The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 2, 2014

Magazine lures a flood of memories

By Chris Ellis
For The Register-Herald

BECKLEY — A few days ago, while searching for a simple chapter book to accompany me across the country and help to curb the boredom of airports and airplanes, I stumbled across it. The “Bass Pro Shops Master Catalog” was mixed in with the other books on the shelf that holds my collection of outdoor titles.  

I sat down on the floor of my den and flipped through the pages of the massive catalog and it felt oddly familiar. I have received the catalog as long as I can remember and have dog-eared its pages many, many times. But this feeling was more than just shopping through a catalog — it was much deeper than that. Perhaps it was the quiet of the evening or the glimpse of snow falling through the window — or maybe both — that caused a flood of memories on a cold, dark winter’s night.  

In those memories, I was a child sitting in my grandfather’s living room next to the fireplace. He was sitting beside me. I was flipping the pages as he described how to use the lures and what fish they were intended for. Often the lure on the page would trigger a story of a fish — a Rapala double-jointed minnow and a smallmouth bass that hit the bait in the haze of a humid summer morning, or a Rooster Tail spinner and a hole full of trout on a steep mountain creek.   

The big baits intrigued me and his description of the walleyes and northern pike he had caught on his many trips to Canada kept me spellbound. I could see through his words the lure in the dark waters and the strike of a monster pike causing the water to explode into the air and the drag on the reel to scream. He took me with him on many fishing adventures by means of his stories and the visual aid of pictures on the pages of the catalog.

After the last page was flipped, we often would head into the basement to look at his fishing gear. He had a big plastic box with slide-out drawers that served as storage device for his tackle. Each drawer was labeled by the species the lures inside were intended for. Once the drawer was slid out, I could see first-hand the lures — many of which I saw on the catalog’s pages and heard about in his fishing tales. As a child, the magic of holding in your hands the lure that your hero used to catch the big fish in his stories was magical. I quickly fell in love with fishing lures and fishing tales.

As the winter’s winds rattled the loose screen in the den, I was startled back to my task at hand of finding a good book for an upcoming trip. I closed the catalog and placed it neatly back on the shelves with the other books. I miss my grandfather daily, but I can still hear his words in the pages of a fishing tackle catalog and smile when I tie on one of his favorite lures and fool a fish into a strike. I know he does, too.