I’ve been an avid outdoors person my entire life, I started jerking perch, catfish and bass out of stock ponds back in the mid 50s when I was just big enough to bait a cane pole. After about 58 years into this lifelong “career”, I am continually amazed at just how elitist some so-called “sportsmen” can become. Let’s begin with fishing. There are a few fly fishermen that snub their noses at anglers that would go trout fishing with anything other than a fly rod. Look into the sport of flyfishing a little farther and you’ll discover the ultimate elitist that believe any trout tricked, hooked and brought to net by any bait other than a dry fly is cheating.  To their way of thinking, using salmon eggs or bait of any sort is a cardinal sin. 

Bass fishermen have in their ranks some radical elitists as well. The use of live bait for bass fishing has long been a controversial subject. Let’s put things into proper prospective. 

Live bait is a legal means of fishing for largemouth bass. I’ve heard absolutely no controversy through the years over the use of live bait for crappie, bream, catfish, white bass or stripers. Or most fish species for that matter, other than the largemouth bass and the freshwater trout species. Just what is it that puts these two species in a category of their own?  They have scales, pull on the line when hooked and are tasty when battered and dropped into hot cooking oil.  Bass are fish and Texas law says it’s legal to fish for them with live bait. Period. 

  I can remember 20 years ago when a good friend of mine that guided for bass using live bait had all four of his truck tires slashed along with his trailer tires, while his rig set at a boat ramp at a popular East Texas bass lake. 

The perpetrator in this crime was never caught, but it’s a good bet it was committed by a backwards thinking lure fishermen that broke the law because he thought his method of catching bass was somehow superior to the guide that used live bait.  

 Fast forward to today. I have another good friend that uses live bait (shad or perch) to consistently put his clients on monster largemouth bass. In truth, using my friends’ system, all the bass landed are released unharmed. He employs an 8 ought wide gap hook and baits the size of a man’s hand. 

The fish is hooked before these oversize baits are more than a few inches into the fishes mouth. The oversized and wide gapped hooks ensure the fish will be hooked in the mouth. To date, my friend and his clients have yet to kill a single bass using this method but he’s told me that several “old school” guides that use only artificial baits have given him flack around the marinas. 

This brings me to another point. What about anglers that actually EAT black bass? We all have our opinions on this matter. As a youngster growing up in Red River County in Northeast Texas, my family and I ate every bass we landed and we used live shiners to catch them.  To my way of thinking, larger bass aren’t that good eating anyway.

 Personally, I release all the bigger fish that I catch, but I see absolutely nothing wrong with keeping a few smaller bass for the skillet.  I seldom do, though. I prefer eating catfish, crappie or white bass but if I meet another angler at the fish cleaning station cleaning his or her LEGAL limit of largemouth bass, I understand that is his right and that he’s fully within the limits of the law doing so. 

 Hunters certainly have elitists in their ranks as well. For many years, I’ve enjoyed hunting with compound bows but harbored no ill feelings for those that chose to shoot or hunt with longbows, recurves or crossbows. A couple of years ago, it became legal in Texas for archers to use crossbows during the regular archery season. The passing of this new regulation ruffled the feathers of many bow hunters that used vertical bows. They didn’t think crossbows should be allowed during the general archery season for whitetail deer. WHY NOT?

  For many years, I was on the pro staff of a major bow company that shunned the use of crossbows. Shunned them to the point that their pro staffers were told, verbally that they were to shoot and promote the company’s compounds and refrain from promoting crossbow hunting. I learned later that this same company is in the process of coming out with its own crossbow! 

Needless to say, I now represent another bow company that builds both compound bows as well as crossbows and, makes no bones about the fact that their company represents two different styles of archery gear. I still prefer hunting with compound bows but have found the crossbows to be a very useful tool in introducing my grandkids to the sport of archery hunting. I’ve taken a couple of wild hogs with my  crossbows and say more power to those that choose to hunt with these horizontal bows that have been around for many centuries.  

 Deer hunting is a subject in which I’ve had a great deal of experience, both as a visiting outdoors writer to many ranches and as a hunting guide. I’ve hunted ranchs where the owners literally ruined the hunt by trying to “lay down the law” as to which buck to shoot and which to let walk. I’ve seen guys give instructions such as, “Now, those 4.5 year bucks or older are what we’re looking for, don’t shoot any 3.5 year olds.” I was once guiding a very experienced hunter with a major firearms manufacturing company on a ranch near Fairfield. 

I gave him the OK to harvest a 3.5 year old buck (we guessed his age), he could have been a year older. The buck had a very nice rack and the hunter was thrilled to take him. On the three-day hunt, this was the largest racked buck taken and others in the hunt wound up shooting inferior “basket rack” bucks. 

I actually instructed another hunter to pass on a very heavy horned buck that I was pretty sure was another 3.5 year old. To this day the hunter and I regret the decision I was forced to make. Some hunters today insist on trying to play the guessing game and shooting particular year class bucks, the other school looks at deer hunting as the great sport that it is and doesn’t look down on any hunter for harvesting the animal of his or her choice.

 I guess controversy is part of the human psyche and we hunters and fishermen all have the right to our opinions. The bottom line is the law, regardless what we “feel” is acceptable or unacceptable. If a hunting or fishing regulation is deemed legal by the experts and lawmakers that set the game limits and regulations, it’s just fine with me. Personally, I don’t want to have anybody tell me I’m wrong if I stay within the legal guidelines. 

If I disagree with a particular regulation, its becomes my duty to voice my opinion and see about getting the regulation changed. 


Listen to Luke Clayton’s Outdoors Radio Show at www.catfishradio.com. Email Luke via the website with outdoor news from your area.