2017-04-19 / Opinion

BACKROADS AND BOBTAILS

In Praise of an Old Rebel
by Bob Kornegay

It was a day when the largemouths weren’t being very cooperative. I was doing what all of us do from time to time: trying every artificial bait in the tackle box, hoping to eventually coax something into biting.

Just before dark, the dubious “strategy” paid off. A six-pound largemouth generously took my offering and graciously allowed me to go home smelling fishy.

As I removed the lure from the hefty bass’s mouth, it occurred to me that I had just scored one more time with the oldest plug in my possession, a well-scarred minnow imitation once known in these parts as a “brokeback Rebel.” The plug’s real name, according to the now-illegible script on the plastic lip, is “Rebel Floater.”

The lure is a jointed, shallow-running hardbait that can be fished on the surface or retrieved crankbait style a few inches underwater. Mine has (had) yellow eyes and a silver-and-black body. It was all the rage 40-plus years ago when the bass fishing boom was just getting into full swing.

I owned other lures before it, but the Rebel is all that’s left of the bygone collection to which it once belonged. The others were lost to fish, snags, and fellow anglers who “borrowed” them and never brought them back. Some were simply given away or disgustedly discarded because they never worked.

A friend with whom I was very close gave me the old Rebel way back in 1975 (Told you it was old, didn’t I?). It was one of those gifts we sometimes receive for no apparent reason. The best kind of gift, really. A gift given simply because the giver wants you to have it.

“Here, don’t say I never gave you anything,” he said as he threw it down beside me.

“Thanks,” I replied without fanfare.

Now, all these years later, the old lure is still in my possession. I have to think it’s a blessed thing, considering the way I wear out fishing tackle.

I fervently wish I had kept count of the bass I’ve taken with that one lure. Frankly (and oddly), it’s the only Rebel Floater I’ve ever owned. For some reason I never saw fit to purchase another. Maybe it’s somehow ordained that I’ll keep this one forever.

Somehow, no matter where I throw it, the plug always winds up back where it started. Most of the time it comes back on a clean retrieve, often with its treble hooks imbedded in a struggling fish’s jaw. When it does get snagged or fouled, it is never inaccessible. I have always been able to get to it and free it, to do battle another time.

The closest I ever came to losing the plug was the day a big bowfin struck it. Shortly after the strike, my frayed line broke and the fish swam away. As I lamented my plight, the trailing line became tangled in bankside roots and the pugnacious fish came loose, leaving the lure behind and within easy reach.

Far be it from me to suggest that an old fishing lure can somehow possess mystical powers or that maybe it needs me as much as I need it, but after all these years of Kornegay use and abuse it kinda makes you think.

Whatever the reason for our mutual attachment, just say I hope I still have the old Rebel when it comes time to make my eternal last cast. And there’s something that old friend of mine needs to know. That lure is the only piece of tackle I own that I wouldn’t hesitate to extract from the tallest cypress tree or the biggest red wasp nest in three states.

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