, not taking his eyes of the cork. "That was the only place we had to fish. We fished with a cane pole and ol' wigglers that we dug and crickets that we caught. A cane pole. Now, that's real fishing."

At night, Campbell and his dad - then him alone when he became of age - would set out hooks and stay up all night checking them.

"We'd go up and down the river, settin' hooks," Campbell said.

Settin' hooks is not a term that everybody understand, so he explained.

"You get as many poles as you can handle, bait the hooks and then go up and down the river jammin' 'em in the river bank," he said. "Then you give the fish time to bite and you go around checkin' the hooks."

Sometimes the poles weren't jammed into the bank tight enough and they would float out into the river. Other times a frisky fish would "latch on to a hook" and pull the pole out.

"If a fish got a pole,

you'd know you had a big one cause the big ones always get away," Campbell said, laughing.

Campbell doesn't fish the rivers like it used to. It's too hard.

"I haven't gone sucker fishing in so long, but I do miss it," he said. "We'd go out a bait a place with bread or any kind of scraps - even meat. As long as it smelled, it would bring out

the suckers."

But no matter where he fishes, the seasoned fisherman has caught his share of big ones.

"The biggest fish I ever caught was a blue cat," Campbell said. "I don't know how much it weighed, but it was the biggest fish I ever caught. I know I caught a record shellcracker down at the Elba dam. It was three pounds and more. I didn't know how to record it, so I didn't get the record, but that didn't matter. I got the fish."

And, Campbell still likes to fish the old-fashioned way - with a cane pole.

"I've got a reel and rod, but I'd rather fish with a pole," he said. "This one's not a cane pole but it's like one except it pulls apart."

Campbell likes to drop a line and watch the cork. "It's relaxing." He likes to feel the tug on the line when the fish bites. "That's exciting."

"I get a lot of bites because I feed 'em good," he said. "Meal worms and catalpa worms."

He shook up a plastic container of meal worms. "Grow 'em myself. I buy wheat brand at the feed and seed store. I get the meal worm bug from somebody else and they lay eggs in the wheat meal and I've go all the worms I need.'

Tucked away in the shade was a cricket box filled with catalpa worms. Campbell lifted it proudly.

"Grow my on 'catawba' worms, too," he said with a broad grin. "Got seven 'catawba' trees and they're always full of worms. This year there are so many worms they've already stripped off all the leaves, but I've got a enough worms to last the summer. Got 'em in the freezer. You can freeze 'catawba' worms and when you thaw 'em out, they come back alive."

Several people who were listening to Campbell's story seemed doubtful.

"Well, these worms were frozen night,' he said. "Now, there alive and ready to go fishing and I'm going to take 'em."

Campbell also plans to take his great-grandson fishing at the free "Take a Kid Fishing Day" at Pike County Lake Saturday. Fishing begins at 9 a.m. and concludes at 11:30. Kids must be accompanied by an adult and must bring their own fishing equipment.

Lunch and prizes will top off a morning of fishing fun. All kids between the ages of 5 and 12 are invited to participate.